Airport Floors and Midnight Muffins

It feels so strange to be back in Kona. Almost like coming home, but not quite. When I left for outreach I swore I’d never in a million years come to this island ever again. Now I have to- part of it is home to me.

Sitting at the Banyan Tree Cafe, sipping coffee and people watching. Counting the hydroflasks and Birkenstocks- the ywamer uniform (yes, I am proudly one of them. It seems we all showed up unaware of the cliches we were subconsciously fulfilling). Gasping at the sight of the sea, more gorgeous now than ever before. Soaking in every breeze. Listening to the constant prayer rising up from all around.

With the dawn of a fresh quarter, herds of new students are all around. I so desperately want to pick their brains, see what’s going on behind the scenes…


Flash forward. Graduation was so much more emotional than any of us expected. Goodbyes to the ones who have become family; the thunder signaling a new season. Again I think of this new crew of YWAMers flooding the campus, a feeling kin to that of thinking of my coming nephew one day being held to my mother’s chest. There’s so much he’s yet to know, so many tears he’s yet to cry there. He may think he knows how much he adores that place of safety, but he doesn’t yet…

I watch their faces. So full of expectation for the coming six months. They may think they know what they’ve gotten into, how they’ll be changed. They don’t, not really. Not yet.

Throughout all the tears and farewells, joy ran thick. We did it. And now we’re on to something even better, even more challenging. For one, it’s fighting against sex trafficking. For another, it’s studying to become a film-maker (and what an amazing one she will be). For me, it’s returning to the city my parents came to as missionaries to continue the work they started, to carry on their vision along with them.

Flash forward again. Sitting on the airport floor, adjusting to what is now a 23 hour jet lag. Listening to Blink-182 in my favorite hoodie I’ve waited three months to return to. Waiting to board my red-eye. One flight down, two to go. Let’s do this.

I’m still processing DTS. All I learned, felt, thought, experienced, witnessed. But I know that I grew, and that I’m grateful. That this new season will be one of extreme joy and thanksgiving. That when I get off that third flight, the man I love and haven’t seen in six long months will be there waiting for me. That I can’t wait to see what the Lord has next in store for all of us.

Until next time

XOXO

 

 

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Slum Chai and International Smiles

Wiping faces, trimming nails, cutting hair. Get pulled into a group of young mothers. Giggle about language barriers, hair colors, and upcoming weddings. Hold their babies. Comb my fingers through the lice infested hair.
Child comes up with typical Indian meal: sweet boiled grain of some sort, similar to quinoa. Mother, smiling, tells me to try some. Fully aware that travelers often get terribly sick from just this, that I was sick from less than this, I said a quick prayer and took a bite. Some experiences are worth it, but more than that showing them that I don’t see myself as being above them, especially in a culture of castes, is worth getting so sick I’d maybe have to be sent home, as we were debating the first time around. To refuse would be to convey that I am higher than them and their way of life, especially given the lack of translation. It would say their food is dirty, that while I will sit and chat with them and play with their kids, I will not go that extra mile of intimacy and break bread with them. I couldn’t do it; I simply could not.
Smiling through the almost immediate nausea and heartburn, I sat with a woman whose young son (between four and six years old) we had prayed for a few days before. His legs were burned by a cooking fire about a week prior to our arrival, and he could no longer walk. As her kids ran back and forth, we laughed instead of talked, playing with her kids as they came by. Two of the four are in the picture with me. Through it all, the little family had such joy. I ran into her on the bus today, and was once again shocked by her immaculate beauty. However, beyond the mirth, beyond the elegance, there’s more pain in her eyes than many of the other women I met there. She’s one I dream of taking out to coffee and just chatting with, with no language barrier to this time curb our conversation. Perhaps on the nearing Other Side.
About a half hour before we left, one of the couples I was sitting with invited me into their home for chai. Again, to refuse would be more damaging to them and to our witness here than any bacteria would be to me. I can treat bacteria, but the wound of offense takes much longer to overcome. Having watched it boil, though, I knew this one was safe (and delicious).
Upon stepping into their home, the first thing I noticed was the purple and gold scarf hanging as tapestry. Catching my breath, I whispered to the wife that it was beautiful. Seeing as how she couldn’t understand my words, I hope the smile conveyed it.
These two families, both believers, were some of the most fascinating to me. While I hunger to know the full stories of the first (why did I never see her husband? Was she married? What was her daily life like?), the second was the only couple I’ve seen here who appeared genuinely in love. Teasing and laughing with each other and their children, it was clear they truly enjoy each other’s company.
I hope to return soon, to continue to love on these people and experience more of their way of life. Despite the poverty, there is such exquisite glory. Each time we’ve visited this slum our cameras have stayed home. On our final day or two with them, I hope to capture each rubble covered rose lying hidden there.
Humans like these families, like the children of this little Indian tent-town are why I’m here. Their smiles, their laughter, their joy. All they ask of us is prayer and a hand to hold. Gladly, my darling.
Until next time
XOXO
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Photo Credit to Chris Park (IG: @chrispark01) 

On Cafe con Leche and Emotions.

