Seasons are a bit different for me. Growing up, April held warmer weather, trips to the tulip fields, spring break, and dreams of summer vacation, but as an adult living in Australia, it's a bit different. The weather is finally transitioning, with cool breezes and dark evenings. The local community doesn't flock to the beach anymore, switching to milder places like the shopping centres or nearby parks. As we glide towards winter, I've been able to reflect on 2017 and what wonders it held.
I started the year in Cairo, Egypt, finishing off an outreach with a great team. After returning to Australia, I was able to serve the YWAM Wollongong campus through co-ordinating the hospitality department, taking care of all of our guest speakers, as well as all of the visitors that stay with us. I made a short trip home to Oregon in May to watch my younger brother graduate high-school, as well as connect with the new pastors of my church. Fit in a quick trip to Hawai'i with my family, and I was back in Australia, this time to co-lead a Discipleship Training School in July. We trained 9 students from America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia through 12 weeks of lectures on our campus, and then through 8 weeks of cross-cultural outreach in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I loved watching these students wrestle through questions, push through cultural barriers, and realise more of themselves. It was a priviledge to lead and work along side them for 5 months.
I managed to sneak a quick bit of training in December by attending a Trauma, Hope, and Healing Seminar that focused on breaking down what trauma can look like, the impact it has on the different part of our bodies, as well as how to bring healing to those areas.
The highlight of my year would be the end: I traveled to Portland to celebrate Christmas with my family. The only thing - they didn't know I was coming! I hadn't had Christmas at home since 2013, so getting to watch the snow fall on Christmas Eve with my family around me was really special.
That brings us to 2018.
As I was praying at the start of the year, I got the word h o m e for 2018. Home in myself, home in my community, and home in God. As someone who travels a lot, it can be difficult to engage with what's around me. But I have been realising more and more that there's peace found in something that's not limited to a physical place or physical person, rather a peace that can meet me wherever I'm at. That's my prayer for this year, that I would be made fully alive, so that I can share my peace, and make home anywhere.
One of my favourite stories from Cambodia was when we traveled out to a village on the side of a mountain called Phnom Krom. This village was situated next to the Tonle Sap river, which when flooded, creates a huge water plain that stretches for miles. Two of our Cambodian friends/translators went with us to help us facilitate a healthcare program we planned for the local kids. I had told the team that morning, that I was going to step back and let them take the reigns, knowing they were fully capable, even though they felt a bit nervous. We had already done this program at a few other villages, and I knew they no longer needed my direction. At first it was really hard, no one was sure what to do, especially since our tuk tuk drivers had dropped us off in an area with no kids, only a herd of cows. The natural instinct was to grab back control and start telling people what they could do instead of standing around, but I felt that gentle reminder to just trust that the students would step out in confidence. And slowly but surely they did. It was the most amazing thing to see - people who had said "I don't like kids, I don't know how to play with them" grabbing little hands and teaching them 'red light green light'. People who had been quiet and shy, stepping out and starring in the skit. People who were comfortable being in the background, being courageous and lead the team. Having my team own their opportunity was the most wonderful thing to experience. I've been starting to see that more and more with God. He doesn't control me or my life but teaches me what I need, and is right here next to me, but gives me a little push and says "I trust you, you can do this!" Often I'll pendulum swing from one side of wanting Him to tell what to do and do it for me, that way there is no mystery and no risk. Or I'll end up on the other side, in independence, closing my eyes and ears, walking forward blindly like a 4 year old who "can do it myself because I'm a big kid!". It doesn't lead to anything but falling off walls and loneliness. But often now, I'll settle down in that sweet spot, where I'll trust His leading and just go for it, knowing that I've been given all I need to experience what's in front of me, whether that's leading a team in Cambodia, or running a kitchen in Wollongong.
Since returning to the base in Wollongong, I've been co-ordinating the kitchen that feeds all of the staff and students! It's a job and a half, especially when you don't have a kitchen to cook in! Our old kitchen needed a new floor, so the room got some major renovations, including a new doorway, counter area and industrial sink, fridge, and floor. It was quite the challenge cooking for 40+ people in a make-shift kitchen in our common area, but creativity (and summer weather) helped a lot! Someone described the situation "like camping", which I agreed with, but camping style cooking usually starts to lose it's enjoyment after after a few days, let alone a few weeks! I made it through and I'm so thankful to be back in an actual kitchen, but feel confident in my ability to handle pretty much anything now!
At the beginning of April, YWAM Wollongong welcomed our first "All Generations DTS". We have a family from Australia / Canada, another family from Australia / Pakistan, and a single from Australia. It's been a lot of fun getting to know the students and their families.
We also welcomed a Missions Adventure camp for a few days. These Year 9 students came with their class to learn about themselves, God and the world. They participated in team building exercises, devotionals, and a cross-cultural simulation where they got a glimpse into how a lot of other people have to live everyday. It was a blast sharing in their energy and joy, and we're excited to continue our relationships with them as the Mission Adventures team prepares to take them on a missions trip to Cambodia next year!
Coming up next...
I'm co-leading the July DTS! Come this July, myself, my co-leader Rezzie, and a wonderful team of staff, will welcome a bunch of students from all over the globe. We'll dive into lectures from local and international guest speakers, we'll wrestle through big questions, we'll invest in the local community, we'll take time to look at justice issues of today and what our response as Christians could be, we'll explore different ways of worship and prayer, and that's just the beginning! The school in July has two themes running through the basic curriculum - Justice & Mercy and Media. My co-leader Rezzie is super creative and passionate about how we can take the skills God gave us (whether that be art, music, videography, photography, design...) and use them to reach out to people, create, tell stories, perpetuate the Kingdom. She's carrying the Media focus while I carry the Justice & Mercy focus. I've been invested in the J&M theme since I did my own DTS in 2014. It's something that I've continuously wrestled with - what does God's justice look like vs. what the world says is justice? How is it different? Where is my place in it all? I'm excited to explore all of these things with the students through workshops, projects, discussions, and anywhere else we can go digging.
This will be the 4th DTS I am a part of (not including my own) and I'm really excited for what God has for us. He's already been specifically about a few things and it will be cool to watch everything develop as we get closer to the school and as the school starts. If you're curious about what a Discipleship Training School looks like here at YWAM Wollongong, click the button below!
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my journey and supported the work that is happening around the World! All of these things, whether it's a Nepali villager being encouraged, or a Cambodian child being taught basic hygiene skills, to high-school students having a glimpse at the bigger picture of what they are a part of, all of it possible because of people partnering with us!
Right now I am looking for more prayer and financial partners. If you are interested in partnering with me in prayer, please let me know and I can connect you with what my needs are at the moment. If you are interested in partnering with me financially, there are a couple options: if you would like to give a donation, click on the button labeled "Join Me!". If you are interested in partnering with me as a regular monthly donor, let me know and I can provide you with more information!
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