Isaiah 6:8

And then I heard the voice of the Lord say, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" I spoke up. "I'll go. Send me!"

~ Isaiah 6:8



Saturday, June 23, 2012

Hello from Burundi

We are here!! We arrived to our hotel around 2:30pm, Burundi time, yesterday. The team is healthy and traveled well. We are a little tired from the travel but ready to work!

We are going to church this morning after enjoying breakfast consisting of sweet pineapple, omelets, and the best coffee in the world.

Excitement and eager expectation of what God is going to do not only in the lives of the Burundians, but our own as well.

More posts to come!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Remember Me

How quickly (and slowly) this year has gone by! I can scarcely believe that I’m leaving in roughly 27 hours. I wish I could put everything into words that I’ve learned thus far but probably best because this post would be FOREVER LONG so here are just a few things.

A few weeks ago I was driving home from a quick beach trip. During that four-hour drive I really took advantage of the alone time: true oneness with God. On the way there I belted loads of songs, but this ride home was completely different because of Remember Me by Mark Schultz:

Remember Me
In a Bible cracked and faded by the years.
Remember Me
In a sanctuary filled with silent prayer

And age to age
And heart to heart
Bound by grace and peace.
Child of wonder,
Child of God,
I’ve remembered you,
Remember Me.

Remember Me
When the color of the sunset fills the sky
Remember Me
When you pray and tears of joy fall from your eyes.

As I listened to this song I found myself feeling a fraction of the Lord’s pain. Abba, how often do you just cry out for us to remember you? Does it really take an old Bible to jog our memories? Is it truly necessary? Or can the day-to-day remind us (ahem, me) of your presence. You touch my heart, yet I forget. You grant me grace and peace and define me as a child of God (child of wonder). Remind me that this is my identity and do it daily…multiple times a day. I see how we all need it.

Then I read this:
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
Mark 10:25

I should have been working my new job by now. Ironically, I had prepared mentally for it to fall through. I don’t know if that was my grand idea or if the Lord planted it. As we age, I think we lose a significant amount of trust for other people, for the world in general. Thankfully I didn’t have to trust in a human for a job. I have great, great people helping me find a job, but I have the Creator of the Universe who is the mastermind of it all. If a job falls through, it just means that I will see his power even greater than before.  Since this I’ve interview twice at another company but never heard anything so I just assumed they were interested. So I interviewed elsewhere and we are waiting to hear from HR. Two roads- two roadblocks. Today I received a voicemail saying the RN training will be next Thursday – sorry Friends, I’m in Africa. I didn’t know you actually wanted me!! And the other is still waiting on HR. So with just a little over 24 hours I’ve no idea what is going to happen. Then I see this great thing:  my mother still speaks truth to me. And at 25 I’m still up to listen to it: “God knows.” Yup, profound words. That was all I needed to hear. I’m so glad I have my family! So glad I may –or may not- have cried about it.

(I apologize for jumping around.) Rewind to the song “when you pray and tears of joy fall from your eyes.” Man that just gets me. I’ve recently prayed and tears of joy started falling down my face. And yes, it has happened more than once. Then I smile and laugh…quite hilarious if you had seen me in my car during all this. Tears of joy have been for the women in my life group and seeing them at various stages in their lives; my sweet three children I nanny (I’m going to miss them while I’m gone); my doting grandmother who has showed me how much a fighter she is! (A few rounds of chemo is sure to show anyone that.) Family and friends who continue to support me as I get ready for Burundi. I know so many prayers have been thrown up and I’m sure I can’t even count them. Friends have donated to my trip – way more than I ever knew possible. I am so honored and blessed by my friends and family. I do not deserve it one bit! I just don’t know why I am so lucky as to call them part of my family. Some I talk to often and others every now and then, but the Lord never fails and He is still good to me, especially through these that have constantly sought after me.  I am forever grateful.

