Who lives in a Pineapple under the sea?

I’MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM READY.

If you were born any time after the mid-90’s, I am sure you are able to identify this sea-sponge cartoon character, SpongeBob Squarepants. It was back in the good old days when Nickelodeon was in its prime. I remember watching the show, laughing at the crazy antics that he somehow always got himself into. One of my favorite episodes is when he and Patrick go out to sell chocolate bars, it’s a classic.

I know it’s been a hot second since the last time I wrote a blog post, a lot has happened both in the church plant and my life. Jesus always seems to surprise me in big ways, but more on that later.

I’m Ready

Something I love about Spongebob is the enthusiasm he has for life. Regardless of the challenge or circumstances that stood in front of him, he had this certainty that whatever life tossed his way he was ready. Whether it was his daily morning routine before heading into work at the Krusty Krab, thwarting Plankton’s plan to steal the secret recipe, taking his driving test with Mrs. Puff, or hanging out with Patrick and Squidward, his confidence and positive manner fueled him on to shout his most famous line, “I’M READY”

I feel like we spend all of our lives getting ready.

  • Getting up in the morning (some of us just roll out of bed…)
  • Perfecting your social media aesthetic (still don’t know what that means)
  • For our future jobs… Go education, yah college.
  • Marriage, Children, Retirement and whatever comes after that…

I don’t know what phase you are in or what you are preparing for next, but we have this unspoken order of how we are supposed to live our lives.

The funny thing is that often we are so “ready” for everything, except what Jesus wants for us. We are always ready for the easy option, the escape. We are ready to let someone else do it, because we aren’t “good enough”. We are ready to compare ourselves to the expectations others or we put on ourselves. We are ready to do what we want.

So we spend our whole lives preparing, but to what end?

I’m ready?

Take a second and close your eyes. Think, what are you pouring your life into and why.

I have no idea what your reality is, but I’m going to give you a real snapshot of what I’ve been living/learning. Living abroad is tough, working full-time ministry is tougher.

We are many times not ready like we think we are, but we like to make it seem like we are.

Over the past two years I have spent in South America, I have never realized a truer statement, I’m wasn’t ready, I liked to think I had it all together. I wasn’t ready to experience failure, loneliness, depression, challenges, and doubt. I was someone who in my mind was prepared, but I was missing one big part, Jesus.

How could someone who’s job is to start a church miss something so big?

Answer: Pride and hard headedness (the opposite of Spongebob). When we live in comfort, it’s easy to be ready. We are able to rely on our own strengths and abilities to get by. We can make it seem like everything is going well. When it gets too difficult, pass it off to someone else, or look for an escape route.

In South America, for the first time, I had to confront my own weaknesses and fears. Previously I was able to runaway or quit if I wasn’t the best at something. I had become so accustomed to doing things to win the approval of others and give myself worth. I can’t tell you how many times I had to fall until I realized that I couldn’t rely on my own capabilities and strengths.

Simple verse.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

-Colossians 3:17

Truly living this verse changed my life perspective. I had heard, read, even taught about this verse, but really apply it to my life…nah. It says “Whatever you do”. Not going to lie, Paul didn’t leave any wiggle room for us.

So that led me to change my thinking style. The most difficult part was living it out. It meant, changing where I found my identity, and the motivations behind my actions.

SPOILER ALERT: I hate being bad at things. Basically everything I do in South America were new things I had never dreamed of doing in my life. So it was pretty humbling.

Things I never thought I would do, I do in Chile, and it make it even more crazy, in Spanish. Leading worship, playing the piano, directing church services, speaking in front of lots of people. I can’t tell you the amount of times five minutes before an event or service a movie would play in my mind of the worst, imaginable things that could happen. I had to close my eyes and remember I wasn’t going to be up there alone, Jesus was with me. Let me tell you, when I started to give it all to Jesus, I was able to find such a peace.

Yes I’m ready. 

When someone is preparing for a tryout, interview, or competition (Go Cavs); they do whatever they can to be the best. Usually that comes with the help of a coach or some kind of mentor. Lucky us we have the best one out there. He’s in control of it all, we just have to trust and listen.

Everything we go through has some kind of purpose in our life. It’s our choice if we let it be a point of growth or not.

All I know is I want to be like SpongeBob. I want to have that same conviction and self-confidence that, “I’MMMMMMM READY”. That whatever challenge, adventure, or opportunity that comes my way, I can do it. Why? Because I am not alone.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
 When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
 For I am the Lord your God.

-Isaiah 43:2-3

UPDATE:

As stated earlier it’s been a while since I have given an update of the work being done in Antofagasta. We have faced so many trials and speed bumps, but through the ashes, it has been the most humbling thing to see lives being changed. In the past seven months we have been constructing a church. Not only the physical building (I now know how to mix cement and lay block), but also community. One of my favorite things is to look out every Sunday morning at all the people praising Jesus. It’s humbling knowing that Jesus had a plan for this city, for the 60 people from seven different countries. A year ago, we had nothing. Now we have small groups, leaders that are being discipled, soccer ministry, and most importantly people who have found hope in Jesus. God is faithful, and I can’t wait to see what else he’s got planned.

