Jesus Met Me in Amsterdam: A.K.A. Longest Blog Post Evaaaa.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely put my experience into words, but I’ll try my best. With this being the busiest and most important semester of my life, I was a little nervous to go to Amsterdam. Last semester was extremely fruitful and full of witnessing God working in my life. This semester has been quite the opposite and I didn’t see it coming. I’ve been overrun with schoolwork, exams, labs, observations in the clinic, and trying to hold down my new responsibilities in Operation Smile. It’s been a semester of trying to prove myself to my professors and department. I’ve been stressed, tired, cried a few times, and called my mom even more times. I had to step back from co-leading life group, going to equipping group, greeting on Sundays, and even missed women’s weekend. I’ve left my room exactly six times this semester to spend time with my friends, including just eating dinner on campus. I’ve been lonely even when I know I’m not alone. Looking back, I’ve spent more time with the people in my Amsterdam meetings just on Sundays than with anybody else so far this semester!
Our team made the decision to be in the Bible at least three times a week in preparation for our trip. In my head I thought, “Three times is nothing. No probz.” Yeah, well it was and it didn’t always happen. Last semester I was in DEEP. This semester I feel like I barely scratched the surface. My life turned to a point where it started to feel like a burden to spend time with God. All the time stuck in my schoolwork and research made me wish to turn off my brain and do something mindless in my free time. It’s a tad bit hard to spend time with God when you are watching videos of dancing hamsters. Just saying. Youtube in general is not conducive to loving on the Lord. I can say I certainly have not turned to God the way I should in both good and bad times.
My first test this semester I studied more than I ever have. I made a 50 page study packet, enlisted the help of my medical-school going cousin, and pulled late nights for a week. Going in to class I felt AMAZING. I had never been more prepared. Leaving class I felt AMAZING. A test had never been easier for me. Getting my test back I felt CRUSHED. I’d like to tell you after I got my test back I realized I couldn’t do it all on my own and I needed to lean on Jesus. That would’ve been awesome, but it wasn’t the case. I was full of bitterness, anger, and just pure exhaustion. To make matters worse, all those feelings were projected on God. My relationship with him simply shouldn’t be so hard. It was making my heart hard. I could tell it was affecting me and making me someone I am not. I love God. I love people. I love spending time with Him in the Word. I love serving. I love praying. I love the church. I love worshipping. I love to laugh and just smile. The darkness somehow managed to suck up all the life in those things. In the midst of it all I forgot the most basic thing. God loves me. The one thing that kept me going is the fact that I feel called towards missions as a career, and I was going on a mission trip this semester. If I didn’t have that to look forward to, I have no doubt my lifestyle this semester would have completely consumed me. I would have drowned.
I’ve had a Jonah experience these last few months. God has been pursuing me from the time I came back from Christmas break. All my school stuff had me running away and dodging His attempts of love and opportunities for ministry. The selfish desires of time for myself blinded me. I think that’s why this semester has been so difficult. Like Jonah, I ran away from the Lord. Instead I rode a ship on crashing waves headed for nowhere. Our Amsterdam team had a pre-game trip to Cleveland for outreach. It was when I got back from Cleveland at night that I was thrown overboard. The waves subsided and I gave into the calm that God provided. However, I was swallowed by a huge stinky fish in the week leading up to Amsterdam. It was longer than three days, but probably appropriate when I consider my fall.
Jonah 2:9 “But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” Salvation comes from the Lord. No matter how hard I try or perform, in the end it doesn’t matter. I could be a genius and get into any grad program I wanted and it still wouldn’t matter in the scheme of things. God is going take me where I’m supposed to go. I’m not in charge of my story. Definitely saw that I need to humble myself and give into His hand. And, somewhere along the way I was spit up into Amsterdam. I’m so happy to have been swallowed up by a metaphorical mammal. I was reminded that I’m not in charge of my story, or anybody else’s. I’m just a seed that God would use in the Netherlands to help other’s grow closer to seeing God’s love.