Now off to take my Malaraone to prevent Malaria!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bouts of Amnesia

Recently I began a new job, one that is exciting and challenging with a team of incredibly intelligent people - I am beyond thankful for the opportunity. This team at work is just getting started, we are working diligently to lay out plans and figure out how to start approaching our task. I have been working 12+ hours each day and while I have been frustrated on occasion - overall I am loving it. I love being challenged, feeling needed and useful at work, tackling issues...but lately my mind and heart are only on my job.

I cannot believe Burundi is two weeks away. Last night I was talking with my roommate about all I need to get done at work - how I feel bad leaving my team in crunch I will miss out on going on some of our first trips together. After listening to my complaints and struggles, she said, "but this is your team too."

I cannot believe that two weeks from tomorrow I will board a plane to Burundi with 11 incredible teammates. As I looked around tonight I realized I barely know some of them, but we are a team. I want to be intentional in my time with them, committed to the people we are serving, and most importantly I want to be mindful to remember who and why I serve.

Life so easily becomes a checklist. But my Father wants me to have life and have it abundantly. When I take up His yoke instead of mine, life becomes more joyous - I become more free. I tend to forget why I serve, why I am going - instead I focus on the how and what. What tactically needs to be done to get to the goal and how I am going to get there. The problem is - without keeping my eyes on why I am to do things...the goal always becomes convoluted, a cheap imitation of His intent.

I am not going to Burundi to teach children science lessons. I am not going to Burundi because they need some accounting help. I am not going to Burundi to see transformation or to have my heart broken. I am going to Burundi because I want to be obedient to my Lord. He sacrificed everything for me on a cross. As soon as I remember what He did all of a sudden my life checklist becomes a daily mission field - Burundi is part of His mission through my life. I cannot believe the creator of the universe is choosing to use me. I am glad I am not the boss - if I were, I would certainly not have hired me. Grace is amazing!

Our team had a cook out tonight and while I showed up in a suit and with my mind still at work...the Lord was working on my heart. I still can't believe Burundi is only 2 weeks away - but instead of worry, anxiety, and stress - I want to choose thankfulness. When feelings of doubt and fear creep in...Remember.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Waiting for something beautiful

Per usual- I don't even know where to begin. My life is chaos but its a preordained, beautiful, and majestic chaos. It just so happens that last week I was driving in the car, windows down, two sweet baby girls in the back seat singing The Little Mermaid and it hit me: I love where I am right now. It is so far from where I ever imagined that I would be at the ripe age of 25 but God knew this whole time exactly where I was to be in that moment. I wonder why we (believers) bother planning our lives? Is it because that's what society requires of us? Because our parents tell us to be ready for anything? Or does anyone out there really just enjoy planning your day hour by hour like me? (No, I'm not at all Type A.)

If my planned life would have come true I would have been a nurse at 21, married by 22 at the latest, living someplace exotic with a kid on the way. Instead I have a tangled web of jobs that include nannying, babysitting, dog sitting, and in a few weeks back in the saddle as a nurse. I'm single and live with two amazing friends and roommates whom I can't imagine my life without. My room is extremely eclectic with any cheap furniture I can get my hands on and paint black. I fill my time with friends who overflow radiant love and truth into my life. I've learned how to fight for myself, how to ask for help, how to be humble- especially today around 4:50 PM. I've learned to sit back and watch God spin His story of My life. He knows what I need. He knows how different I am today from the woman I was on January 1, 2012. I think about a ring my mother once gave me that her parents bought in Spain many years ago. It says, "Más que ayer, menos que mañana." “More than yesterday, less than tomorrow.” They said it represents their growing love for her, but today I see it as how I view the forest in place of the trees. My friend reminded me the importance of the forest tonight. During a tribulation in his life, he was able to see the Lord at work, tugging at his heart, which so obviously made him the man of God he is today. Day by day I see just a glimpse more of what really matters. I see trusting in the Lord my Savior as the foundation of this forest we call life. I praise him for giving me my needs and not my greeds. I praise him for being a just and envious God.  I see him molding me into who he wants me to be.