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Contando las Estrellas

Botones

Desde muy chica siempre me encantó contar y ordenar cosas. Recuerdo que cuando tenía 4 o 5 años mientras mi mamá cosía ella me pasaba su jarra gigante de botones. Habían de todos los tipos de botones que te puedas imaginar; Pequeño, grande, colorido, brillante, de madera, plástico, etc. Daba vuelta la jarra y me sentaba durante horas contando y contando, y ordenando cada botón en su lugar apropiado.

A medida que crecí cambiaba a la cantidad de galletas que podía comer sin que mi mamá se diera cuenta de que se habían ido, cuán tarde podía despertar y todavía llegar a clase a tiempo, cuánto tiempo podría conducir con un tanque de gasolina casi vacío; Pero en algún momento cambió a comparación. La comparación puede fácilmente convertirse en tu peor pesadilla. Causa un cambio en la forma en que pensamos acerca de nosotros mismos, basado en las acciones o situaciones de algo o de otra persona. Lo que era antes, “Estoy en la universidad estudiando, viviendo con amigos y trabajando, estoy contento”

Se convierte, “Pero, hay esta chica en mi trabajo, su vida es perfecta. Ella tiene buenas notas, muchos seguidores en las redes sociales, y su familia. La relación con su novio parece perfecta, está cercana con sus padres … “Empezamos a pensar en el valor de nuestra vida y los deseos cambian. Este ejemplo puede usarse en todas las áreas de nuestra vida; El vecino que tiene su vida ordenada, el compañero de trabajo que tiene un sueldo alto y está viajando todo el tiempo, y así la lista continúa. Nos preocupamos por lo que tenemos en comparación con lo que otros tienen. La sensación de estar contentos se disipa lentamente, y empezamos a sentirnos frustrados con el estado de nuestras vidas.

Días

Volviendo a la idea de contar. Quince años después, y todavía me encanta contar y organizar. También soy escritora. Me gusta escribir mis pensamientos, lo que está en mi corazón y lo que Dios me ha estado enseñando. Desde que llegué a Chile comencé a contar los días. Cada una de mis entradas de mi diario de vida comienza con la fecha y luego a la derecha el número de días que he pasado en Chile. Hoy marqué una gran etapa.

Día 365. He estado en Chile por 1 año.

Ni siquiera me di cuenta de que la fecha había llegado. Estaba reflexionando durante mi tiempo con Dios esta mañana, ¿Cómo ha pasado ya un año y cómo puedo resumir las experiencias del año pasado?

Podría decirte que este año ha sido absolutamente genial, el mejor momento de toda mi vida. Pero si te dijera eso, estaría mintiendo. No puedo decirte cuántas veces caí en el juego de la comparación. Cuando las cosas se ponían difíciles, o las dudas se metían en mi mente, se inició un diálogo interno que fue algo como así; “¿Cómo sería mi vida si todavía en EE.UU siendo una estudiante universitaria normal? Trabajando y viviendo con mis amigas? La vida probablemente sería mucho mejor. Pero aquí estoy, viviendo en otro país, haciendo cosas desafiantes, enfrentando pruebas. Me siento como un fracaso. Por qué estoy haciendo esto, mi vida antes era mucho más fácil y cómoda.” Es un diálogo que estoy seguro de que muchos de ustedes pueden relacionarse, las mentiras y las inseguridades se materializan y empezamos a cuestionar todo. Cuando nos quedamos atascados en ese estado de ánimo, nos resulta difícil salir.

Estrellas y arena

Hay una historia en la Biblia acerca de un hombre llamado Abraham. Abraham era un hombre que lo tenía todo. Era rico, tenía muchos camellos, amaba a su ciudad y a su familia. Parece un gran tipo. Entonces un día, Dios lo llamó a dejar todo, y viajar a un nuevo país donde no conocía a nadie y no tenía nada. Lo loco es que lo hizo, y muchas cosas asombrosas sucedieron en la vida de Abraham debido a su obediencia al servir al Señor. Aparte de tener un hijo cuando tenía 100 años, Dios prometió a Abraham que sus descendientes serían más numerosas que las estrellas en el cielo y como la arena del mar. (Génesis 22: 17-18)

Lo que Dios estaba prometiendo a Abraham, fue que las bendiciones que tenía para él serían innumerables. En el contexto actual, es difícil pensar que algo es innumerable. Algo que no podemos pedir a Siri o en una búsqueda de Google para encontrar un valor fijo o un punto final. Esta idea fue difícil para mí, sobre todo porque soy una justificadora, todo siempre tiene que tener una razón o un final.

Dios no es así. Dice en 1 Corintios 2:7 que “Mas hablamos sabiduría de Dios en misterio, la sabiduría oculta, la cual Dios predestinó antes de los siglos para nuestra gloria”. Qué loco es eso.

Me encanta mirar hacia el cielo durante la noche y ver millones de estrellas, tantas que se necesitaría toda una vida para tratar de contarlas. La cosa es que, la promesa que Dios hizo a Abraham hace tantos años, todavía reina y es verdad para nosotros hoy. Las bendiciones que Dios tiene para nuestras vidas son tan innumerables como los granos de arena que cubren las playas inexistentes en Ohio. (Es bueno que vivo en Chile).

