Thursday, October 9, 2014

Northstar '14

This past weekend I traveled down to Nashville with 10 others from Northwestern to attend Northstar. I've received many questions like, "What is Northstar?" "What does IJM stand for?" "Why did you drive so far for that?" "How was it?" So I decided to write and answer these questions and share what the Lord taught me over the weekend. 
Northstar is a leadership conference for college students passionate about leading the justice movement in the name of Jesus. The conference is put on by International Justice Mission, or IJM. IJM is an organization inspired by God's call to love all people and seek justice for the oppressed. Their vision is to rescue thousands, protect millions, and prove that justice for the poor is possible. They hope to end modern day slavery and this conference was to gather student leaders who have the same dream. Throughout the weekend we had the opportunity to hear from IJM employees, soak in wisdom from Donald Miller, worship our Father, and dwell in the presence of the Holy Spirit. 

This weekend was refreshing and encouraging. It was encouraging to see 250 people gathered together who all share the same passion of ending human trafficking. It was refreshing to hear stories of success and be reminded of how victorious our Savior is. I left tired, but so alive; hurting, but joyful; confused, but yet at peace. 
You see, human trafficking is a big problem and too often it's simply overwhelming. It seems like such a big problem that I get tricked into thinking I can't make a difference. But in these moments, I'm forgetting of how great a God I serve. I serve a God who shows up. I serve a God who is going to be victorious. I serve a God who hates injustice and when His people respond to the call of fighting injustice, He shows up. But we have to respond. So whether that's through prayer, advocating, or fundraising we're called to act and it does matter! During the weekend, we heard from an IJM investigator working in the field and with tears in his eyes he said, "It matters." Those two words are burned in my brain. Without prayer, he could not perform rescues and without financial support he could not even be in the field. 

I often feel pressure to do a certain thing, especially as a college senior. I don't know what's next and I'm scared to make the "wrong" decision. And I feel like since I have such a passion for justice and for the oppressed that I have to do a certain job, specifically doing justice (whatever that looks like), while using all my nursing skills. So I have to be starting IVs on really poor people, maybe in a different country? What? Uhm, nope. I mean, maybe..but not necessarily. As long as I seek to glorify God with my passions and do my best at whatever I do, He'll use that to seek justice and further His Kingdom. I focus too much on me, when I need to focus on my Savior. I need to rest in the fact that He is faithful, good, and sovereign. 
[One more tidbit of the Lord's faithfulness: I spent 7 weeks in India with Erin in 2013 and we got to spend time together at Northstar. Her joy is contagious, and she encouraged me to no end in less than 24 hours. Saying goodbye in the Germany airport last July I never would have thought we would be worshiping the Lord together in Nashville the next October. God is good] 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Heartbreak over the Nigerian kidnapping

 Psalm 9:7-9
"The LORD reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice. The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble." 

        276 girls were kidnapped. They were just taken from school. I'm sad and I am angry. I'm really, really angry actually. I'm angry at the injustice and pain and hurt. How does this happen? Since I heard about the incident I've watched countless news stories and read numerous stories. I cannot imagine what these girls or their families are going through. The thought of it makes me sick and repeatedly brings me to tears. The abductors, Boko Haram, are an Islamic group that has been in Nigeria since 2009. Their name literally means, "Western education is sinful." These girls were taken simply because they were getting an education. Under Boko Haram's version of Sharia law, women should be at home raising children and looking after their husbands, not at school learning to read and write. The reports say that the many terrorists raided the girls' school in the middle of the night, posing as soldiers. After a gunfight with security guards, they herded the girls into vehicles and drove off into the forest. As they made their escape, the militants burned the school to the ground. This story has changed my perspective on life and school. During finals week most students are tired, stressed, worn down, and sick of school. I don't know how many times I've heard, "I'm just so sick of school." or "I hate school." And I'm guilty of this too. But how fortunate am I that I get to go to any school of my choosing? I am encouraged and empowered to chase my dreams, no matter what they may be and this is not the case for too many young girls out there. Simply because of their gender, women around the world are abused and oppressed. This story has made me look at school a little differently and be a little more thankful for the opportunities in front of me. 

