Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday, 23 April 2011 {Ethiopia}

As most of you know, Mallory and I are traveling to Ethiopia this summer.  I wanted to share with you a little bit about how God has opened wide all the doors for us to be able to go.

I have always had a heart for Africa, probably before I even knew where it was on the map.  And I've always had a heart for adoption.  I can remember praying at 3 years old that we could adopt, and although God never opened the doors for adoption in my own family, I believe it is still every Christian's call to take care of orphans. 

One of the major reasons my heart is so broken for children who have no home is that my dad runs a foster care program at Youth for Christ.  He started it 25 years ago and God has blessed his vision for the orphaned and abondoned who have no home right here in Tacoma.  I believe that is a large part of why I am so compassionate for others around the world; I have seen with my own two eyes kids who have lived nightmares at 5 years old.  And they're our own neighbors!  It is made very clear in the Bible that Jesus came for the child in Africa who is 9 and has two younger siblings and witnesses his parents die.  He came for the child whose parents are abusive, drug addicts, and alcoholics.  He came for the teenager who has been to 3 different homes in a single month.  Which is why it is our job to bring Jesus to them.  Because if we won't, who will?  They're no different than you and I.  I've held the orphaned babies that live in my community.  I've loved on the drug babies who's mother couldn't take care of them.  And you know why I feel so strongly about the least of these? That could have been me.  Why wasn't it me?  I am blessed with two incredibly amazing parents who are teaching me to love the widows, the orphans, the outcasts, but why not me?  Before I was even born, I didn't deserve this any more than the child in Africa with no hope.  I still don't deserve it.  And neither do they.  That's why I am going to do something about it.

A few years ago, I went to an Adoption Ministry banquet with my parents and met Liane Wolbert.  She talked to me for a little while and had just gotten home from a mission trip to Ethiopia.  She and her husband help run the Youth With a Mission Ethiopia ministry here in Tacoma.  She described holding the babies in the orphanges and serving the widows.  Then she said something that really caught my attention:  you should go.  That was when the first seed was planted.  That's when I felt a tug in my heart.  But I soon forgot about it.  Then one Sunday, and I don't quite know what sparked it, but I asked my dad if I could go to Africa.  And since he knows Liane and her husband Mark, he emailed them asking if a 13 year old could go.  And that's when I began to get excited.  A little more time passed, and that summer just wasn't the right time.  But this time I didn't forget; I kept asking.

For those of you that know me, you know I love little kids.  I knew that I wanted to go to Africa and share the love of Christ with the orphaned babies and children.  So we kept emailing the people at YWAM, and my mom and I were tentatively signed up to go.  But we didn't really know anything else.  As it got closer, one of the trips planned really stood out to me:  Child Evangalism.  So that's the one we signed up for.  I was so excited, until my parents came to me and told me to pray about whether the Lord wanted my mom to go.  Honestly, I was really scared at first.  Going to a third world country by myself? I didn't want to go without my mom.  But I really wanted to go.  Really, really bad.  So I said I would still go, even if it meant going by myself.  We sat down one morning to talk and pray about it, and I felt peace about our decision.  My brother is leaving for college around the same time as the trip, and my mom needed to be there.  Neither of my parents were at rest with the decision of both of us going, so we decided that I would go...alone. 

And that's where Mallory comes in.  Actually, not at first.  She mentioned one time that she wanted to be a missionary in Ethiopia someday.  I was excited to tell her that I was going this summer, but when I told her, she nodded and kept talking.  I figured she didn't really hear me or something, but I didn't say anything for a while.  Then one day at lunch, I told her that I was going again...and she freaked out!  It was so cool how God totally worked it all out.  I went over to her house that night, and we talked all about it, and then the next day at school she told me that her parents gave her the okay to go.  I was ecstatic!  For those of you that know her, you know that she loves kids just as much as I do.  I was so amazed at how I saw the Hand of God work every detail out.  And it all just fell into place.