Las bendiciones que Dios tiene para nuestras vidas son muchas, pero hacemos esto cuando comenzamos a contarlas. Y luego empezamos a contar el número de estrellas que tiene la persona que está a nuestro lado. Nos quedamos atrapados en lo mucho que tenemos, lo mucho que no tenemos, o lo que la persona que está al lado está haciendo. Nuestro enfoque no está en las grandes cosas que Dios quiere para nosotros. Esto nos hace perder lo que Dios está haciendo y lo que quiere mostrarnos.

Tenía que darme cuenta de que estaba haciendo precisamente eso. Me estaba perdiendo. Y odio perderme (si me conoces sabes eso) estaba demasiado centrada en mis propios deseos, agenda y lo que pensé que era “la mejor opción”. Tuve que dejar de contar mis estrellas, y más aún, las de otras personas. PARA QUE SEPAS: No puedes contar todas tus estrellas. Es imposible. Pero esa es la parte emocionante. Muchas veces tenemos una visión tan pequeña de lo que es posible, pero Dios ha llenado literalmente todo un cielo de los planes que tiene para cada uno de nosotros.

Cuando empezamos a vivir con esta mentalidad, la vida que vivimos se transforma completamente. Una vez que decidí comenzar a tomar pasos en la dirección de la fe con un corazón dispuesto, Dios fue capaz de trabajar. Empezó a estirarme y fortalecerme en mis áreas de debilidad y guiarme en nuevos caminos. Cuando nuestro corazón está enfocado en otras cosas, inconscientemente ponemos una barrera para que Dios no trabaje en nuestras vidas. Es nosotros eligiendo que nuestras propias ideas y deseos son mejores y más importantes que los suyos. Comprendí que cada situación que estaba viviendo tenía propósito y más que eso que eran una bendición.

Día 366 y contando…

Para resumir este año pasado es un poco complejo. Ha sido el más difícil y el más desafiante, pero también donde he crecido y aprendido más acerca de las características de Dios. Mi equipo y yo hemos pasado momentos en el desierto (literalmente y espiritualmente), hemos tenido, tiempos de duda y depresión. En aquellos tiempos bajos experimentamos la misericordia, la gracia y la fidelidad de Dios. Las situaciones difíciles eran necesarias para que creciéramos, y de ese crecimiento podíamos seguir adelante. Vemos que Dios nos está moldeando día a día en la persona que quiere que seamos. Las situaciones difíciles que encontramos son maneras en que Dios está tratando de fortalecernos y prepararnos para lo que Él tiene para nosotros.

En los últimos meses nuestro equipo ha podido ver y experimentar el poder de Dios, el plan de restauración y amor que tiene para la ciudad de Antofagasta. Después de meses de trabajo infructuoso, las cosas comenzaron a suceder. Comenzamos a orar con propósito, trabajar juntos y buscar la voluntad de Dios. Nuestros eventos comenzaron a atraer la atención de la gente, comenzamos los estudios bíblicos en las casas, tuvimos nuestro primer retiro espiritual y comenzamos las clases de discipulado. Nuestro actual “edificio de la iglesia” es un edificio medio demolido en la propiedad donde planeamos construir nuestra iglesia. En este punto no tenemos idea de cuándo vamos a comenzar la construcción, por lo que son los servicios en un edificio sin techo. ¿Sabes lo que es impresionante? La gente viene y se encuentra con Jesús. Al punto que la semana pasada nos quedamos sin asientos, y ahora tenemos que construir más bancos. (¡Si estás interesado en patrocinar la construcción de un banco o Biblias, házmelo saber!) Dios me ha estado enseñando últimamente, no necesitas mucho, sólo corazones humildes que tienen un deseo de conocer a Jesús.

Mirando hacia atrás en el primer año y pensando.. en realidad no tengo idea qué es lo que vendrá en el próximo año. Lo único que sé es que esto es sólo el comienzo de lo que Dios tiene para esta ciudad.

¿Qué estrellas estás contando? ¿En qué situaciónes esta pasando? ¿Cuál es la condición de tu corazón?. Estas son  preguntas que sólo tú puede responder. Las bendiciones que Dios tiene disponibles son INNUMERABLES, pero ¿Estás demasiado ocupado para recibirlas?

” Y no sólo esto, sino que también nos gloriamos en las tribulaciones, en las tribulaciones, sabiendo que la tribulación produce paciencia;  y la paciencia, prueba; y la prueba, esperanza; y la esperanza no avergüenza; porque el amor de Dios ha sido derramado en nuestros corazones por el Espíritu Santo que nos fue dado.”

-Romanos 5:3-5 (RVR1960)

Hasta la próxima vez. (Prometo que no voy a dejar pasar 6 meses hasta el próximo …)

* Descargo de responsabilidad: La imagen de la estrella no fue tomada en Chile. Fue tomada en Alaska según las imágenes de Google.

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Counting the stars.