It’s funny how God weaves people together to create a magnificent journey on earth in preparation for the Kingdom. One of the people in my outreach team spoke last semester at a kind of church introduction/leadership class. He said that that our goal of finishing in getting other’s to know Christ and living missionally doesn’t have to be difficult. There shouldn’t be a burden of getting each person you talk with to profess Jesus as their Savior in that conversation. You let God lead you and trust Him to get that person across the finish line. Maybe it’s not supposed to be me, but someone else in their story. I can honestly say I trust in that. I can have faith in the unknown because the reality is God is all-knowing and He’s on my side. I have hope that people in Amsterdam saw a glimpse of Jesus in us even if we didn’t directly speak to them. The most life changing glimpse of Jesus I’ve ever experienced took place in 30 seconds of a conversation I overheard while working at a grocery store. I’ve experienced God in the most unexpected ways only to see that it was what God expected all along.
God’s immense love found me in Amsterdam. It was met with an awareness of areas of myself I need to work on. It’s still unbelievable to think about how God prepared a way for our team before we even arrived in the Netherlands. When I think about the God ordained encounters each of us had I’m overwhelmed by His grace. Who am I to expect anybody to talk to me about their life? I’m just a stranger from another country. This really hit me hard. I’ve recognized how guarded I am in life for one reason or another. It’s fueled by past hurt and attempts at warding off future pain. How would I react if a stranger came up to me to talk about my life? Before this trip they would probably be met by a wall of superficial babble. I’ve come back from this trip to see that all the junk in my life has been redeemed and can be celebrated as a triumph in my journey. I shouldn’t be so quick to hide, but instead quick to share God’s extraordinary power to save.
As far as Amsterdam actually goes, there’s so much I could write about. I’ll never be able to do it justice with my words. Writing in Dutch probably wouldn’t help either. Any way I put it, the trip will sound more superficial than what it was.
My trip in two sentences: God desperately wants the people in Amsterdam, Groningen, and everywhere else. But the Netherlands have to stop wanting themselves and start seeing that they need God. It’s a basic notion, but difficult to comprehend unless you open your heart to understand. I’ve been experiencing Amsterdam this entire semester without even realizing it. God wants me and He wants you. I need to put aside my desires though to be able to see that I should desire God first. Beyond that, He will make everything else fall into place. I don’t know what God has in store for the next two years of school, but I can find peace and rest in knowing it’s all a part of my bigger story. I don’t know what God has in store for Amsterdam or Groningen, but the fact that God’s love endures forever is a major victory. The people there don’t see Him, but God is there and He hasn’t stopped loving them. As long as that is true there is hope. They have a God to turn to. The same one who loves me is there patiently waiting for the people to love Him back.
After all the songs sung about coming home, I’m back in Kent, Ohio. To be honest I feel just as much at home here as I did in Europe. And Akron, and Pittsburg, and Charlotte, and Philadelphia, and over the water, and in the sky. This was a comfort to know that I’ll be fine wherever being a missionary takes me. It was also incredible to see that the church body is such a wonderful family. I met new family in Amsterdam and Groningen, I reunited with family coming from Florence and Dublin, and I came back with a family ready to serve God on this campus and anywhere else God leads us. I wasn’t as sad to leave the Netherlands as I thought I would be, and that’s because I think I’ll be back one day. In the meantime I’m filled with expectancy to hear stories about the way God is moving and winning others.
Amsterdam was like no place I’ve ever been and like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I didn’t feel like I was in another country exactly, but like I had stepped into some strange portal where, as I put it, “People just speak really bad English.” It was like I was in an alternate universe that was cold in the most literal and figurative sense. Thinking back to my first day of outreach I was reminded of a part from Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
I’m so glad God forged a way for us and provided a team so perfectly fit together. I’m glad each of us listened to God’s nudge to go on this mission trip. I’m glad we had the opportunity to spread love and God’s message. I’m glad we dared to go in. I think we can say we won, and so did Jesus.
Amsterdam50 is an amazing body of believers. Their love for God was impressive and it showed in their love for each other. I saw God in the way their church family interacted with each other and with us. While serving the church they were too grateful, but I was the one who was grateful they welcomed us with such open and kind hearts. We were there one week to serve them how we could and I was happy to. I know that they are serving the city of Amsterdam every day. They are out on mission every day they live and work there. If they are the same way outside the church walls as they were inside, I can only imagine the love that is exploding around them. I can see little flickering candles throughout the city giving way to God’s greater light. Then I think about the pastor of the Vineyard Church in Amsterdam. If their body is full of the same love there is even more brightness. I feel so blessed to know the Asp’s family in Amsterdam, and also to be a part of their family here in Ohio.