I’ve officially reached that point in outreach everyone talks about where stuff has happened and we’ve witnessed things I don’t feel comfortable sharing with any of the outside world just yet… I think part of me thought this was a myth, this outreach climax, but here we are. And I find I’m most content in this state.
This state of sleep without rest, because my rest comes in the day, face buried in Bible, teammates voices lifted in worship around me. The love I have for these incredible humans is beyond what I can express. I only wish the beloved could be here. But until he and I can experience this sort of thing together, I’ll savor this continued honeymoon with Jesus.
We’ve arrived in Dharamshala, a beautiful mountain town. However, because it is a beautiful mountain town, my wifi and data usage has been massively restricted, which is why I’m a week late with this (sorry fam). Last week was a week of goodbyes to souls reminding me of how large and terrifying the world sometimes is, as well as how communal and lovely, and the power of redemption.
While I’ve been able to write about them before, today I’m too overwhelmed to process it all onto this digital paper. Each day, each thought, would require a post of its own. Of these boys’ lives before. Of who they are now. Of the secrets their eyes allude to. Of their joys, their hopes, their dreams, their talents, their possible futures. Hopefully within the coming weeks I’ll be able to get two or three of the stories down, but we’ll see. I’m still debating which of the stories I even have the right to share… My life was so privileged. I’ve always known this, always felt this, and seen the truth of it before. But today it’s hitting me freshly again as I re-read the lives of these boys I so deeply adore and will likely never see again.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Sip the tea from an adventure-worn straw in a Hydroflask tattooed with their handwriting and imaginings, scarred with the remnants of paint battles.
Hop on another plane. Contemplate for how many years airports have felt like home. Exhale the tears into a secondhand Bible, my sanctuary held together by tape. Allow my heart to break into His, realizing He knows so much more than I, His heart is hurting beyond what I can imagine, and that through it all, He is gloriously faithful, that He has a plan for each boy.
Land in Dharamshala. Settle into an apartment cozier and homier than I remembered being possible. Use the last of the data to call the beloved. Break. Soak in his voice, his encouragement, his words reminding me of the Truths so easily forgotten in exhaustion. Regroup. Step back inside from the balcony where snow-topped peaks and fields of green are all that’s visible. Realize yet again that this is the life I’ve always craved and dreamed of, and through the disease, the sleep-deprived delirium, the insecurities of making art out of it all, the agonies of seeing all we can’t change, and backlashes of the enemy for all we do work to change, I could not be more content or fulfilled. Because through it all, He is faithful to remind me of His exquisite love and beauty.
With all the gentle tears and bittersweet farewells of Week Four, Week Five was equally filled with unadulterated joy. As eyes turned to waterfalls, I took my turn at sharing pieces of what makes my heart ache, face buried into the shoulder of friends close as family, sisters who inspire me to be everything I can be, to chase after everything I dream of becoming. Hold the same sisters as their turns came along. Legs folded on crimson rugs, chai in hand, we lift our voices in holy adoration of the One who brought us here, allowing the worship to drift like sunlight out the windows.
Soaking in their laughter, we played with village children on the side of the mountain as the fog rose below us and we marveled at the exquisite art of our Maker’s hands, and how somehow He still deems us as more beautiful even than this. As a friend of five minutes who reminds me of myself at ten years old slides her hand in mine, I watch as the Hindi praise unfolds to the God of Abraham in a little house church. Two days later we’re back at the same church, and I’m sharing bits of my testimony, eyes on the same girl. Precious Abigail. Who will she become? Will I come back one day and find her grown, with Kingdom passions of her own?
After driving further up the mountain, to a tourist town known as Mcleodganj, we visited our first Indian temple. Beauty filled with dark emptiness. We strolled up and down the marketplace, marveling at the skill so rampantly alive in this nation. Naturally I couldn’t resist picking up a nose ring and anklet, because India. As twilight began whispering hello, we slipped into a friend’s home for some of the best coffee I’ve had in months and some brownies. Needless to say, it was a good day. Since then we’ve been working on some stuff for the community center we’re teaming up with here, exploring the city, and going on various prayer walks. As I’ve been falling in love with the country, I’ve been falling deeper and deeper for my team. Our leaders are relentlessly faithful, working so much harder than any of us see. The five I get to call my teammates are all so encouraging and insanely talented, gifted with such unique skill sets. There are several instances proving that I literally would have died without them, especially during our time in Kolkata. In them I’ve found an extended family, and I’m dreading the day we have to say goodbye. So I just won’t think about that yet.
This is the gist of the past two weeks, majorly condensed. Thank you guys all so much for supporting me through everything; I can’t tell you what it means to me to read your sweet messages and prayers forwarded by my parents. When I was sick, had it not been for your prayers I very well might have gone home. You carried me through it, and I’m extremely grateful. Also, I tasted the closest thing to a cafe con leche that I’ve had in five months (Indian milk coffee), and I honestly cried a bit. It was pathetic, but so beautiful. God is good.
Until next time.
XOXO

