The Suicidal Christian

The suicidal Christian. Does this sound like an oxymoron to you? I’ve been compelled to write on depression within Christian culture for some time now and being probed by the Spirit at 5 am seems like a pretty solid time to write.

First wanted to write  my personal testimony about depression, explain how others walked with me through hard seasons, and encourage those of you suicidal, depressed, anxious, and lowly. This morning as I write, I sound messy and I’m sure sleep deprivation does not help, so extend grace. I would like to ask you to pray before reading this and that the Spirit would use this short blog to impact others for the Kingdom, maybe even you.

Let me start o by saying you are not defined by your depression, mental health, anxiety, or darkest hour. You, if in Christ, are redeemed from all of these things and the battle has already been won. I would like to say although the battle has been won, this does not mean an easy road to being fully restored. Our broken culture feeds life will be easy with God, depression is for the weak or maybe not even real. As your sister, I would combat these lies with a perspective that we come from a culture where brokenness, darkness, depression, and suicide reign. I don’t have an answer, but my only solution can be found in the name of Jesus Christ.

He sees you. He wants you. He is crushed for you. He understands you.

My biggest battle with depression stems from a lie I am misunderstood and unwanted. In my darkest hours and feelings of depression I am overwhelmed that I am too much and no one wants me. Writing this now I am cringing at these words. I cringe to know that even though my identity is fully found in Christ, who loves me and knows me and delights in me, I still battle with such dark lies. You could say my entire life I have been given reasons to believe these things through experiences with friends, family, and hurtful words and actions of others. For the longest time I was a self-inflicting, angry, hungry for any attention and wanting to be loved girl. I wanted so badly to be known and loved that my identity had been conditioned to be found in the tangible. Whether that was getting high with friends for some momentary happiness or falling in love with a guy who promised my significance, I felt like I never had a steadfast love and joy that was unconditional. And then I met God.

Throughout high school I had been the friendliest person, most encouraging teammate, and seemed to have it together. However, due to a crazy home life and wrecked self-image, this persona of a happy person had become too much. I was exhausted from holding it together for 8 hours at school only to come home and feel completely empty, questioning my significance. If you would like to know about this season of my testimony, I would be happy to talk through it, but just know I was in an incredibly dark place for years. No one knew except a close friend. One night when I had cut my wrist and was sobbing because a boyfriend cheated on me, she came and brought me to her house in the middle of the night. This was one of the first times I felt heard. Soon I got into a counseling routine, but even talking to a woman twice a week for two hours didn’t seem enough. I still felt misunderstood and unknown.

My testimony continues into a story of redemption where God revealed Himself through people in my life and continuous desires to know more about Him. Again, more than happy to share in detail if you’re curious. Let me just say that me coming to know Him, die to myself, and let Him take the throne of my life was about a year long process of searching for answers that I still don’t have. However, there is not one day that surpasses that I do not fall more in love with the Father, He knows me and sees me. He continually declares I am His and pursues me on days where I battle depression the hardest.

My Christian walk was met with conflict in the Fall of 2015. God, I was so angry. Kayla, my brothers girlfriend for years and basically part of the family, died in a car accident when I was a Team Leader at Summer Beach Project. Throw this on top of conflict with friends, feeling isolated from community, and projecting feelings of insignificance onto others all Summer/Fall long-I only had one feeling to experience: depression. I never felt so alone in my entire life. I felt ignored by God, I felt unheard in the hours of prayer I would spend alone in my room begging just to hear Him and experience Him, I felt like none of my friends knew what was happening, despite my conversations asking for help and inclusion. There are a handful of people who will remain nameless, but you know who you are, and you walked in this with me more than I could have ever thought possible. When I questioned my salvation, you reminded me of who I was in Christ. When I cried about feeling isolated and alone, you made sure I was not alone. When I did not want to talk about how hard my day was, you sat with me as I cried. To my friends who loved me in all things, I want to say I owe my life to you. Without you being amazing sisters and a brother in Christ, I would have probably committed suicide that Fall. I felt like no matter how hard I cried, fast I ran, no matter how much school work I consumed my schedule with, or finding things to pass the time, I felt like my life had no significance or meaning. To write this now breaks me for friends in this season. I hate you are feeling alone. I hate you feel unheard. I hate you feel like you are insignificant, because I promise you that you are not.

Those of you who cannot relate to depression, I pray that God would use this to reveal how hard life is for those who feel enslaved to these lies. I pray for those of you in this season that God would make Himself known and proclaimed over your life through your friends and family around you. I am broken for a culture which tells you to hide in shame at your darkness. Feeling misunderstood, unwanted, insignificant, isolated, unheard, and overwhelmed by the dark thoughts you think when no one is around is all too familiar to me. I cannot express what a dark thing it is to walk through depression, but I hope to have shed some light.

