Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Break!!

I hope it's not cold where you are - because Winnipeg is dang cold. Hence, frost forms on the insides of doors... sick, right?

I spent Christmas break with my roommate Carolyn's family here in Winnipeg. And over the week I pretty much fell in love with them - they are great!! It's definitely different from what I know - BIG family. There's mom and dad (Ginny and Kim), Carolyn (19), Ethan (18), Amanda (17), Danielle (15), Isaiah (8) and Rashaan (6). Ginny told me that I'm part of their family now, which makes me the oldest!! Now I have to learn how to terrorize little siblings... muhahaaaaaa...
Left to right:
Ethan, Mark (Carolyn's boyfriend),
Danielle, Carolyn, Me, Amanda,
Isaiah, Rashaan, Ginny
Friday, I went out with Jeremy Jones (one of those names that when you say it in full, it just rolls off the tongue!), Carolyn's cousin, to a Christmas party his friends were hosting. I've met a few of them before - they had come to one of our Sunday community dinners and a few I met at LBE at Carolyn's church back in October. But for the most part, I was meeting new people. We mostly played games (I love group games!! : D) and just hung out. Jeremy Jones is one of those people that could entertain me for hours - the kid is hilarious and I've realized over the week that he's just a really good friend. I don't know him that well - we've all hung out at the YWAM house a few times. But he has treated me with the utmost respect, even to the point of standing up for me to someone when I wasn't even there, which I am amazed at! [I guess I'm causing a little drama here in the peg - oops!]
Carolyn's family goes to church (West End Christian Community - WECC) on Sunday nights. I really like their church because it's small, creating a closely-knit community. It's great to see. This week was their Christmas pageant. Oof - it was awesome!! Laughed my butt off (but I guess that doesn't say much). We had a little bit of worship, too. It was interesting - maracas, shakers, etc. were handed out and we jammed a bit. Cool.

Sarah [my bestie from home for those who don't know : P] and I have been planning for her to come up and visit this weekend. But Sunday, we came to the conclusion that it won't be able to happen. Oh sad day. It was really difficult - I was looking forward to a refreshing weekend with Sarah after a few very hard weeks. So, Carolyn decided to pamper me (what a sweetheart to take care of me) and take me out on the town Monday! I realized that even though I've been in Winnipeg for a few months, I haven't done many tourist-y things (oh to be in a different city, but to be financially unsound...)

Carolyn took me to Winnipeg's museum, which was really cool! There was lots of Manitoba history, aboriginal art, and even a big SHIP!! Carolyn was a great tour guide. She's very animated and has many accents. So on the ship, she was a pirate and told me about her stories on the main seas. There was a small town in the museum and she escorted me around like I was her fair maiden. Oh so funny. And I think just what I needed at that point.

Native art.
I think this one depicts how they interpret creation.

Carolyn sing "Bring back my Bonnie"
to the Nonsuch (the ship).
Yup, that's how interesting my day was.

We then went to the Forks for lunch (Mmmmmm chinese food and Jone's Soda) and ended our day in the glass elevator, which you can see all of downtown from. Beautiful beautiful beautiful. Don't take my word for it though:

(The train station is in front and
the frozen Forks is behind)

Wednesday was Christmas Eve. We went to church for the candlelight service (again at WECC). Afterward, I got to be included in their family tradition of reading the nativity story from Luke, talking about our response to it (which makes it more fresh and less redundant!), and having milk and cookies before bed. Amanda talked about how she was amazed that Mary was conceived by the Holy Spirit - how amazing! That made me realize that Mary, like Jesus later on, was humiliated. Think about it --- a baby bump is virtually unhidable. And as an unmarried woman, you would have to wear the consequence of that sin every second and instantly, everyone knows what you did. Or in Mary's case, what she didn't do. Bearing a sin you are innocent of. Who does that sound like?
I've been studying and reading a lot about suffering for the sake of Christ. Mary's suffering in pregnancy brings more insight to that.
Mood swing.

The next day was Christmas!!! Yaaaaay!!! I was definitely taken in as part of the family that day. I even had presents and a stocking hanging from the mantle full of goodies. : ) It was a pretty chill day - we just opened presents, hung out with each other, and had a GREAT Polish dinner that Ginny and Ethan put together. Mmmm I love pierogis...

