Friday, August 30, 2013

Our Love Story: Part 1

I've been contemplating about writing down our love story for a few months now. I'm not sure what has been holding me back, but I had a little pep talk with myself and decided to just do it--it needs to be recorded anyway so I don't forget all the details. Looking back, it's quite amazing the way God used events in our individual lives to eventually lead us to each other. So without further ado....

Let me lay the groundwork first. I come from a Christian home--raised in church and introduced to Jesus at a very young age. My parents are still head-over-heels in love and all my friends knew that when they came to my house, my mom and dad would be mushy and all over each other. Both sets of grandparents and the majority of my aunts, uncles, and cousins all lived in the same town, so I grew up adoring my family and loving every second I got to spend with them. Needless to say, growing up in that environment allowed me to dream of the day when I would meet my own Prince Charming and have the marriage and family my parents had. Jesus called me to be His child when I was 5 years old. Since then, I have continued to grow in my personal relationship with him and seek after His will in my life--from the smallest, most minute details to the huge, scary ones.

I am an oldest child, and as such, I have very oldest-child tendencies--I'm a strong leader, I'm bossy, I'm very organized and goal-oriented (a major planner), I put on an air of self-confidence and I never (under any circumstance) cry. When it comes to matters of the heart, deep down I want to be the fairy tale princess with my Prince Charming coming to pursue me and tell me I'm the most beautiful girl he's ever laid eyes on and that he can't live without me. However, I stuffed that into the furthest corner of my heart and was very guarded when it came to boys. I never wanted them to think me forward or flirtatious, and as a result, I didn't "date" very often.

When I was in 10th grade, I had my first serious dating relationship. I decided at that point in time that I would never say the words, "I love you", to any boy until I KNEW without a doubt that he was the one God had for me to marry. My parents also bought me a True Love Waits ring--a symbol to stay pure until marriage. I wore it on my ring finger of my left hand, and vowed that it was not coming off until my future husband exchanged it for an engagement ring.

Fast forward to my college years: I attended the University of Central Arkansas with a degree in Health Sciences--Radiography. Because of the degree program I chose, I took my first 60 hours on-campus and the last 60 hours would be completed in X-Ray school. Knowing that I only had one free summer, I made a spontaneous decision (which is so unlike me) to apply to work at Kanakuk Kamps for the summer of 2008. Kanakuk is a Christian organization that started in 1926 and over time has evolved into one of the greatest Christian summer camps in our nation. It is based on three main principles: God first, Others second, I'm third. There are several different camps for boys and girls of all ages as well as a Family Kamp. Kanakuk Family Kamp is a resort quality environment that enriches families through Bible study, activities, family nights, parent night, and much more.  After attending an orientation to become a counselor, I felt God leading me to apply to work at the Family Kamp. I got accepted and worked there for 8 weeks. I can't even describe how incredible that experience was. God taught me so much that summer--to trust Him above all else and that He had a plan for me. Two of the biggest things that happened to me during my time there was I met my best friend, Kaitlyn, and I also felt led by God to make a "Mate List."

During one of my quiet times, I felt the Lord speaking to me about his plan for my future husband. I felt the need to write down on paper what qualities would be non-negotiable and what qualities would be nice for him to have. All in all, I had about 25 character traits that I listed. I knew in my heart, God had a man out there for me who possessed at least all the non-negotiable ones, and I was hopeful he would have some of the other ones too. Little did I know, God was preparing the heart of my future husband that same summer, halfway across the world.

to be continued...

click HERE for Part 2!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Missions in Montrèal

I think most of you know--but for those that don't, Daniel and I just got back from a week-long mission trip to Montrèal, Quebec in Canada. Our church here in Fort Smith is partnering with NAMB (North American Mission Board) to team up with Providence church located in Montrèal to spread the gospel. When I hear the word "missions" my mind instantly takes me to a third world country--maybe people that live in huts in villages and never really have contact with the outside world or something. But let me tell you, the mission field is right here in North America too! In Montrèal, out of 1.3 million people living in the city, only 0.7% are considered Evangelical Christians... 0.7%!!!! How crazy is that? There are lots of religious buildings in the city--but they are vacant almost all the time! The people of Montrèal kind of had a fallout with the Catholic church in the past. So even though most would claim Catholicism, they don't actually practice it.
One of the many empty cathedrals

Our church has taken several trips up there within the past year, but this particular trip consisted of Daniel and I, our missions pastor, and our family ministries pastor and his wife. We had two purposes-- one was to spread the gospel in a particular community in Montrèal called Little Burgundy.