     This is also a chilling reminder of how real slavery and all around the world. Recently, the leader of Boko Haram announced his plans to sell the girls in the market. One report said that many of the girls could be sold as wives for as little as $12. TWELVE DOLLARS. I spend $12 on dinner when I go out to eat and that's what these girls are being sold for?! No one should ever be sold. No one should ever be treated like an object rather than a beautiful sister and daughter. This is not okay. This story breaks my heart, and I feel a little helpless but once again we can pray for these girls. We can pray for the abductors. We can pray for the families. We can pray they are found and we can continue to be a voice for these 276 girls, but also the other millions around the world whose stories aren't being told on the news. #BringBackOurGirls

Monday, May 5, 2014


This year I get the beautiful privilege of seeing two dear friends head over to India to serve for the summer- one to Goa and one to Bangalore. I love them both so dearly and can NOT wait to see what the Lord has in store for them! When I think about each of them exploring this beautiful country and falling in love with the people they work with, my heart feels as though it might burst with joy. And while I'm 110% excited for them, my heart aches a little too knowing I won't be there. Chatting with them and preparing for them to go has made me a little homesick for Bangalore.
     Some days my heart still aches for India. Some days I feel homesick for India. But how is that even possible? How can I feel homesick for a place I only spent two months in when I'm living in the place I've been raised all my life? How is it that I feel more comfortable flagging down a rickshaw on the dirt streets of India than I do hopping on a train in Chicago? How is it that I still catch myself bobbing my head instead of nodding it occasionally? Since the moment I stepped foot on the red soil of Hyderabad in May 2011 I've been in love. I love the people and the culture. I miss hearing children yell, "aca!" and sitting with women who I cannot even communicate with. I miss sharing the gospel through henna stories. And yes, the injustices are great and the pain is raw but the hope is so much more! The good easily outweighs the bad for me. So why do I so often think about going back? Why do I try to figure out how to go back with school loans? Do I want to go back for the right reasons? Would I even like it if I went back long term? Would I be useful for the Kingdom? Am I strong enough to live 8000 miles away from my family? Does God want me to go back?! How do I know if he does? What about being a nurse in the states? I'd love that too, and could further the Kingdom that way. If I do stay in the states, where do I work here? What if I do the wrong thing? Is there a "wrong" path?
     These are the questions that run through my head all too often. Do I have all of the answers? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I may not even have any, but I have peace in knowing that I don't have to have all the answers because my Savior does. All I need to do is surrender. I need to let go of my plan, open my heart, and follow his plan. I read this on a blog from another volunteer, "I'm learning to let go of the need to know and plan and strategize and, in turn, just rest in His promises and know that is plans for me are greater than anything I could design for myself. Perhaps one day I will return...maybe not. But more than geography, I long to be an effective tool for the Kingdom. And since it's His Kingdom, surely He knows how to best build it." Well said, sister. Amen.

Anyway, these are few of the ramblings of my brain. And I'm thankful for them. And I'm even more thankful I serve a God who holds the answer to every single question. And I'm thankful I get to see two of my sisters in Christ head over to India to serve the Kingdom.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Why I Stand for Freedom.

On April 9, 2014 Northwestern College took part in International Justice Missions "Stand for Freedom." Along with college students across the globe, students stood collectively for twenty-four hours to raise awareness of human-trafficking. NWC brought me so much joy on this day. Throughout the day over 100 people stood and over 300 people signed the petition. People bared the cold and slept outside, students woke up and stood from 4-6am, companies donated, and many people were involved for over 6 hours! For a school of 1,200 students, our passion for justice was definitely evident through the day.

  • There are currently 29.8 million people in modern day slavery. 
  • Human trafficking profits $32 billion annually
  • 70% of victims are enslaved in sex-trafficking
  • 50% of victims are children
  • 98% are never rescued 
These are just a few of the reasons we stood. But for me, the day was so much more than that. I stood for the 28 strong survivors I grew to know and love this summer. I stood for the young girls living in the slum who came to the stitching center and are at such a high risk for being trafficked. I stood for the girls behind the glass doors in the red light district in Amsterdam. I stood for the women who I saw being treated more like objects than beloved daughters of the King. I stood for the 29.8 million names and faces I do not know. That's a big number, but too often we read that only as a statistic. 29.8 million is not only a big number, but that is a lot of lives. It is 29.8 million lives that are trapped in daily violence, manipulation, fear, and abuse. These people have names and faces and heart wrenching stories. And yes, only 1-2% may ever be rescued, but that's 596,000 people and 596,000 stories of hope and restoration! The numbers can be overwhelming and I'm often asked how we can make a difference, but I believe the answer is simple: we can pray. If nothing else, we cover these people in prayer. Yes, we can raise awareness and donate and advocate and we should! But at the very least we can pray. Trafficking is not everyone's passion and that is okay, but these people do need prayer. The victims, the survivors, the exploiters, the advocates, and the organizations working to fight this all need prayer. In the red light district, I couldn't do anything but pray and yet I prayed for each and every girl I passed. I pray for my beloved sisters in India. I pray for the girls I know working in the field to stop it. And most of all, I pray that these victims will know Christ's victory. Even though up to 596,000 may be rescued, not all know the love of Jesus Christ and that is the only thing that will truly set them free.