Buttons

Ever since I’ve been young I have always loved counting and sorting things. I remember when I was 4 or 5 years old my mom would be sewing and she would hand me her giant jar of buttons. There were all the types of buttons you could imagine; small, large, colorful, shiny, wooden and plastic. I would pour them all out and sit for hours contently counting and sorting every button into its proper place.

As I got older my counting switched to the amount of cookies I could eat without my mom noticing some were gone, how late could I wake up and still make it to class on time, how long I could drive on an almost empty gas tank; but then at some point it changed to comparison. Comparison can easily become your worst nightmare. It causes a change in the way we think about ourselves based on the actions or situations of something or someone else. What was before, “I’m in college studying, living with friends and working,  I’m content”

Becomes, “But, there’s this girl at my work, her life is perfect. She has good grades, lots of followers on social media, and her family, don’t even get me started. Her relationship with her boyfriend seems perfect, she’s close with her parents…” We begin think about the value of our life and desires change. This example can be used in all avenues of our life; the neighbor that has their life together, the co-worker who has a high salary and vacations all the time, the list goes on. We become preoccupied with what we have in comparison to what others have. The feeling of being content slowly dissipates, and we begin to become frustrated with the state of our lives.

Days

Going back to the idea of counting. Fifteen years later, and I still love counting and organizing. I’m also a journaler. I like writing my thoughts, what’s on heart and what God has been teaching me. Since arriving in Chile, I began to count the days. Every single one of my journal entries starts with the date and then to the right it lists the number of days I have spent in Chile. Today marked a big mile stone.

Day 365. I’ve now been in Chile for 1 year.

It kind of snuck of me. I was reflecting during my quiet time this morning, how has a year already passed and how could I summarize the experiences of the past year?

I could tell you this year has been absolutely great, the best time of my life. But if I told you that, I would be lying. I can’t tell you how many times I fell into the game of comparison. When things got hard, or doubts crept into my mind, an internal dialogue started up that went something like this; “What would my life be like if I were still a normal college student; working and living with my friends? Life would probably be so much better. But here I am, living in another country, doing things that are challenging, facing trials. I feel like a failure. Why am I doing this, my old life was so much easier and comfortable.” It’s a dialog that I’m sure a lot of you can relate to, the lies and insecurities materialize and we begin to question everything. When we get stuck in that frame of mind it becomes hard to leave.

Stars and Sand

There’s a story in the Bible about a man named Abraham. Abraham was a man that had everything. He was rich, he had lots of camels, loved his city and his family. He sounds like a great guy. Then one day, God called him to leave everything, and travel to a new country where he knew nobody and had nothing. The crazy thing is he did it, and a lot of amazing things happened in the life of Abraham because of his obedience in serving the Lord. Asides from having a child when he was 100, God promised Abraham that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars in the sky and the sand on the shore. (Genesis 22:17-18)

What God was promising Abraham, was that the blessings he had for him were innumerable. In today’s context, it’s hard to think that something is innumerable. Something that we can’t ask Siri or google search to find a fixed value or ending point. This idea was difficult for me, especially since I am a justifier, everything always has to have a reason or an end.

God’s not like that. It says in 1st Corinthians 2:7 that “God’s wisdom that has been hidden and that he destined for our glory BEFORE time began”. How crazy is that.

I love looking up into the sky during the night and seeing millions of stars, so many that it would take a lifetime to try to count. The thing is, the promise that God made to Abraham so many years ago, still reigns true for us today. The blessings God has for our lives are just as innumerable as the grains of sand that cover the non-existant beaches in Ohio. (Good thing I live in Chile).

The blessings that God has for our lives are many, but we do this thing where we start to count them. And then we start to count the number of stars the person next to us has. We get caught up in how much we have, how much we don’t have, or what the person next to us is doing. Our focus isn’t on the great things God wants for us. This causes us to miss out on what God is doing and what he wants to show us.

I had to realize that I was doing just that. I was missing out. And I hate missing out (FOMO) I was too focused on own desires, agenda and what I thought was “the better option”. I had to stop counting my stars, and even more so, those of other people. SPOILER ALERT: You can’t count all of your stars. It’s impossible. But that’s the exciting part. A lot of times we have a such a small vision of what is possible, but God has literally filled a whole sky of the plans he has for each and every one of us.

When we begin to live with this mindset, the life we live is completely transformed. Once I decided to start taking steps in the direction of faith with a willing heart, God was able to work. He started to stretch and strengthen me in my areas of weakness and guide me in new paths. When our heart is focused on other things, we are subconsciously putting up a barrier for God to work in our lives. It’s us choosing that our own ideas and desires are better and more important than his. For me it took understanding that every situation that I was living had purpose and more than that they were a blessing.

Day 366 and counting…

To summarize this past year is a little bit complex. It has been the hardest and the most challenging, but also where I have grown and learned more about the characteristics of God. My team and I have passed times in the desert (literally and spiritually), have had people leave and join our team, times of doubt and depression. In those low times we experienced the mercy, grace and faithfulness of God. The tough situations were necessary for us to grow, and from that growth we were able to push on. You see God is molding us day by day into the person he wants us to be. The difficult situations we encounter are ways that God is trying to strengthen us and prepare us for what he has for us.