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A Week of Eleventh Hours

As I write this post, I’m sipping instant Korean coffee out of a Chinese bowl, writing in a Walmart notebook from Kona with a German pen, sitting on the floor of a hotel in Kolkata.

Besides the first week of outreach, this week was the most full of my entire DTS. 

“Helping” (dancing with and trying to be as cool as) the boys practicing the choreography they performed at two churches to raise awareness for Life Connection, the ministry we’ve been working with. 

Getting horribly sick just before getting on what would become a thirty five hour train ride from Nagaland to Kolkata, and then better just in time. 

Kat’s ankle breaking to the point that movement was impossible while we crossed the tracks, just as a train was coming. With the whistle growing louder, closer, all the guys rushed to carry her across the three sets of rails. As she sat on the bench, waiting for the train and recovering from the shock of escaping tragedy by inches, Rosie prayed for her ankle. Overnight it went from break to sprain. 

Waking up on the train to the outer rumbles of a 6.7 megaton earthquake around 4 AM. 

After this, the ride consisted of sleep, hanging out the door to breathe in the scenery, and making friends with a five year old Bengali boy peeking out from behind momma’s skirts just long enough to laugh at the yellow haired girl. Watching Bollywood videos and listening to worship on an old Nokia with Sunil (I’ll post his story later in the week, hopefully. Suffice it to say never have I seen such joy in one from his circumstances). An hour into this, I asked if he was sad. Quick nod, then the headphone is slipped back in before a word can escape my mouth. What could I have said anyways? We both knew why he was sad, and that I could say nothing to fix it or relate. How can I relate? This week was his holiday, his one week with three guaranteed meals a day, a bed at night, and a roof over his head. Although LC will be there from 8 AM to 4 PM everyday, providing food, education, a shower, community, and love, come 4 o’clock and he must return to the train station. There’s only so much one family can do for so many street boys…

So what could I say? What could I do, besides lay a hand on his shoulder and simply be there?

Hours later, we arrive. With the delay of the quake, the journey took four hours longer than expected. The morning after we arrive, Steffi, Kat, Caleb, and I all wake up horribly sick. Because of dehydration, Steffi and Caleb both blacked out. Neither Steffi nor I could keep any food or liquid down, and we all had fevers. This continued for well over twenty four hours. While Kat and Caleb began to show signs of improvement, as the days continued Steffi and I grew gradually worse.

Last night, after concluding with my leaders and parents that if the doctor’s antibiotics didn’t help, or at least stay down, Steffi would be flown to her family in Germany, and I to mine in Denmark. After having this same determined bug twice, we desperately needed IVs and for our bodies to accept some sort of sustenance. 

And so we prayed. We prayed to the God who had already in these past two weeks resurrected a girl from an early death, healed a broken bone, healed impure skin, and fixed a projector so it will play only the Jesus Film. We worshipped Him, praising Him for all He’s done and will do. Rosie was the first to begin praying for me, before the time of intercession had been discussed. In case you havent noticed, God has gifted her with healing prayers, and a compassionate heart of gold. As she prayed tirelessly for me for a good ten to fifteen minutes, I felt as though something heavy, warm and comforting had been placed over me. It was so heavy I couldn’t move beneath it, but I felt no pain. I could barely open my eyes at this point, and even lifting my arm was impossible. But finally, after crying in the bathroom because of the unbearable, unending agony, because everything here is so unfamiliar, because four months without my beloved is excruciating, I had peace. I felt the presence of my Father, and I was comforted. Even just typing this, the tears of that overwhelming sense of His divine love return to my eyes. 