The people’s reaction to the sin, pain, and hurt is like nothing I’ve witnessed. People go to the Red Light District to awe, gape, and talk about the girls in the windows. When I was there I wanted to turn away, hide my eyes, and cry for these girls. My friend put it best when she summed up the experience with John 11:35 “Jesus wept.” It was great to hear stories from the women working at Not For Sale though. God has certainly been sufficient and is working through them in their fight against human trafficking. We got some great insight as to what the church body can do for girls all around us that are being exploited, manipulated, and abused.
My favorite part of the trip was Groningen. I was initially excited to experience another city in the Netherlands and see what a church plant could look like on a university campus in Europe. I fell in love with the city and its people. I don’t know what God has planned for the university or city, but it was full of young life that could do great things for the Kingdom if they knew Him. That’s exciting! Maybe it will be us or someone else, but either way I think we saw there is a desperate need in that city. What I loved most about the experience was just the dream factor and thankfulness I felt in my heart. It was there that I realized I could possibly be doing life and missions with the people on my team for a long time. Maybe in Europe, maybe in the U.S. of A. Wherever it is, I’m so game.
I’m currently on winter break from college, and it has been good so far. I’ve been working, knitting, reading, and meditating on the Word. The best part so far has been reflecting on life. Not just life from this past semester, but life overall. I feel so blessed this Christmas for everything, and everyone in my life. Most of all, I’m thankful for my TRUE LOVE.
1 John 3:1
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him
This week at church we learned more about the Advent season. Something that really stuck out in the sermon was that Jesus was born into a life without wealth. It basically showed that God was born into a life, much like you and I have. He wasn’t born into much. He wasn’t born into a life with abundant opportunities at his fingertips. He wasn’t born into a life where things would be handed to him, or things would be easy. Despite all that was against him, he gained influence as time went on. Sometimes it is easy to forget Jesus was a baby, child, and a teenager like me. When I remember this, it makes the miracle of Jesus’ birth seem even more amazing (best word I could come up with for my speechless feeling). He was born as a human, but left his perfect life on earth as a sacrifice to save the entire world forever. I’m definitely going to reflect more this Christmas on the wonderful gift God gave to us. It started with life and ended with death here on earth. However, death couldn’t hold him down.
John 11:25-26 /// Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
I’m so blessed to believe this. The birth of Jesus symbolizes the eternal life we are promised through Christ.
Selah: pause and reflect
This holiday season I’m more thankful than I ever been. I’m at a place in life where it’s awesome to sit back and just realize how blessed I am. Here’s just a few things I’ve been reflecting on:
My family. I seriously love my family. Last year was yucky, but we got through it. I love God for the family he has given me. I love my mom for sacrificing herself and staying at home to raise my brother and me in a Christian home. I love my younger brother and his love and dedication to Jesus. It wasn’t until this summer that I caught a glimpse of his growing relationship with God. That moment changed my view of God’s grace. In the midst of a stressful summer, God was working in my brother’s life. When you let Jesus in your life, the “cycle” can be broken. There isn’t a statistic that cannot be crushed by God’s merciful hand. My brother is on a walk with God that is going to prepare him to be a great husband and father one day.
My friends. I love my friends, especially everyone at Kent. God knew this was a concern on my heart, and he provided me with the most amazing people to do life with. I can honestly say that my friends here are my family. I met my best friend Nicole at Kent, and we have been through a plethora of things in only one semester. It’s awesome to have that moment where you realize that a person is going to be a part of the rest of your life. My life group at church is full on wonderful girls! It’s been a blessing to have them in my life. Not only do I get to do Jesus with them once a week, but they have turned into my closest friends that I hangout with throughout the week. They have been the best support system. I look forward to our discussions and witnessing how God is working in everyone. Part of this group are my life group leaders. All of them are full of wisdom, and I am so incredibly lucky to see their ability in leading and guiding the girls in our group. They are seriously gifted! I am especially grateful for Danielle. She is my mentor for the church program I did earlier this semester. Even though the study is over, we decided to keep meeting every week. It is a serious gift in my life! I recognize how she sacrifices her time for other people, and I’m thankful to be one of them. She has turned into a wonderful friend. I love doing ministry and life with her, and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for her future!