Gods redemptive story for this season came from searching for beauty man cannot create. I spent a lot of time hiking and in nature contemplating creation and what the purpose of religion is. The day I experienced God for the first time in months was on a rock in the middle of a river I swam to. I laid there for hours, praying and pleading to feel Him. Hours later, I felt. For the first time in months I felt warmth and scripture flooded my heart in remembrance that He was there the whole time. Not withholding anything good, but He was there. This may sound a little charismatic for some of you, and that’s okay because it’s my story. But I want to say fight to see His glory where you experience Him most. For me, that was the beauty and complexity of His creation. May He be glorified.

 

My prayer over you and over this blog:

Dear God, you are the most mysterious, righteous, holy, perfect being who has ever been and who ever will be. God, I pray that my writing tonight would not be in vein or cause any confusion, but rather people reading this would feel heard, understood, and known. God, in you all things have come to pass. I do not understand why this world is so dark, but I am thankful I can rest in you. I can rest in your glory, in your steadfast love, and in the fact that you loved me enough to reach down and redeem me. Father, I pray for the “me’s” out there who feel suicidal thoughts and depression all too often. God, I ask that you would be known and glorified through what they and I experience. God I pray for strength and the ability to choose to continue to live and persevere. Father I pray that those who do not know you, but feel alone-I pray that you would reveal yourself to them and be made known. If anything I have said sounds inconsistent with the Gospel, I ask you would use my flaws and make yourself known. Father, thankyou that in my anger towards you, you continued to redeem me. You drew me in and out of darkness. To you belongs the highest praise, even in the darkness. God reveal that you are already walking with them and continue to remind me that you’ve got me. Thank you that I am not alone. Thank you for Christ. Thank you for the Cross. And thank you God for salvation. I am thankful that because of my position with your son I am able to have a firm foundation of identity which screams that I am significant, I am loved, I am understood, and I am wanted. God, be with my brothers and sisters out there and make yourself known. Heal and mend the broken hearted and in all things I pray you are glorified. In Christ name I pray and ask all of these things. Amen.

 

Verses to cling to:

Genesis 16:17 “So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”

Psalm 51:8 “Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right[b] spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.”

Psalm 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Psalm 34:17 “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.”

Isaiah 41:10 “fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”

May God be known and glorified through all things, forever and ever Amen.

 

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Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

Has there ever been a moment in your life where you think, “how did I get here?”

I’m trying to find words that would sound smooth and savvy, but none compare to the fact that God has paved every little step for me to be where I am: Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Some mornings on my bus route to pick up kids I sit in silence, observing the land, housing, and am blown away that He knows my heart enough to plan what would be most fulfilling for my heart to know Him more.

For those wondering what I’m doing, I’ll give a quick description before going any further.

For the next month or so I’ll be on the reservation, located in the Bad Lands, living with the Hadden Family (Matt + Amanda + 3 adorable kids) and two other missionary families. I got here June 2. During my time here I’m meeting different teams each week who are running a VBS for kids on the reservation (ages 6-18) who choose to come. Chanku Waste Ranch is the property where I’m living and interning. Each week a new team comes in from all over the country and I get the privilege of running full speed alongside them, helping where I am needed during camp, and also helping the Hadden’s with whatever they need. My bus route begins at 7:30 am where anywhere from 25-60 kids get on my bus. We bring them back to camp, where these kids are met by love, grace, and compassion. And yes, all of those things are totally possible through water balloon fights, crafts, cotton candy, and small group times. My day is packed with camp until about 4:45, when I’m coming home to the ranch for some time with the team visiting or tagging along to local adventures (like Sheeps Mountain // the rodeo).

I am learning so much about God, myself, and life this Summer.

One quick thing I’ll share is aspects of prayer I’m learning about through Matt’s sermons at Sharps Baptist. I’ve been convicted over my hearts position in prayer, and am learning more than anything that verbally calling out to God is consistently affirming my heart to return to God.

Psalm 116:7 “Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”

Here are some pictures from the past month! Some have captions, if you wanna know more about what you’re seeing.

 

Thanks for reading!

-Carmen.

Perspective

As a Senior in college, there is an abundance of uncertainty.

Am I actually going to graduate in the 4 1/2 years I think I will? Should I study or meet up with some friends and do everything, but study? Where exactly am I going after graduation? To skip class today and sleep in or do I force myself to get up for that dreadful 8 am I regret signing up for every day?