Rashaan and Isaiah opening gifts!
I just love Rashaan's face in this one.
He's that animated all the time!
He became my little buddy over the week -
He even cuddled with me a few times.
The next day (boxing day) was more eventful. We went to Ginny's brother's house to spend time with that side of the family. It was so fun! I was really blessed by Carolyn's grandma. She greeted me with a hug, a wet kiss, and a smack on the arm. Is this both of my grandmas in one person? Ha. She truly treated me like a grandkid. She was such a sweetheart. Ginny was impressed with me because I "held my own with her family." I guess they're tough - but I had good preparation for that with my own family! Weirdos...

Me, Danielle, Amanda
We later went to Kim's mother's house (Auntie Peryl! - also Jeremy Jones' grandma) to visit with that side of the family. Peryl is a cute little Jamaican lady - oh my goodness, I think I'm in love with her! She fed me some traditional Jamaican food (I ate lamb - busted! : P) and then came at me with "sin," a bowl full of chocolatey goodness. Oof. So yummy. Since I'm doomed to be a clutz all my life, I got the "sin" all over myself (oh no - I am so sinful...) and had to have her help me wipe it from off my chest, my arms, my fingers... and she was giggling at me the whole time! Now there's a moment I wish I had on tape so I could just show you all!! Cute ol' lady...
Auntie Peryl also has a dog named Mars, who looks just like our neighbors' dog when I was a kid (Brutus). Brought me back : ). And guess what? Mars just had puppies!!! So I got to play with the cutest li'l things in the world!!

Hey Mom... Jeremy said I can take one home if I want...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

“Discipleship is not limited to what you can comprehend – it must transcend all comprehension. Plunge into the deep waters beyond your own comprehension, and I will help you to comprehend even as I do. Bewilderment is the true comprehension. Not to know where you are going is the true knowledge. My comprehension transcends yours. Thus Abraham went forth from his father and not knowing whither he went. He trusted himself to my knowledge, and cared not for his own, and thus he took the right road and came to his journey’s end. Behold, that is the way of the cross. You cannot find it yourself, so you must let me lead you as though you were a blind man. Wherefore it is not you, no man, no living creature, but I myself, who instruct you by my word and Spirit in the way you should go. Not the work which you choose, not the suffering you devise, but the road which is clean contrary to all that you choose or contrive or desire – that is the road you must take. To that I call you and in that you must be my disciple. If you do that, there is the acceptable time and there your master is come.”

(Martin Luther)

Uncertainty, to me, used to mean a misunderstanding of God's will in my life. Or the fact that it hasn't yet been revealed to me. But isn't it beautiful to take action when only God knows what you're doing? It is better to step out without knowing what's going to happen than to stand idle because of that uncertainty.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Striving for that image...

I'm reading The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I read the most amazing thing this morning and I'd like to share it with you. The chapter is "The Image of Christ." He's talking about how we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), but that image is marred because we are fallen people. We fall short of the mark (Romans 3:23), yet we still strive to be like God again. This is his response:

"But the riddle of human nature was still unsolved. With the loss of the God-like nature God had given him, man had forfeited the destiny of his being, which was to be like God. In short, man had ceased to be man. He must live without the ability to live. Herein lies the paradox of human nature and the source of all our woe. Since that day, the sons of Adam in all their pride have striven to recover the divine image by their own efforts. The more serious and devoted their attempt to regain the lost image and the more proud and convincing their apparent success, the greater their contradiction to God. Their misshapen form, modelled after the god they have invented for themselves, grows more and more like the image of Satan, though they are unaware of it. The divine image, which God in his grace had given to man, is lost for ever on this earth.

"But God does not neglect His lost creature. He plans to re-create His image in man, to recover His first delight in His handiwork. He is seeking in it His own image so that He may love it. But there is only one way to achieve this purpose and that is for God, out of sheer mercy, to assume the image and form of fallen man. As man can no longer be like the image of God, God must become like the image of man. But His restoration of the divine image concerns not just a part, but the whole of human nature. It is not enough for man simply to recover right ideas about God, or to obey His will in the isolated actions of his life. No, man must be re-fashioned as a living whole in the image of God. His whole form, body, soul and spirit, must once more bear that image on earth. Such is God's purpose and destiny for man. His good pleasure can rest only on His perfected image.