This is why I stand for freedom, not only on April 9, but 365 days a year. 

Galatians 5:1 (The Message) "Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you."

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spring break in Amsterdam

I returned from Amsterdam on March 10th and jumped right back into real life at full speed. My ten short days in Amsterdam were a blessing beyond what words can express. I was blessed to be able to spend my spring break in Amsterdam serving alongside the Shelter Hostels Amsterdam staff, who were continuously a blessing and an encouragement to me. My trip was humbling and I was reminded of the goodness and grace of our Lord and Savior. This trip was also very different than other ministry I had done before. The majority of our time was spent cooking, cleaning, leading Bible discussion, and building relationships with the staff and guests traveling through. This week I saw people from more nations than I have in my entire life. I got to interact with people who loved Jesus with all their heart all the way to people who had never heard of Him. Quite honestly, I kind of went into this trip expecting to be disappointed but that was far from the truth. These ten short days blessed me, challenged me, and taught me. Here are a few highlights and lessons from my trip...

Top Highlights [in no particular order because it was all fabulous]:
1) Prayer walk through the 'Red Light District' (another post will be written all about that)
2) Praise and worship at the volunteer house- on Friday night we joined many of he Shelter Hostel volunteers at their house for a night of worship. This time was completely relaxed and a few hours of brothers and sisters coming together and worshiping our Maker. God definitely met us right where we were at.
3) Hostel Night- on Friday we hosted hostel night with a theme of 'change.' We had a free meal for all the guests (curry- yummmm!), played a few games, and my wonderful teammate Kelley shared her testimony. While in the kitchen preparing the meal I looked out and was overwhelmed by the sight of people of all nations, who had never met, interacting with one another, laughing, and exchanging stories. 
4) The Corrie TenBoom house- On our day off we went to Harlem and biked to the coast- BEAUTIFUL! Afterwards we visited the Corrie TenBoom house. For those of you who don't know her story google it. Right now. Seriously, did you do it? She has an amazing testimony of God's grace and redemption. During our tour I was brought to tears in her bedroom where she hid eight Jews and was brought to a concentration camp for it. Her father and sister both died, but she survived. Her family helped over 800 Jews, had 8 in hiding during their capture, witnessed in concentration camps, and by the grace of God forgave the man who turned their family in. Corrie wrote this man a letter saying she forgave him and he became a believer shortly before being executed. Praise the Lord! God is good.
5) Bike crash with Bekah :) and dual encouragement- Bekah was our host during our time there and was such a blessing to me. She has a beautiful, strong soul and is committed to furthering the Kingdom. And we crashed in the middle of a tram was great.
7) Getting to know the staff. - Again, so blessed by these people. The majority are volunteers between the ages of 18-25 spending 3-9 months volunteering at the Shelters.

our team for the 10 days
now plus our leader, Derek. Heading home!

Beautiful reminders from the Lord:
1) I am nothing without God. Lots of times I can forget this and think I have a lot of the answers...but I don't. God is so much bigger than me. He loves me. And He has a glorious plan.
2) God crosses cultural boundaries- I saw this over and over throughout the week. I often felt helpless to cross the boundaries, but the Lord did and changed hearts. 
3) Giving people hope can be as easy as saying hello and asking “How are you?”
4) God is victorious!- God reminded me of this on my prayer walk. In the midst of darkness and sin I was overcome with a sense of victory and hope.
5) Becoming comfortable in a routine not centered on Christ is not okay.- This is really easy for me to slip into back home and at school, but it's not okay. I was not only reminded of this, but challenged to change it. Keep me accountable, okay? 
6) Prayer, the Word, and an intentional community of believers is critical to maintaining a walk with Jesus
7) My faith is weak, but my Jesus is strong. - This is actually a quote from Corrie TenBoom and it stuck with me all week. My faith is weak, but my Jesus is strong. We serve a great, big, and mighty God. 
pre-bike crash