In the past couple of months our team has been able to see and experience God’s power, plan of restoration and love he has for the city of Antofagasta. After months of fruitless labor, things started happening. We began to pray with purpose, work together and look for the will of God. Our events began to attract the attention of people, we began bible studies in houses, had our first spiritual retreat, and began discipleship classes. Our current “church building” is a half-demolished building on the property where we plan to construct our church. At this point we have no idea when we are going to start construction, so are services in a building without a roof. You know what’s awesome? People are coming, and meeting Jesus. To the point that last week we ran out of seats, and now have to construct more benches. (If you are interested in sponsoring the construction of a bench or Bibles, let me know!) God’s been teaching me lately, you don’t need much, just humble hearts that have a desire to know Jesus.

Looking back on year 1, I have no idea what idea what’s to come in the next year. The one thing I do know, is this is only the beginning of what God has for this city.

What stars are you counting? What situations are you going though? What’s the condition of your heart. Those are questions only you can answer. The blessings God has available are INNUMERABLE, but are you too busy receive them?

“But we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)

Until next time. (I promise I won’t let 6 months go by until the next one…)

*Disclaimer: The star picture was not taken in Chile. It was taken in Alaska according to Google images.

Gotta catch ’em all

The game.

I don’t know about you guys, but the great game of Pokemon was something that occupied a large deal of my time while I was growing up. I really loved buying new games, because that meant you got to start a brand new adventure with different types of Pokemon. My favorites were definitely Pokemon Ruby and Leaf Green.

The first hour playing was the deciding factor for your trajectory. During this hour you chose your starting Pokemon, and this was the beginning of your journey. Out of the three types you had to pick which one would be the best choice. It was a tough decision, something that would have a lasting effect for the rest of the game. After  weighing the positive and negatives I would almost always choose a water type, I mean you can never go wrong with Squirtle or Mudkip.

After choosing your starter Pokemon you were ready to start the journey. Right off the bat you start the long and arduous process of training your carefully selected Pokemon. This mean hours of traipsing through caves, buying great balls to catch specific Pokemon, countless encounters with Rattatas, battling with other trainers, all with the hope of getting your Pokemon strong. After what seems like days, it happens. Your Pokemon is evolving. It was always the highlight of my day; watching the mind-blowing graphics and listening to the awesome sound effects as my hours of hard work paid off. At this point you were prepared to face the world with your evolved Pokemon. It now had more hp points, new moves, and looked cooler. After lots of hardwork, you were ready to face the gym bosses to become a Pokemon master.

That’s it. My blog post was just about my love for Pokemon.

Just kidding. It’s funny how God often uses simple things we enjoy to teach us more about him. I’ve been learning a ton lately, but that’s what happens when God is in the process of modeling you.

You were chosen. (Just like a starter Pokemon)

Let’s go back to the basics. Even though it’s sometimes hard to believe it, we were all chosen and made unique by the creator of the universe. With that being said, we were given specific talents, passions and personalities. What’s even crazier is God has a giant plan for each of us, and it’s different for everyone. When I was called to the mission field, I literally thought God was crazy. I was 19 and a hot-mess. I remember telling God he was making a big mistake. When we look at ourselves we often only see our weaknesses and our failures. The cool thing is God is able to see past those and knows the potential we have. He sees those weaknesses and our pasts as a way to make his name great.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So 10 months after stepping off an airplane on to South American soil, I can easily say that I am a different person. Arriving, I hit the ground running with the mentality of “what can I do, I want to do everything”. If you look at the quote, what do you notice?

The word “I”.

Pokemon training.

That was a hard realization. Up until a couple of months ago I had this mindset, one that was so set on being the best and achieving goals, all for God of course…(none of it was pride based at all). When your focus is set on achieving and being the best, you’re relying on yourself, and that strength is going to run out pretty quick. Something else I also found was I wasn’t ready. I wanted to change the city and transform hearts, the problem was I wasn’t fully letting God transform me. We all have parts of us that we need to refine and strengthen. The hardest part is letting go and trusting.

Like Pokemon we have to go through hours of training to be prepared to face the gym bosses. These past couple months have been some of the hardest that I have gone through. We went through 2 months of people leaving from our team and lots of work with little fruit to show for it. We lost a team member, our support family and pastors. There were periods of doubt, questioning God, anger and sadness. We also recently had our house broken into, and my Mac was stolen (this blog post has been typed completely on an iPhone). The verse I posted earlier in the blog speaks about God’s power being made perfect in weakness. I can’t think of a truer verse. We were going through some crap, but what was cool to see God still being faithful and opening doors in the middle of the storm.

Since March, my ministry partner and I have experienced Jesus working in so many ways. We both play in the worship band,  I play piano and sing, while she plays guitar.We started a bible study with our neighbor Betty, and we are in the process of growing it with more neighbors. What’s also been really neat is seeing how God uses our loves and talents to make relationships. I have made it my goal to visit all the coffee shops in Antofagasta. It’s been really cool to start friendships with the baristas and speak truth into their lives. Other bonus is drinking lots of delicious espresso (stay tuned for my next coffee critic blog…). I have recently got plugged into a college-age women’s soccer team as well. There is a beautiful library here, and I have been able to indulge my nerdy side while getting to know people. (Currently trying the read The Great Gatsby in Spanish) Ministry here is so relationally based and it’s been awesome to get to love on the people here. Asides from what we are doing right now, God has some put some big plans in my mind, I have a dream to start a lacrosse ministry and English tutoring in the colleges and high schools here.