"God sends His Son - here lies the only remedy. It is not enough to give man a new philosophy or a better religion. A Man comes to men. Every man bears an image. His body and his life become visible. A man is not a bare word, a thought or a will. He is above all and always a man, a form, an image, a brother. And thus He does not created around him just a new way of thought, will and action, but He gives us the new image, the new form. Now in Jesus Christ this is just what has happened. The image of God has entered our midst, in the form of our fallen life, in the likeness of sinful flesh. In the teaching and acts of Christ, in His life and death, the image of God is revealed. In Him the divine image has been re-created on earth. The Incarnation, the words and acts of Jesus, His death on the cross, are all indispensable parts of that image. But it is not the same image as Adam bore in the primal glory of paradise. Rather, it is the image of One who enters a world of sin and death, who takes upon Himself all the sorrows of humanity, who meekly bears God's wrath and judgement against sinners, and obeys His will with unswerving devotion in suffering and death, the Man born to poverty, the Friend of publicans and sinners, the Man of sorrows, rejected of man and forsaken of God. Here is God made man, here is man in the new image of God.

"To be conformed to the image of Christ is not an ideal to be striven after. It is not as though we had to imitate Him as well as we could. We cannot transform ourselves into His image; it is rather the form of Christ which seeks to be formed in us (Gal. 4:19), and to be manifested in us. Christ's work in us is not finished until He has perfected His own form in us. We must be assimilated to the form of Christ in its entirety, the form of Christ incarnate, crucified and glorified."

"Their life is marked by a daily dying in the war between the flesh and the spirit, and in the mortal agony the devil inflicts upon them day by day."


Friday, December 19, 2008

In transition...

Lecture phase is officially over!! Our speaker this week was Kara Thompson, co-director of YWAM Las Vegas. She spoke on relationships - it was amazing. She was definitely a wealth of knowledge on romantic relationships, marriage, sex, etc. The fact that she was hilarious was amusing, too. Funny stories, funny personality... : )

Kara also talked about healing. "God is committed to your healing and wholeness." Sigh. Wow. I want to be better, I really do. But I easily get bogged down and discouraged at how much I fall short. Half the time I'm not even honest with myself about things, so it's even hard to be aware of the things God wants to change in me. But Kara put it in a way that's freeing. God will bring up the things that He wants us to heal and deal with. Let's take care of these things! One thing at a time - or else nothing more than I can handle. I absolutely love this! It encourages me and makes me excited to let God in to show me my brokenness. I want to be more whole, more self-aware, more mature, more self-controlled. Deep breaths... deep breaths...

This week was just really valuable in general. I feel like I got a lot of good information and got to know God more in how relational He is. I have a clearer idea of how He designed relationships to be.

Since this was our last week and people have been heading back home for Christmas break, I've realized that the end of DTS just may kill me. It's been hard to say goodbye to people I've seen everyday for the past two months and have grown so close to even though I'll see them in a week! I'm realizing that the fact that they're my family is so real to me.

I must have attachment issues. : P

So now I'm staying at Carolyn's house with her family for Christmas break. It's definitely waaaaay different than what I'm used to - she has 5 siblings. Ha! It will definitely be an experience to be had --- I'm excited to have "siblings."

Things you guys can pray for:

This was a really hard week for all of us. Just stressful, busy, emotionally draining in so many ways. I myself feel the emotional roller coaster that is the end of lecture phase/preparation for outreach mixed with not being home for Christmas and the crazy weeks we've had recently! It's almost too much. Just pray for calm, comfort, and that we all just take a few breaths.

Outreach. Oh my goodness, it is pretty much here. We leave in 14 days. Fourteen days. Just pray that the prep goes well and that we're able to be there for each other as some of us might just freak out!

For my family. I don't know how not having me there for Christmas will be, but it probably won't be easy. I at least have the comfort of being in a different context. They have all the reminders but no me.

Just some fun pictures!
hahaha... I don't even know.
This is girls' fun night and we went to Dessert Sinsations for cheesecake (soooo good...).
We must've been a little sugar high...

At the movie Australia last week.
As you can see, I'm really good at messing up pictures (sorry, Jas).

Crystal and Jas (who I think looks like ET in the middle of the stuffed animal pile)
with all the kiddos from the kids' program we run twice a week.

We're sleeeeeeepy... this was a regular occurrence over the last two weeks.
Mostly, it was Mike.
Nope, wait, it was only Mike.
But I have to admit - I agree with him in this picture. Zzzzzz...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Our speaker last week was Scott Bessenecker, author of the New Friars, so he has a bit of a famous touch (though he would deny this). One thing that I now understand better is the idea of submission. I always thought submission had a taste of obedience, when it doesn't always have to. You don't have to obey or agree to submit to someone. I got this idea that says, "I don't agree with what you're saying and I won't obey it, but I will submit to any consequences to that."