From 7-11PM we continued. When I woke up this morning, save a runny nose from the pollution, I was 100% better.

Today Jon (our leader) got us a kettle, and Chris brought instant coffee. He was right: Koreans make the best instant coffee. I was able to eat my first full meal (noodles with vegetables). I’m able to walk around the room without becoming lightheaded. 

As a safety precaution, I couldn’t go do ministry with the rest of th team today, but tomorrow I’ll be released from quarantine. 

And as I write this, the afore mentioned beloved is getting settled into his new Miami home and job at Calvary Miami Beach. When I return, he will be there waiting for me, and the long distance will be over.  I still can’t quite fathom what it will be like to not say goodbye anymore. After six straight months without his embrace, or his smile whenever I look beside me, my love will be waiting for me when I return. Six months of waking up, waking him up, at midnight just to hear each other’s voices because we don’t know when next we’ll have a chance. Six months of craving my hand in his. Six months of emails and texts the size of books, of crying on the phone because I can’t cry on his shoulder. Of reading the Bible together, praying the connection doesn’t cut out. And this was just this stretch. Long distance is not for the faint of heart, but it will soon be over. 

Seventy three days until I’m in his arms again. 

Sixty eight days to complete the Lords will in India and Nepal. Then the adventure of ministry in the city Jesus has permanently called me to begins.  

And through it all, the Lord is faithful. 

Until next time, ohana. 

Xoxo

        

  

Amidst the Rubble

“X marks the spot”Come in, come home

A quiet whisper

Behind the storm.
Dusty blue

A polluted sky

Always half open

To souls passing by

Always shut tight

To strangers in the night.
Cold, solid

Inviting while

Still guard standing.
From up above 

Supper’s aroma wafts down 

Overtaking for the evening

The putrid waste below.
Gentle onions 

Caress your tongue

As the gate

Like an embrace 

Pulls you in to see

Her wells of empathy. 

Happy New Years! 

It’s the end of week two. With the new year, tomorrow begins week three of outreach. Currently, I am bedridden with the seemingly mandatory stomach bug (food poisoning?) we’ve all been suffering from. 

Outside the window above my head, fireworks pop like gunshots. Just out the door, the kids and team sing in Bengalu a song which sounds of thanks for the past year, hope for the new. My ever amazing outreach leader, Steffi, has me wrapped in her extra blankets in an attempt to fight off the fever, making her side of the bed even more hard. 

Three minutes till midnight. We rush upstairs to the roof to witness the fireworks, and set off a few of our own. Fireworks which in Miami would never be legal to buy, yet here are passed around like candy. Greetings from motorcyclists on the road below. Hugs and handshakes all around. Normally back home, New Years would be spent with friends that are closer than family, playing manhunt and burning Christmas trees. This year we watched the sky go ablaze, with lanterns outnumbering the stars above us. 

So, fever raging, bones aching and all, there’s no place I would rather be. 

Until next time. 

Xoxo

  

Outreach: the Beginnings

Week 11.

Honestly, I barely remember lectures this week. My mind was already on outreach, and so much happened this week which I am not yet at liberty to talk about, but I can’t wait to share with you guys when the time comes. Let’s just say God is good and He moves in amazing ways. 

This may be one of my shortest updates ever, because this week flew by. Packing, hugs, joy, airports, and buses are about all it’s consisted of so far. And this is where I’m most content. In the air. Crossing the dateline for the first time. Wandering Japanese suburbs at midnight with beloved ohana. Hot cafe au lait from vending machines while we wait for the train. 

The delirium of being awake for over twenty four hours. The hustle to make the flight. So it begins. And I am content. 

   
  

  

    

Ruined for the Ordinary

It’s Saturday of week ten. I forgot to write week nine’s update, so this will be a mixture. However, I was sick for most of week nine, so there isn’t much to tell, besides the weekend.

After eight of weeks of living without a car, on the weekend of the ninth, we rented a jeep. Hawaii is beautiful, but living in the same five mile radius was becoming claustrophobic for all of us, so finally we decided to explore the entire island.

Mud Lane was probably my favorite, along with the little town of Waimea it resides in.