(Still training)

*Spoiler alert* You’re always going to be “training”. You’re never going to reach a point when you can no longer “level up”. God is always going to be working in our lives, continually transforming us so we can be ready to take on whatever is next. God is never going to leave you out to dry, but it’s something you have to choose to do. I had to choose to humble myself and give God some things I had been harboring in my heart for some time. It’s difficult, if I hadn’t, I can say with certainty that I would have given up and gone home.

What’s next?

May is going to be a big month. Our team is going to be made whole again. We have our new support family, who were missionaries in Colombia, coming the last week of April. To complete us, we have Chilean pastors arriving in the middle of May. As a new team, I have faith God is going to do great things.

I’m going to ask for your help, in prayer. Prayer for team unity, the people who are coming to our church and the people we are going to meet. We have a lot of big things coming up, and I know it’s not always going to be easy. If you are possibly interested in my lacrosse outreach program shoot me a message on Facebook, or make any donations to help me with getting a new computer that would be greatly appreciated! (https://www.extremenazarene.org/team/Haugh/)

I also want to challenge you. Where is God wanting to grow and stretch you? He has something crazy big for each one us, we just have to be willing. We just sometimes have to be a like a Pokemon.

In the words of Ash Ketchum;

Gotta catch ’em all.

Mountain Views

Hey friends. Today is the 90th day spent in lovely Antofagasta, Chile. I apologize for my lack of blog writing. Life has been crazy, but a good kind of crazy.

Mountains are pretty cool. I was born and raised in Ohio. The land of flat farmland, football (go bucks amiright), and shopping malls. Since I live in the midwest, I had truly never seen a “real” mountain. The altitude can maybe be classified as large hills at best. South America is the exact opposite, everywhere you go there are mountains, and I love it.

I lived in Quito, Ecuador for a little over 3 months, and there were some beautiful mountains there. Cool fact of the day: Quito is the highest capital city in the world, at an elevation of 9,350 ft (2,850 meters for those of you who use the metric system). While in Quito, I wanted to climb a mountain.

I ended up climbing a Mountain. I capitalized that because it wasn’t just a “mountain” but the kind of mountain people train to climb, the real deal. I went into it deciding that I was going to hike the whole entire thing and out of it I was going to have an amazing experience and great Instagram. Shoot I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

Have you ever ran a really boring straightaway, and it seems like you are never going to reach the end, thats what mountain climbing is like but with a really cool view. You climb and you climb and you climb for hours and it still feels like you’re going absolutely nowhere.

And then you get to the summit. The hardest part. The part where you don’t think there is a way to get to the top. When I was climbing this mountain it seemed basically impossible. I wasn’t prepared. I had never climbed a mountain. I was literally in shorts, a long sleeve and tennis shoes. At the base of the summit it was a lovely 25 degrees at 14,000 ft elevation. If you were wondering at 14,000 ft elevation, breathing is just a little bit difficult… All the odds were against me, but this is something I wanted to complete. I was so close to making my goal, but I still had to face the most daunting portion of my journey.

I, Leah Haugh, was somehow able to face the crazy odds of scaling this large mountain. After 5 hours of climbing I reached the summit; blue lips, light-headed with frozen fingertips. Hooray.

Following Jesus is a little like climbing a mountain.

It’s hard. It’s an adventure. It takes endurance. It takes faith. It takes courage. But the reward is oh so great.

I’ve now been in Antofagasta, Chile for close to 3 months. If I am being honest it is hard. Starting a church in a city that is closed off to the gospel, being away from family and friends, and the list could go on. It is so easy to fall into the mindset of negativity. Not seeing fruit, things not going as planned, and doubts of why am I here.

That’s how climbing a mountain is, you want to give up. You want to say, “shoot, maybe I should have thought this through a little bit more, I’m not cut out for this”

BUT, then you take a look back. And you see how far you have come. Looking back on not just the past couple of months, but all of the events in my life. All have been a part of getting me to the summit. Though at times things may seem desolate and unimportant, God is using those events to grow you. And thats where we are at right now as a team in Antofagasta. There have been trials and challenges, but each of these have caused us to rely more on God than our own strengths. So we continue on, taking one step at a time by faith.

This next month is going to be spent climbing. And the climb is going to be a tough one. We are starting to grow our church, and at the same time we have two events coming up. There is a retreat for new people at our church in the middle of the month. Then the last week, there is a youth event focused on missions that we are organizing and leading for the whole area of Northern Chile. It is exciting to think of all the cool things that God is going to be doing, but goodness it is going to be lots of hard work. It’s daunting and then I remember we have the big man on our side.