I was challenged this week to not audibly burp for 24 hours. The first time, I forgot and failed at 85 minutes. Oh so sad. But they gave me another chance and again, I failed, but lasted 10 hours! I guess we can't really surpress who we are... ha!

On Wednesday, we all watched Freedom Writers. I hope you've all seen that movie because it was amazing! It's a story about a woman, Erin (Hilary Swank), who devotes herself to teaching inner-city high school kids. The school is highly segregated by gangs - clans against clans. Revenge. Murders. Erin works relentlessly to change the way things are. And she does. I'm amazed by people who give of themselves for what they believe in because in my mind, does what I believe in deserve anything less?

The hard thing is that she loses things. Big things. Her husband. What a sacrifice! We discussed how important it is to have clear direction in life before you get married. God has a plan - would He provide a spouse that thwarts that plan?

Funny, yet sad, story: I'm sure many of you have heard me say that technology hates me. We just don't get along. Well, I guess I've developed a bit of a tiff with Mike's computer. Once, he was handing it to me and he thought I had it... but I didn't. So, I pretty much dropped his computer! So then he had to get it fixed. Then, I was using it a few days ago, not even doing anything to it, and it just started to flip out! I don't even know what went on there. But then the worst thing happened. Oh it was bad. We were all in the living room and I was walking through with water and peanut butter toast. It doesn't even make sense to me what happened, but I got a little wobbley. I dropped my plate of peanut butter toast and tried to catch it with my other hand (which was at the time holding the cup of water). Jamie, who was sitting right there, somehow moved the mid-air water out of the way with his hands. But, I looked down to see the peanut butter toast face down right on Mike's keyboard. Oh. My. Goodness. Jamie thought it was the funniest thing on the face of the planet and started laughing like I've never heard before. I guess that made things more humorous and less terrible!!


Me sitting with Mike's computer with a bunch of Q-tips and barely damp paper towels.

Speaking of computers hating me, my computer has recently won the award for World's Slowest Moving Thing. So, if my posts become less frequent (as they have), it's due to frustration. But stay tuned! I'll try my best : )

This Sunday we tried a new church - City Church. We were told it was African, but when we got there, we realized how incredibly multicultural it is! Africans, caucasians, asians, natives... it was amazing! It brought me back to my J-Term class last year. We talked about how ridiculously segregated Sunday mornings are. Races just seem to go their separate ways. But that brought up the question - can it be easily integrated? Could you bring a black family to a white church and give them a worshipful experience? People worship in different ways - could that in some ways be tied to race?

But at City Church, I saw that vision. People just worshiping together. Cultures embraced. They have a Karen choir - not exactly sure what that means, but it was oriental. What they sang wasn't westernized at all but was purely their culture. And it was GORGEOUS! And we sang songs in different languages, heard a french prayer (mmm so pretty), and learned some Swahili! I was amazed at how loving they were towards each other. So many different faces.

Things you guys can pray for:

We leave for outreach on January 4th (coming up really soon!!!). Just pray for our preparation. That we're as ready as we can be. That things come together smoothly and soundly.

For Christmas. Oof this will be a hard time as I won't be seeing my family. I do have a family that Carolyn is graceously sharing with me and I know I'll love it, but it just simply won't be the same. It will be very difficult not being home for Christmas.

For calm. I have officially become overwhelmed. This is such a busy time - there's so much to do and I'm a bit emotional as it's the end of lecture phase. Sad! I'm very excited to go to Uganda (VERY), but there are people not going - and with them, I have about 2 more weeks total. Ends just aren't easy for me unless I'm really ready for them. And with this one, I'm just not

There's just... a lot to deal with right now.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Hey guys! This week was Mission Adventures week. So we moved on out of our nice, comfortable house and into the basement of New Life Ministries Church to do some service and learning over the week. As soon as we moved in, Devon made a nice little fort out of all the nursery toys. Ha!

"Devon's Palace"

The week was amazing. Our eyes were opened. We've left inspired. And broken.

We started the week off by panhandling downtown. This was not necessarily to make money for outreach (ha), but to get a better understanding of what it's like. I made three dollars in four hours. And I was definitely discouraged by how I was treated. It felt as if I became invisible and lower than dirt as soon as I stepped onto that sidewalk.

"Sir, do you have any spare change?"