"Something Beautiful" is a song by NEEDTOBREATHE that I listened to for an entire 20 minute car ride home tonight and if you happened to drive by and hear my voice over theirs I apologize but there was no way to stop me. 

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire, 'cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I'm in reach
'Cause I am down on my knees.
I'm waiting for something beautiful.

When I was fighting to save my name in January and February, I heard a message about the refining fire God uses to sanctify us. I didn't particularly remember asking to be sanctified but I guess it was never really my choice to begin with. Regardless of whose call it was, I did change and I still am changing. This song reminds me that our lives are filled with struggles so that we may grow in Him so that we may further His kingdom, not ours. I found myself smiling because I sang along asking for the fire because I truly desire to be more beautiful. Maybe there will be scorch marks but maybe I'll have a glossy finish that you could never have see without the fire. 

I see his actions begin to align with my words or maybe it’s the other way around. I had every intention of writing a good faith check before this trip to Burundi. I just assumed I would be paying off the rest of the trip when I returned home this summer. I've learned not to let money get the best of me and have seen God provide, so I guess I figured he would lend me some money in July to pay off the trip. I cried last week. I called my roommate into my room and cried because God has gone above and beyond and exceeded all expectations I could have ever had. My trip is paid for. I have all the funding. I don't know who did what and I won't find out until after the trip, but I tell you what I do know: I have friends and family members who fear the Lord, who love him and listen to his voice and are still faithful to bring him glory. That is something beautiful. I pray for the rest of my team that their lives are filled with these same kinds of friends: friends who sacrifice and give back to God and to God's people. It's all his anyways. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Intercede. Invest. Invite.

This is the strategy Forest Hill has laid out to pursue the Great Commission, to make disciples. Literal translations often cite the Great Commission to say, "as you are going, make disciples." Going certainly doesn't necessitate global travels, it could be going to your local shelter, going to your neighbors house, going out of your way to invest in someone's life. But going is certainly a verb - an action - a call.

I interpret the investing portion to be the Go - in order to invest in someone, you have to meet them where they are. I am called to leave the comfort of my own life and routines to give my life away. Losing my life is the investment. As a banker I think of investing as a financial decision...a person sacrifices the short term enjoyment from spending today's dollars to invest for an even more enjoyable future. It is obvious that I should invest for retirement, it is routine; I don't even think about it - in fact most of my investment dollars are taken out before I even see my paycheck.

Why then is the investment of my life not as apparent to me? Investing my time today following God's will is going to have far greater returns than any financial instrument in the market. Even if I had been an original investor in google - I would not be as rich as the poorest person in His eternal Kingdom. I once was asked,  "how much money do you think Warren Buffet will have when he dies?"  I, of course, stuttered and stammered thinking I was supposed to come up with a sophisticated model of friend chuckled. Then, he answered - "the answer is nothing, silly...he doesn't get to take any of it with him." My money, possessions, and things I prize are all going to burn one day - but I hope that the legacy I leave will reap eternal rewards.

As this team goes to invest in Burundi - please be interceding with us. Please pray for the people of Burundi. Pray for the people we invest in to feel the love of God pouring out of us. Pray that they accept an invitation to live in relationship with Christ or feel encouraged to continue in their walk with the Lord.

I ask that you intercede for this team also. I pray that our hearts are completely broken in Burundi. That we leave with an entirely new perspective on what it means to give our whole heart, soul, and mind. I have heard stories of Burundians shouting to the Lord with joy and thanksgiving - even though it is the second poorest nation in the world. As I am typing to you tonight from my wireless internet connection in the comfort of my air-conditioned apartment, I ask that you intercede for this team. Ask for our hearts to soften, for us to be less tied to the things of this world and even more invigorated to make the greatest investment possible. Pray that we be alert and listening for His will and that we have agile feet in pursuing it - even at the cost of worldly successes.

I also ask that you invest in this team with your money and talents. Your call to action may not be across the globe but you can be a vessel in this journey. Come to the event on Sunday, spend an evening getting to know this team, laughing with us, being a part of God's provision for us, and learning about those we are going to invest in with our lives.