So climb. Climb even when it’s difficult my mountain, wilderness friends; because the summit is in view.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”

Hebrews 11:1

Speed Bumps

You know something I miss? Driving. I miss taking my good ole’ 2003 Buick Century for a drive along the leisurely roads in central Ohio. You know what I don’t miss about driving, speed bumps. They are such an inconvenience in all seriousness, and they happen to be everywhere. They always come up when you are about 5 minutes late to be somewhere; you’re driving 20 over the speed limit and then you have to slam on your brakes or just plow over them in hopes that your car doesn’t bottom out.

Gosh, if I’m being honest the amounts of speed bumps I have blown over… is a lot (sorry Dad). When you choose to drive quickly over a speed bump, its like saying, “I know the consequences that could happen but I am going to choose to do it anyways”. OR you can be a responsible driver. This being that you slow down and go over the speed bump. The fact of the matter is, that speed bump is going to be there despite how fast you are going and whether you want it to be there or not. They are unavoidable.

In the beginning of verse John 16:33 it says “I have told you these things, so that in me you have peace. In this world you will have trials.”

Hm. What does this mean. Literally Jesus is saying in life there are going to be trials. Sometimes things are going to not make sense, things are going to be hard. But the really cool thing is we have this really cool guy Jesus that is there in every moment regardless of our circumstances.

In the past month I have been learning a lot about trials. Believe it or not being away from your family and friends is not the easiest thing in the world, the culture is different and I am human. The best thing about going through trials, is coming out of them with a really cool experience. You get to see how faithful, strong and great the God you serve is.

The amount of awesome things I have been able to do this month blow my mind everyday. And each of those awesome things have come with their fair share of trials.

YL Camp in the Rainforest

YoungLife is a big part of my life and has affected my walk with Jesus a ton. Over the past couple years it has been my source of fellowship, and I have meet some of my closest friends through it. Moving to Quito was hard for me, I missed the craziness, the spontaneity, the relational ministry, basically everything. Through some crazy circumstances (that can only be attributed to Jesus) I was able to find YoungLife in Quito, Ecuador. An even crazier thing was the fact that my Spanish teacher, who I saw everyday for 3 hours,  had just started YoungLife in Quito in January with her husband. And then she invited me to camp. Going to camp was something that seemed impossible. I would have to miss class, it cost money (which I didn’t have, since I am broke college missionary), I would be one of a handful of English speakers among a couple hundred Spanish speaking teens. Every part of it seemed impossible. I felt called to go, so I just prayed, Jesus if this is your will let this happen.

And guess what, I was able to go. When you trust God he provides. I was given the chance to tutor two high school students in English (teaching English is so much harder than you would think). I wasn’t expecting to be paid, and that bit of money made it possible. I was able to work out a deal with my supervisors about missing class. I survived a 5 days with Spanish speakers, Hallelujah.

Because I overcame these “impossibilities” I was able to experience kids meeting hearing the gospel in the rainforests of Shell, Ecuador. It was one of the most authentic displays of Jesus’s love I have ever seen. Though I almost died water rafting on Pastaza River (that’s a story for another time), was covered in mud/flour/eggs/paint 99% of the time, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was so humbling to be apart of something that is so alive and vibrant.YoungLife has only been in Ecuador for 3 years, and the future is so, so bright.

4 AM Prayer

Every Tuesday morning my alarm is set at a fabulous 3:55 AM so I can go to 4 AM in prayer in the chapel. Every week 4 AM prayer is lead by someone different in Extreme. A couple weeks ago I was given the responsibility to lead it with one of my partners, a small catch, it has to be in all Spanish. It is a pretty open time, you just have to have an overarching theme, and fill the allotted 2 hours. So that morning my partner and I woke up ready to go (keep in mind I am not a morning person), everything was prepared the night before and we were ready for a seamless 2 hours. Boy, were we wrong. Imagine waking up at 3:20 AM, and the person who is supposed to have the Mac adapter for the projector lost it. The wi-fi kept timing out, so we lost half of our worship songs for the morning. I was so anxious and frustrated, I kept thinking, “God why would you do this to me. Look, I’m trying to do this for you”.

To make a tragic story semi-bearable, 4 AM prayer ended up okay, with lots of improvising and thinking on our feet we filled the two hours. I think I learned more about myself that morning than I expected to. So often I rely on myself. It is so easy to just use God as crutch. When we try to do things by ourselves, it’s going to result in disappointment, failure or frustration in some way or another. I can be one of the most hard-headed, independent, and prideful person at times. Here in Quito I have had the humbling chance to experience God’s grace, his perfect plan and his flawless love.

What’s Next?

Well I am nearing my ending time in Quito, Ecuador. It has been a whirlwind of almost 14 weeks. I came in with elementary Spanish with little idea of what the next 28 months in South America would look like. It’s crazy to think in two short weeks I will be heading off to Cali, Colombia to start my missionary training.

From climbing one of the highest mountains in Ecuador, to leading worship at a youth service in Ibarra, these three months have been a time of shaping and learning, and I couldn’t be more thankful. I have been pushed by God to trust in his plan in my life. I have tasted and seen that he is good. I have learned to face my fears and jump in head first to what ever God has called me to.

It’s bittersweet to be leaving and starting a new adventure. It’s a bit scary and there are so many new challenges I will be facing. The best part about John 16:33 is the end; “but take heart I have overcome the world”. One of good friends used to tell when I was going through something hard:

” Leah in life there are always going to be speed bumps. You have a choice on how big of an impact they are going to make in your life.”