Desensitization hurts. Sometimes I never even got a response. Jas even got a few hands in the face. After an hour or so, a man finally looked at me and asked why. I told him the truth - that we're trying to get the experience in order to know what it feels like. He laughed, told me how awesome that is, and gave me a dollar. Later, a woman I had asked came back with two dollars, looked at me with eyes of compassion (I can't even express how much that meant to me), and told me where I can get help.

We also tried near the University of Winnipeg, which is also downtown. The contrast in response was drastic. I didn't make any money, but every single person looked me in the eye and acknowledged me. What a difference that makes. I now know that even if I don't have any change to give, friendly gesture is so encouraging. Acknowledgement is vital. I pray to God that I will never pass someone by again. Because now I know how it feels.

Tuesday, we worked at Union Gospel Mission, a soup kitchen/rehab center/drop in. I worked in the kitchen in the morning with Carolyn. So fun! Jeff, the head chef, and Henry, an old German man who volunteers there, were so hilarious. I laughed my head off. That was a good day - I can't say I agree with how UGM works, but I know that God is doing incredible things in and through that place.

That night we went to the youth correctional center to lead their rec program - gym time! One of the first things I noticed was the immense love that the staff had for the kids. It didn't matter what they were in there for, the people who work there love them and see them as great kids, which they are! We got a tour of a "cottage" (a unit of cells), and all the guys in there were banging on the doors and yelling for attention. Wanting to get out? Excited about new people? Not sure... In the gym, we played pin guard, lineball (a new game for me), and basketball! It was really fun and the kids were very sweet.

Wednesday was our cultural day, so we didn't actually go out into the community, but spent time in our classroom. We talked about how to serve and understand people of different cultures. We played a game in which Devon and I were two missionaries trying to get to know and give the Good News to two different tribes. We sat in a room for 20 minutes waiting for instruction. Ha - the curiosity drove us nuts! As soon as we were "released" into the abyss to meet the tribes, we realized what we were in for. "I love Lucy, I love Lucy!" "Oi!" "Rawr!" "Spalding!" "Napple!" "Ooga Booga!" Uhm, what? We had to decipher their language and attempt to understand their customs. Devon and Carolyn both ended up dead. We all worshiped one tribe's god, but Devon and I refused to respect their chief (Crystal) - we thought worship was simply a game they played and to respect Crystal we had to worship her - and that wasn't the case at all. Oof! That definitely made me realize that things aren't always as they seem and that it takes crazy amounts of time to fully (or even partially!) understand the customs, traditions, languages of other cultures.

We also talked that day about how implicit the Bible is. No where that we've found does it outright say that gay marriage is wrong. No where in the Bible that we've found does it explicitly say that polygamy or premartial sex is wrong. It may be implied, but that's up for interpretation. So... everything I always thought was wrong is maybe not? Things aren't always black and white - there's so much gray area. I'm becoming more convinced that God cares about our wellbeing (and the wellbeing of others) and about our hearts. I was at first frustrated because many of my beliefs about right and wrong have been shaken (not to say they don't still hold), but God has been clearing it up by encouraging me to simplify. Love Him. Love people. Everything else will follow. "Just love Me." I can seek Him and His wisdom, but first and foremost is always love.

Thursday was "plunge" day. We were sent out with a quarter, three bus tickets, and a few bag lunches. Purpose: to get to know the city of Winnipeg through the eyes of the people. Have conversations. Share a lunch with a panhandler or needy person. Get to know the people who live here. Crystal, Carolyn, and I (the C group!) wandered around for a bit, rode the bus, talked to people... Then we headed downtown and met a BUNCH of panhandlers - seriously, like a little community of them. Archie, Rick, Sam ("Scuzzy"), Darlene, Mary Sue, Adrien... We shared our lunches with them and talked with them for a little while - it amazed me to see their generosity with each other, even when they finally got something that they're in such need for - until we got kicked out by the biz (neighborhood watch, if you will). I had a funny moment when one of the biz recognized me - he had kicked me out from in front of a business on Monday when I was panhandling there. Ha - really made me feel like part of their community.

We then headed to a bus hub to warm up a little and we met Brian and his mother-in-law, Rose. We could tell that they were also both in need. Brian was... how shall I say it? Not sober. He proposed to me within three minutes of talking to him (which confused me since he clearly had a wife, having a mother-in-law and all... and don't worry, I said no). Needless to say, there were many inappropriate comments during that conversation. It's difficult when they're drunk because I didn't feel like I could actually talk to them - and would they even remember? I suppose God can use the impact, yes, it's just hard to communicate and actually have a conversation with drunk people.