A view into Little Burgundy 
It's a community divided roughly into 50% immigrants (China, Middle Eastern, Algeria, France, Haiti, etc.), 20% "artsy/blue collar" such as musicians, restaurant workers, local trades, etc., 20% young professionals and about 10% college students--a very diverse group of people in one spot. I absolutely loved this community! It borders one of the canals, it has an amazing outdoor market where people sell everything from flowers to fresh fruits and veggies to cheese to fresh bread to maple syrup (yum!), and it has great personality from it's restaurants, antique shops, and other businesses. We spent a lot of time prayer-walking in this area as well as trying to meet people, forge relationships, and spread the gospel.

Our other purpose was to interact with and evaluate Providence church. There have been some circumstances within the past year that have left this church without proper leadership and right now they have a NAMB church planter intern that is trying to step in and help that situation. We needed to evaluate and pray to see what decisions need to be made about what our future partnership looks like. Can I just say, I absolutely fell in love with all the people that make up this church! They are mostly college students with a few young professionals mixed in, and they have such a heart for Jesus and for His people-- I wish I had more time just to get to know them better! We had such a great time interacting with them, attending their Bible studies during the week as well as their church service on Sunday (Daniel was invited to preach and did an AMAZING job), and we helped throw a baby shower for the NAMB family (they are expecting a baby boy next month).
Some of the girls from Providence--Laura, Jocelyn, Annabelle (3 years old), Jeannie (expecting baby boy in Sept.), Justine, and Cathy Weaver

One of my favorite things about Montrèal was the food! They are probably mostly known for crèpes and poutine. Crèpes are like a pancake, but much thinner and lighter. Traditionally, they are rolled up kind of like an enchilada and can be either sweet or savory. Oh my goodness they were so delicious! I'm pretty sure I had one for breakfast just about every morning. Yum-O!
My delicious birthday breakfast crèpe

Poutine is a concoction that includes french fries, cheese curds, gravy, and usually some type of meat. Now, I absolutely hate mixing my food--yes, i'm one of those weird people that separates their food ad eats it in sections. Needless to say, I was a little hesitant about trying this one. However, I sucked it up and tried one that had beef, mushrooms, and peppers in it and honestly, it wasn't that bad. Granted, I only ate it that one time, but at least I tried it!
Daniel's poutine had sausage, hot dog, and beef

We ate other delectable food too like roasted duck, gourmet cheeseburgers, authentic french dip sandwiches, eggs benedict, and LOTS of fresh french bread and croissants! My sister will be so proud--I even tried steamed mussels and LIKED them! Obviously, we did not go hungry! Good thing we walked about 8 miles a day!

We definitely saw the Lord move on this trip. One of the things we tried to accomplish was talking to people about the gospel--literally walking up to complete strangers, striking up conversations, and trying to find an opening to talk about the gospel. Can I just say, it was terrifying! I was definitely pushed out of my comfort zone. However, it was incredible to see the Lord use us in this way. One of the neatest stories happened on Monday. Our group had traveled to Little Burgundy that morning and we split up to try to cover more ground. Daniel and I felt that we needed to go into the Atwater Market and walk around the shops. We walk into one that sells all types of food products--homemade pastas, sauces, olive oils, maple syrup, etc. We were just walking around, browsing, and an employee--his name is Florent-- comes up to ask if we needed any help. We started some small talk, tried to practice some of our French--which this guy happened to be from France so his French was excellent, but his English wasn't as good, so it was pretty comical for him to try to teach us some French--and eventually he asked us what we were doing in Montrèal. That opened a segway for us to explain we were there partnering with Providence church and our goal was to reach Little Burgandy and get to know the people. Ok, this is the crazy part--he was suddenly called to a different part of the store and we didn't think anything of it. But right before we walked out, he caught us, handed us a piece of paper, and said, "Here is my name and my phone number. I would love to talk to you more before you have to leave. Will you please call me?" Talk about blown away! We went back the next day, saw him again, and scheduled to meet with him on Thursday at 4:00 pm when he got off work. We brought one of the girls from Providence, named Amèlie, because she is Quèbeçois and speaks fluent French---the gospel would be easier to share in his heart language. He met us outside, and immediately asked Daniel questions about what we believe as Baptists. Daniel was able to share the gospel through Amèlie and it was so neat to see someone so hungry for the gospel! We asked him if he had access to a Bible and he said he found one in the trash! We told him to start reading the gospel of John and Amèlie told him about a French-speaking Baptist church in the area he could get plugged in to. He asked for Daniel's email and told him he would email him (in English) with any questions he had. Such an AMAZING experience!!

If you think of Florent, please pray for him--the the Lord would draw him to with His Spirit and that Florent's heart would be open to the truth. Also, please continue to pray for our church, that the Lord would guide and direct our next steps.

As you can see, it was an awesome week--totally God ordained!