And that is something I have been remembering while I am here. Trials can make or break you.You can dwell on how hard they are and become bitter and angry, or you can look to Jesus, because he has overcome the world.

So next time you drive over a speed bump, think about that. How are you approaching the trials in your life? Are you just speeding over them, or are you slowing down looking at it from another perspective. Also think of me, because I miss driving, even with all those speed bumps. IMG_0551 IMG_0509 IMG_0369 IMG_0550 IMG_0255IMG_0601

Comfort Level.

First of all I apologize for taking so long to post a blog. I am alive and well, ya know just living life to the full in Quito, Ecuador. Anyways…

Comfort; a sense of ease due to familiarity and pleasant times.

It is something that everyone seeks. When I think of comfort it is: spending an afternoon at a coffee shop with some friends, eating a home cooked meal with family, or going on a long run. Living in Columbus, OH was something that was very comfortable. Life was easy, predictable, and if I’m being honest a tad mundane. Leaving, for not three months, not one year, but twenty-seven months, now that is out of my comfort zone.

“Blessed are the flexible, for they will bend and not break”

I can not think a more truer phrase. I have now been in Quito, Ecuador for close to three weeks. I have learned that things here are different, but a good different. I have most definitely been out of my comfort zone. The lesson I have been learning so far: when God calls us to be uncomfortable, it’s because he wants to grow us and teach us more about his faithfulness.

Spanish: I am now able to fully empathize with those who have gone to a country where their primary language is not spoken. I took for granted the fact that in America I am surrounded by those who think the same, and speak English. It has been a humbling, frustrating, and exciting process to learn a new language. It blows my mind to think that in a short four months I  will be changing lives speaking Spanish. At this point I am fairly conversational due to 3-hour sessions every weekday, every little time I improve it is a small victory. Who would have thought I would be a Spanish speaker? Olé.

Culture: Culture shock is a real thing. If I am being honest coming into this I was pretty prideful. I thought I would love everything about South America and miss nothing about back home. Well I was wrong. Being away from everything you know and food. Oh my gosh food. Right now I just really want some wings, sushi and chocolate chip cookies. Living with someone from a different country (one of my roommates is from Chile), new foods, different cultural norms; there has definitely been learning curves. The coolest thing though is remembering that though there may be language barriers and cultural differences, we have one pretty great common denominator, Jesus.

Talents: I can’t tell you the amount of times I have heard a sermon concerning spiritual gifts, and how we are supposed to use them to glorify God. (1 Corinthians 12:1-31). Every time I would hear one I would just make excuses why I wasn’t able to serve or use my talents. I was too busy, there were other people that were more capable, I was scared. Here in Quito excuses aren’t applicable. In the past 3 weeks I have done so many things that I would have never done in the US. Something else about South American culture, time and preparation isn’t really a thing here. On the second week I was here I was given three Spanish songs to learn at 9 PM that night to play the next morning during chapel. Keep in mind I have never led worship, played with other instruments and I had never heard any of the songs before. It was an experience, but so cool to see God be faithful once again. It went miraculously great and it something I now look forward to every week. It has also been so liberating to just go out and live without caring about others judgement, my performance, or comparison.

Living life here is great, out of my comfort zone, but hey it’s always exciting here so I can’t complain. I mean yesterday one of my teammates semi-blew up our kitchen (but that’s a story for another time…) My advice for right now, if God’s nudging you to something a little crazy or different, DO IT. Be uncomfortable, cause chances are, the plans he has for you are out of this world. Until next time….

June 22nd.

Here I am. A mere 3 days before I leave the great city of Columbus, the place that I have called home for the past 20 years. I will be embarking on the journey of a lifetime. I mean who would have thought a year ago I would be leaving to go serve in South America for 27 months through a non-profit.

It is without a doubt that my life if going to change drastically in less than 72 hours. How am I feeling? If I am being absolutely honest, the answer would be, I have felt LITERALLY every single emotion at some point this week. Somedays I don’t even realize I am going to be leaving for 27 months, other days I am super pumped, and then somedays I am just nostalgic. One thing I have realized over the past few months; living life with Jesus is an adventure, and it has be the best.

So I’m not going write a novel post about all that has happened over that past couple months, shoot that would take a coon’s age. I’m sure all those things will be covered over future posts. I just want to tell you something cool I have been learning lately; prayer. Prayer is so awesome if you think about it. It is a time where it is just you and God are just hanging out. Growing up in the church it was so easy to  see prayer as something habitual and boring, rather than being powerful and instrumental in our life. My team leader in Chile, always used the phrase, “You have Jesus on your side, so expect miracles.” I really love that, so I have been making it a point to incorporate into my daily life, and wow Jesus has been so faithful.

Well around 72 hours from now me, myself and I will be heading on a one-way flight to Quito, Ecuador to begin my journey. I still have about a thousand things left to do, like say good byes, write letters, pack my bag for 27 months (I don’t even know where to start…), so please pray for my soul and my parents sanity. The life of a procrastinator is just short of insanity.