Take this journey with us. Start your own journey. If you cannot attend Sunday or don't feel led to invest dollars in this team - please invest time. Spend some time interceding for us; spend some time serving those around you. Go and make disciples - nothing could ever support us more than that.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How did I get here? by Brooke Cashion

How the HECK did I get here? Growing up in a very small rural town where everyone knows everyone’s “people”, gets married early, has children, and never moves away, you couldn’t have paid me enough money to predict my current life. Instead of hanging on to familiarity, I am now living in Charlotte, NC. There are millions of faces that I do not know and don’t know who their “people” are. I am 25 years old and single. My roommates and I don’t even have time for a dog (even though there have been many occasions where we have had to stop ourselves from going to the animal shelter just to “look”…yeah right). Again, how the HECK did I get here?

Since graduating college in 2009 from UNC-Chapel Hill (GO HEELS!), I have been on a serious mission to find my identity. Over my 25 years, I have placed it in various things such as academic success, musical talent, being a girlfriend, being thin enough, being an excellent teacher. I was convinced these things would bring me the life I wanted and thought I deserved. I would find happiness in a life that other people continued to search for. And then I would play it off to others like it was something that just fell into my hands. In reality, there was an incredible dark side to my efforts. I was selfish in my desires and wanted people to look at me a certain way. I sought to control every situation I was in, believing that I had the better way and knew what was best for myself. It was Brooke’s world and everyone else was just living in it. As you may have already guessed, it eventually blew up in my face.

Over the last 2 ½ years, the Lord has aggressively convicted my heart and forced me to tear down my protective walls that I built with my own two hands. I was stripped of the things that I thought defined me, which meant a wild goose chase began. Who am I? How do people view me? What is my passion in life? Where do I look for my sustenance? The experience has been extremely humbling, to say the least. However, in this waiting period, I have found life. True life. A life that brings me pure joy, even when I am hurting. A life that is centered around Christ and His desire to love and protect His children. In your mid-20’s, it is obnoxiously easy to go with the flow and feel like you don’t have an impact or influence on your environment around you. What real change can you make? Can’t I just wait until my 30’s? That is when everyone gets their life together and starts settling down, right? This way of living no longer suited me and caused restlessness in my soul. I know that the Lord has given me the desire and gift of nurturing little ones and being that representation of His love and compassion. I want His children to feel that unconditional love from adults and have a safe place to run to. Isn’t that what we desire and find in Christ? I do and have!

In John 10:1-5, we see a portrayal of Jesus as the Shepherd who provides guidance and direction for the lost. He steps up to lead those who are seeking. I now ask myself, “Am I going to step up and make the first move, just like Christ did? Am I going to place my identity in Him and Him alone, allowing him to merely work through me?” Understanding that this life and this trip is not about myself and my capabilities takes so much pressure off. All I have to do is be willing to relinquish control of all I thought was best and be His vessel. I cannot WAIT to see what He has planned for this trip and for His children in Burundi!

So again, how the heck did I get here? Christ. And I am so joyful I am here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Consider it Pure Joy by Jordyn Saunders

“I’ll be quite honest. When I found out I had to write a blog for
Burundi, I was not a happy camper. I don’t like to write. I’m not a
good writer. I have nothing to write about, but…you know now that
I’m going to contradict everything I just said. I found something to
write about. My dream, my everything was taken from me in one swoop.
And in these past two weeks I have changed. My faith has strengthened
and I am not the woman I was.