 

And so we arrive in week ten. The Father heart of God. The last full week before outreach. I don’t even have words for this week. Breaking through the last of my walls, God opened my eyes to everything that’s been going on these past three months in my life and in my heart; things I was too overwhelmed to see fully as they were happening. He finished the job, to where I know that I know that I know that I don’t have to strive to win His love, and that who I am as Serenity is enough both for Him, and the people around me.

In this, as much as I know I’m desperately going to miss this community living, my bones are aching for flight again. Over the past few years, I truly  have “been ruined for the normal,” as Loren Cunningham would say. When the time comes for me to return to Miami, if the Lord wills I remain there, it will have to be with constant short term missions. Before I ever left, short term missions was a passion of mine, but it’s time to take it to another level. I want to train others in short term missions, help prepare them for what they may see and how the Holy Spirit may work within their own hearts and minds.

However, spontaneous adventures across the island we’ve been calling home, nights spent laughing, crying, or debating with each other the strangeness of the outside world’s society will be dearly missed. Random spurts of insanity bringing about strips of pink hair on four of us (of course I am one of them), all because one had the beautiful idea of doing her whole head. Understanding in just a glance. Divulging age old secrets and fears with the ease and grace of dawn overtaking the night.

From this week on, I may have to do updates every other week instead of weekly, due to the insanity of outreach. If I fall behind, forgive me. I can’t believe Lecture Phase is ending, but I’m stoked to see what the next season holds.

Until next time.

XOXO

Break My Jaw, Give Me Life

Realizing the girls sipping coffee beside you are suddenly some of your dearest friends as gently as the sun slides into the Pacific’s blanket of blue. Giggling about the boys you secretly (or not so secretly) admire. Dreaming of weddings and shores yet to be kissed by our nation-worn feet. Writing letters. Discovering every flavor of Top Ramen. Waking up at 4:30 AM for morning yoga in Himalaya hiking prep. Phone calls to home. Redefining “home.” Realizing it’s a concept none of us will ever see the same again. Tears on staircases. Sins confessed over lunch. Broken stories and shattered hearts shared as the evening’s breeze drifting from the ocean chills our bones. Discovering our rythms have suddenly found us.

Faith being stretched in ways I could never have imagined. Miraculous healing that could never be faked. And over and over again Christ whispering in my ear “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

Outreach is getting closer, and I feel the Holy Spirit working overdrive in all of our hearts. How is this already the end of week seven? While sometimes it feels like I’ve only arrived yesterday, others it seems like YWAM is eternal and home was only illusion. And yet the first quarter is already through. And I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Old, weary relationships rebuilt and restored. Shaking in my Birkenstocks one moment, the next utterly wrecked by God’s exquisite purpose for the lungs wrapped inside these ribs. He has expressed and confirmed to me several times now that I am to go home after outreach. Somewhere in my innermost heart, part of me had firmly believed that wasn’t going to be the case, at least not for about a decade or so; that first my ministry would be brought to some unknown nation where I would reside with only the one my heart loves, the people we are ministering to, a camera, and a Bible. But no. I am going home. And I am so stoked.

Until then, I am here, and there is no where else I would rather be. Discovering the reason I have such a hard time with regular photoshoots is because I am built a photojournalist, and that’s simply different. These thoughts are a tangled mess, and I’m having a hard time unraveling them. Through prayer, nineteen years of liver issues that had crippled me in so many areas were healed in five minutes. Insight was given through the Spirit as to why my jaw refuses to heal: it’s my broken hip, so to speak. I’ve used my mouth to speak so much death, and words are my main form of ministry. It’s time only life flows from these lips.

Thus was week seven. Sorry there are so few pictures; it was an insanely busy and beautiful seven days. Until next week.

XOXO

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Return to the Garden

Here You find meweek five (7 of 33)
Broken and restored
Here You hold m
Wholly abandoned to Your love

Fighting and tired
I lay in the mire
You rescue me, wash me clean
Till I am white as snow

Striving against gloryweek five (5 of 33)
Giving fear my soul
On silver plates of agony
Feeding deception’s monster

In righteous fury
On clouds of fire
You race in, a rushing wind
Of jealous adoration, pure and holy

In Your arms I find myselfweek five (2 of 33)
Clothed in righteousness not my own
The beast is slain, set in dust evermore
And You carry me Home.

Here You find me
Broken and restored
Here You hold me
Wholly abandoned to Your love

In Your arms I find myselfweek five (22 of 33)
Clothed in righteousness not my own
The beast is slain, set in dust evermore
And You carry me Home.

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week five (3 of 20)

week five (7 of 20)
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