We also did what we call "roses" that night. It's a prostitute ministry in which we go around the North End and West End (the rough patches) and hand out roses to prostitutes with the message that they're loved, valued, beautiful. It's hard to believe that on a regular basis, they get such strong opposing messages to that... Can you imagine never being told "I love you?" I can't. I tried. It was insane going to the North End. We drove around in a van to an industrial part of town. Kim told us that there is no reason for someone to be out there at that time of day except for prostitution. There was a girl here, a girl there... all "normal" looking. If a guy was walking around, he was most likely a pimp. A car driving down that street? Ninety-nine percent of the time it was a very nice looking car (doesn't quite fit in with the neighborhood...) with a middle-aged man looking around. For something. Hmmm, I wonder.

The way it worked is that three of us would get out of the car: one with a rose to approach the girl and see if she wanted to talk and two to stay back a bit and pray. It was all up to the prostitute. If she wanted to be left alone, she was. If she ran, we didn't chase her. If she wanted nothing more than the rose, ok. If she wanted to talk, we were available for as long as she wanted.

This was my favorite and most valuable part of the week. Yeah, most of the prostitutes knew what we were doing and some yelled at us, rejected us. Some simply accepted the rose with a thank you and didn't really seem open to conversation (which is fine - we know what God can do). But I had one of the most life-changing talks of my life. I approached a young girl - I'm going to choose to omit her name just in case - while Jas and Devon prayed for me. I could tell she was new to the trade because she was confused as to why I was giving her a flower and telling her she's beautiful. She isn't from Winnipeg - moved here a couple months ago. From what I could tell, she was my age or younger. My guess would be younger. She has no one. No family in Manitoba. No friends. No one. And when I mentioned places that could help her, she didn't know any of them (even though we were standing only a block away from one of them). And get this. Thirty seconds into our conversation, she tells me that she knows Jesus and whips her Bible out of her purse. Ah! Awesome!

"Even though Christ is in my heart, life is still hard. Really hard."

When I agreed with her, she encouraged me. "Oh but don't give up! Don't give up!" Wait - aren't I the one who's supposed to be encouraging you, lifting you up? I was amazed by her faith, her hope, her wisdom, her strength. Oh my goodness, it was unbelieveable. She let me pray for her. She let me hug her, and as I did, words straight from the Lord flowed out. I just kept telling her how incredibly beautiful I thought she was. And I truly believe that. She was gorgeous. Stunning. Radiant. It didn't matter where we were or what I knew she was doing. The girl was so beautiful.

That experience made me realize that sometimes there's little choice - not only with prostitution, but with any other result of a desparate situation as well. I could have just as easily been in her position. Whose decision was it that I be blessed and her not so much? How did that happen? It's things that are out of my control that led me to not have to even think about making a choice about prostituting myself. It has never even been an option. For some people, it's not that easy. It seems as if there's no other way.

I could just as easily been in her position.

I'm going to just try to move on with this blog. Even revisiting that four days after impacts me so much. Oof.

Friday we went to Siloam Mission, a soup kitchen/shelter/health care center/etc! The funny thing is that it's right next door to UGM, which does things along the same line. It seems that they're in competition, but I'm not really sure... We first helped in the kitchen for them to serve breakfast and then got the grand tour afterward. It blows my mind how much they do. One difficult thing about justice is that it looks to the root of the problem, and I think that's harder and more demanding! Mercy feeds the hungry, but justice asks and demands to know why they are hungry in the first place. Justice calls out a desire to create self-sufficiency instead of dependence. But at Siloam, I saw justice as well as mercy. They feed the hungry and shelter the homeless (in a very nice facility I might add), but they also provide health care (from volunteer professionals), help people get trained in skills and actually get jobs, provide counseling for families to get back on their feet... I mean, WOW.

Things you guys can pray for:

For the prostitute I met. Don't worry, God knows her name and who she is. Just that God would provide a way out for her, that she would have more choice in how to provide for herself. That she would easily find places like UGM and Siloam, places that represent an alternative. That she would take the Lord's words to heart and understand how beautiful and loved she is. That a different life would be made available to her.

For outreach preparations! It's gearing up - and I think it's safe to say that each of us feel unprepared in one way or another. Finances. Emotional and mental states! Reflections, devotions, and other things we have to lead while we're there. Simply being ready to be ruined.