Here is the background:
When I was 16 I wanted to be a nurse. That’s all. I have a heart and a
passion to serve others and knew that being an RN was exactly the
perfect job for me. During my undergraduate time at UNC-Chapel Hill I
was not accepted to nursing school. That weekend my pastor, JD Greear,
spoke the first message that I ever felt spoken directly to me. He
talked about giving everything to God and that included college
students and their majors. Well done. That definitely wounded my ego;
the message was heard loud and clear. I reapplied, thinking God had
His own timing, but again I was shot down. To most people the next few
years of my life were well-spent, traveling and learning. I studied
abroad in Quito, Ecuador and after graduation moved to Madrid, Spain
to teach English as a foreign language. As I told people more and more
that I wouldn’t change anything about it, I thought that I would
actually start to believe it myself. Sure I trusted in God’s will for
my life, but I was trying to make the most of whatever I had.

Fast forward to December 2009 and I was accepted to Mercy School of
Nursing. I was overjoyed and realized that God’s plan was for me to be
an RN. He gave me the passion and now He was making it apparent to me.

The next 20 months of my life were some of the most difficult
balancing school, clinicals, babysitting, tutoring and student
government. I was so thankful to the Lord for providing me a job
before graduation and getting me through the end of school. In January
I passed my NCLEX (boards) and was ready to fulfill my dream!
Now let me tell you that I set my date for boards on December 20, 2011
and also set my employee health meeting. I knew exactly where to be,
when, and what would happen. What I didn’t know was that my life was
about to be forever changed. I tested positive for the use of an
illegal substance I’ve never once seen or touched in my life. False
positive. Anyone and everyone who has ever known me knows that I would
never do something like this to harm my body, my career, or anyone
else that I may come in contact with. It was my tea. Tea from Ecuador
that causes a false positive. The evidence is extensive. The proof is
there. I await a final decision.

Less than a week of learning this our pastor, David Chadwick, spoke
about Great Faith. Now this is the second message spoken directly to
me. There are three faces of “Great” Faith: the expectant, miraculous
faith; the fog of faith; and a thoughtful faith. If I have ever seen
fog around me this must be it. This fog of faith is a wind that blows
out of nowhere, but what it should do is that it should strengthen our
faith, provide a more thoughtful faith. It is “a faith of the mind
that goes deep with roots.” I must admit that my roots are growing
right now.

I have never seen the body of Christ more around me then they are
right now. I think of Psalm 22 when it says “But you my God, do not be
far off. For trouble is near and there is none to help.” Yes, trouble
is near but I am so grateful to know that I am not alone. I know this
trial does not come from the Lord. It is spiritual warfare. Spiritual
Warfare is a game I played on the computer as a child, never fully
understanding how real it is…until now. The Lord is with me. He has
also sent his children, my brothers and sisters, around me during this
time. See I serve a Great God and he can turn all things for the good
of those who love, honor, and obey Him. I pray for his glory to shine
through all of this.

My life verse is James 1:2-4.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds.
For you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
Perseverance must finish it’s course so that you may be mature and
complete, not lacking anything.

I challenge myself to be joyful. I already know that the Lord, my
Savior, is going to work this out to bring glory to His name. It’s not
about my name or my reputation being tarnished but it is about His
name. He is my reputation and it’s His name I take when I call myself
a Christian, a Christ-follower.

It seems that many people on this Burundi Team are facing challenges
and hardships that are not of this world. It is due to obedience.
Obedience to the Creator, to his mighty plan, and obedience to follow
Him to the ends of the earth. All this time I thought my calling was
to be an RN, but now I realize it is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus
Christ. To share of his great love for us, that as we are all sinners,
missing the mark of perfection, He is the example of what perfection
looks like. He, being perfect, died a painful death to save me from
what I deserve: the justice of Hell. For him I declare to live my
life! Whether my name is cleared or not. My story may not have a happy
ending but it is not about me. It never has been. The greater story is
that of Christ, the happy ending that he rose from the dead and
continues to save me, to forgive me day after day.

Now you know the struggle so close to my heart. My deepest wordly
desire is gone. But I have a greater and much deeper desire, it is
rooted in my faith in the Lord Most High. His love for me has freed me
from an eternal punishment so I live this life for Him with the goal
to share the story of His love to all who listen. It isn’t an easy
journey but it is what I’ve chosen. I know He will always carry me.”