As it's gotten closer and I know more about it, there's a bigger passion inside me for Africa.  I've known what I want to do since I was three:  be a teacher.  And where better place to be a teacher than Africa, right?  Well, I didn't always want to teach there.  There's been a few things that have really inspired me.  First, a blog.  You may have heard of her, but Katie Davis lives in Uganda.  She is in her early 20's and has already adopted 13 kids.  Yep, 13.  She founded and now runs a ministry called Amazima which includes a sponsership program for over 300 kids and a feeding and discipliship program for over 1,600 everyday.  I've been so inspired by her and love reading her blog (

 The second inspiration has come from a book our Ethiopia team is reading called The Hole in Our Gospel.  In the book, Richard Sterns explains how he knew God was calling him to be the president of World Vision, but he was fighting it; he didn't want to give up his job, house, church, family, and friends.  But one day God planted a new idea in his heart:  What if because of my unfaithfullness, even one child is affected?  What if because of my selfishness, a child suffers?  What if because of me, a child dies?  And that hit me pretty hard, too. 

Did you know that in 2003 it was estimated that by 2010 there would be 20 million orphaned children due to AIDS in Africa alone?  And did you know that if those 20 million linked arms in a line, they would stretch all the way around the world? 

The first lines of the song "When Love Takes You In" by Steven Curtis Chapman say:
"I know you've heard the stories,
But they all sound to good to be true.
You've heard about a place called home,
But there doesn't seem to be one for you.
So one more night you cry yourself to sleep,
And drift off to a distant dream." 

Does that break your heart?  Because it breaks mine, and it certainly breaks Jesus's.  Even though I'm only 15, I've decided to do something, and for some reason Jesus has decided to use me.  Decide to do something, because He wants to use you too.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday, 21 April 2011 {Just the Way You Are}

Before I begin, I would like to introduce myself.  My name is Elise, and like Mallory, I am not a writer by any means.  I am simply a 15 year old girl typing what is on my heart.

I recently rediscovered one of my favorite childhood books, Just the Way You Are by Max Lucado.  It has been an encouragement to me in the last few weeks.  In the story, there are 5 orphaned children.  When the king learns of their lonliness, he wants to come visit their village and adopt them.  All the village people begin to ask the children what gift they will use to impress the king.  One is a whittler, and he carves a beautiful gift for his father and king.  Another paints a picture, and the third is a talented musician who practices for hours.  One is very smart and reads to gain knowledge to impress the king with.  But the last child doesn't think she has a gift.  She can't do any of the things her siblings could do, so she offers her heart.  All her time is spent greeting the strangers and befreinding the beggars at the city gate.  Since she doesn't believe she has a gift, she fears she will dissapoint her new father.  So she goes to each of her siblings, asking if they will teach her their gift.  But each sends her away; they have no time.  So she takes her place again caring for people, when one day a normal-looking man visits the village.  The orphan girl cares for his donkey and serves him however she can.  He goes away to see her siblings, but they are all too busy for him.  They are too wrapped up in impressing their king, they don't realize who the king is.  But when the man returns to the young girl, she has time for him and she realizes who he is.  He is her father, her king.  She wants to be his daughter, but is fearful that she isn't worthy.  The last few sentences of the story read: "The king smiled. 'My dear, you gave the best gift of all-you gave your heart...your kindness, your time, your love.  Of course you'll be my child.  I love you just the way you are.' And so it happened that the children with many talents but no time missed the visit of the king, while the girl whose only gift was the gift of her heart became the child of the king." 

When I think about this, a few things come to mind.  First, how encouraging and comforting.  I don't know about you, but many times I feel inferior to others.  I'm not the smartest, the richest, the prettiest, the most athletic, the most musical, the most artistic, the most popular.  Not in the least bit.  I'm not the best at any of the things you must be to gain the world's approval and be valued.  But Jesus still cares.  He can still use me.  He only requires that my heart is fixed on Him.  That I love Him with all my heart; that I love people.

Second, this reminds me of the story of Martha and Mary.  Martha is like the children who don't have time for the King; Mary is like the young girl who sits at Jesus' feet and listens.  I want to be like the young girl, who sets everything aside and serves others, serves Jesus.  The other Bible story this reminds me of is Jeremiah 1.  In this chapter, God calls Jeremiah to be a prophet.  But Jeremiah doesn't feel like he is enough:  "'Ah, Sovereign Lord,' I said. 'I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.'  But the Lord said to me, 'Do not say, I am only a child. You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,' declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 1:6-8).  Jeremiah felt how I feel sometimes:  I can't because I am not old enough, not rich enough, not popular enough, not pretty enough, not good enough.  But those aren't thoughts from Him.  He says that our hearts are enough.  He will give us the rest, all we need to do is trust in Him.

So today, offer Him your heart, for Him to mold you and shape you into the person He wants you to be.  And rest in His arms because He loves you just the way you are.