The church. I love the church body. I really love my church at Kent. I feel so blessed to be able to serve at h2o. I am so thankful for everyone at church, and for all of the staff! Every Sunday I leave feeling blessed and ready to take on the week ahead of me. They are great communicators and leaders. There has not been a week that I have not learned something about myself. This has also meant I have realized there are many areas of my life I need to work on. Church at Kent is seriously preparing me for a life in missions. It’s been a home where I can praise God, and a place where I can grow. I also am thankful for my church at home, and the churches of all my family members. They have all impacted my life in one way or another. I am so blessed to be part of a community of believers.
Jesus. I am thankful for everything He has done- past, present, and future. I don’t think I can really sum all this up. I think the best explanation of what this means to me is my favorite Bible verse. I am constantly reminded of the stronghold Jesus has in my life:
I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah.
I love Jesus. I love people. I love my life.
I’m currently working through the absolute best season in my life right now. God is seriously providing for me every day. Last year at this time it was a challenge to be home. My friends were all moving on, and it felt like I was going nowhere.
- I gave up school for a period of time, but I knew it was God’s will for me to sacrifice it at that time.
- I was working yucky hours at an unpleasant job, but I knew God put me there to build relationships with the community members.
- I was helping my family through a rough transition, but I knew God was making me stronger in the process.
I have to be honest. I “knew” a lot of things last year when I was going through difficult times. But just because I knew God was there through it all, it was still REALLY, REALLY hard sometimes. It was a season of pruning. God cut a lot away in my life. He put me in situations that I didn’t think I could handle, but He believed I could. Turns out, He was right! Derrr. It also turns out, being out of my comfort zone helped me to grow tremendously in my faith.
Without last year, I would be pretty lost right now. I’d probably need a lot more counseling and guidance in my everyday life. I wouldn’t know how to minister to others. I wouldn’t know how to comfort others. I wouldn’t know how to encourage others. I wouldn’t know how to be there for others. Well, God trained me good last year! I went from enrolled and two weeks away from Christian college in another state, to living at home and working minimum wage as a cashier without taking any college classes. Talk about pruning! It was like going from being a ginormous tree to being a twig. It doesn’t really matter though. Either way, my roots were still in Jesus.
Last year showed me I could live as a twig, but still serve Jesus like a tree could with His help. I was able to shift roles and responsibilities as the seasons in my family changed. I was able to shelter people from an onslaught of bad weather. I was able to give people shade and comfort when they just needed rest. And I was able to encourage others to grow new leaves and prosper in difficulty. Being thrown head-first into the situation last year was overwhelming at times, but this year I can really appreciate and reflect on how far God has brought me.
Through everything, the thing I am most thankful for is PEACE. That is how I could tell God was always with me. Events would pop up last year that logically should have made me completely freak and stress out, but I always felt the opposite. God gave me a calm and stillness last year that is still running through my life today at Kent.
Last year prepared me for ministry at Kent. I am willing to help and serve in any way I’m needed while I am here, because I’ve experienced the grace and ability God gives to us in times when we need it most. I know He will continue to help me serve others and the church with peace, happiness, and love. (It seems my hippie moment at Kent has just surfaced. One allowance.)
Love Jesus. Love people. Love life.
Seriously though…how true this is! I can honestly say since I’ve been at college this short while, God has been working in my life. Even when things have been difficult it’s not long before I see the light He’s made for me.
Last year at this time, I was pretty much a wreck, but trying to hold it together the best I could for my family. The circumstances were much more difficult. I journal about it a lot because I’m still in awe of how God can turn a situation around. I always come back to the entry, "It was absolutely the worst year of my life by the world’s standards, but absolutely the BEST year of my life with Jesus." Basically, the last 12 months have been the most amazing paradox.
I honestly was not looking forward to Kent, but within the first week God gave me a happiness and hope I’ve never felt. I’m only halfway through my first semester here, but God’s been speaking and pouring into my life. He’s provided me with opportunities I never expected to have. There is definitely a clear purpose for my life, and I can’t wait to experience all that I will here in the meantime!
(Source: Flickr / pleaseexcuseme)
Verses I find myself quoting during exams..
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace
This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.”
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.