I am asking myself all of these questions and so many more as graduation approaches in a mere 9 months. With every conversation I have had with friends and people around me about what happens after college, I am continuously being told I seem like I have it all together. Those who know me best laugh at me because I change my mind on what I want to do almost every hour the day. With no commitments holding me back in Carrollton or even Georgia, literally feeling like the world (yes in it’s entirty) is calling my name.  Where will I get the opportunity to travel, work, and play? What groups of people will I be influenced by and be influencing? With excitement and joy of the future, I am learning to trust in God more and more. To press into His endless journeys of adventure. And then quickly wondering about the future, I wonder to myself about my future husband. I mean with traveling so much and wanting to do all of the things, will I ever meet anyone?

*Woah woah, Carmen, I thought this was about your future?**

Yep. It is. If I’m being a total girl and letting you in on my life, then part of that is including this question, “When will I meet my future husband?”

So here’s to a post on relationships that I have been insecure about posting due to vulnerability, lack of confidence in my words, and wondering if this is pointless to post. Yet, I found myself sitting down at the coffee shop with a 37 year old single woman, who quickly has become friend, and I found myself sharing my heart on this issue. I was encouraged to post it, and this is how I shall begin:

My ladies, I’m going to shout you out really quick, maybe some guys too. But from what I know, we are questioning when we will meet “him”. Do you already know him? What’s he like? When will you meet him? How will your journey of dating be? When will you get married? Before ever even allowing God to really reveal how precious His love is, we are waiting around for the next guy to shower us in compliments and affection. Trust me, I am plenty guilty of this thought in waiting for whoever “he” must be. Yet in love, I would like to encourage you to stop this train of thought and be the woman who God has created you to be as you, without “him”.  Don’t worry, this isn’t an anti-relationship post, keep reading. How is it that we are unable to find contentment with God and us being single, and then have an expectancy for this “perfect” guy to sweep us off of our feet, swooning us into a sweet romance, and fullfill out deepest needs and desires to be known?

Yes, these man you will one day  marry, is a man of God who refelcts the image of Christ to you. This man should value you and respect you, building you up in love and honor, but don’t have an expectation that he is going to make everything perfect, including your insecurities. That he will satisfy your deepest needs of feeling wanted. My brothers, I would tell you the same with your future lady you’ve been waiting for or even thinking about. She will love, respect, and vaule you as a leader, but she cannot be the only voice of affirmation and desire you hear.

If you have this expectation, your relationship will fail. In love I say that because I think a lot of time we have an expectation that whoever we are waiting for will fill the need to be deeply wanted and appreciated. I think we find our value and worth in the way a man/woman looks at or speaks to us. In all reality, these deep emotions are not driven by desire for a romantic partner, rather engraved in us to seek out satisfaction and adoration to and from the father of lights, who does not cast or change a shifting shadow (James 1:17).

            Now the same can be said to my ladies who are so against relationships. Just because you have been burned by a guy and a past relationship does not mean that every relationship is like the one you were just in. If you find yourself constantly dogging relationships, maybe you too need to examine your heart on where you aren’t believing the Gospel to be enough to heal and restore your own misconceptions. I would encourage you to see that marriage is one of the most beautiful ways that Christ can be reflected. Maybe you’re reluctant of relationships due to the fact your parents, siblings, or close friends have been surrounded by incredibly broken patterns of love. It’s not bad to not desire a relationship because of your contentment with where you are, but if you are rejecting and bashing relationships as a whole due to hurt, I ask that you would take some time to ask God why you feel this way.

“Okay Carmen, so where do I find a healthy balance?” You desire a relationship and that’s all you think about or you are on the opposite end of the spectrum and you find the future with someone to be repulsive.

Honestly, as someone who was terrified of the future with someone, and still holds her doubts, taking my truest concern before the Father and spending intimate time with Him has helped me find contentment and joy with this season of expereincing His glory completely alone. Sharing my fears with God and the community I am surrounded by continuously restores my heart.

See this season where God has you as a blessing. To my friend who is 37 and reading this from the coffee shop, I believe God has you in a season of singleness still to encourage a young believer like myself to continue to pursue Christ through my worries and fears with the future. Thank you for your vulnerability and love.

In Christ.

Carmen Aranda

 

 

Girl Talk:

     So you wanna be in the know, huh? You wanna know what Christian college girls really are talking about? Well.. I cannot speak for everyone, but I can speak for the community of girls I’m surrounded by. Just know it’s not all about being boy crazy, awing over cute puppy videos. As posted on my status, I must confess, we as ladies do spend time talking about the fellas over there will the hell’a good hair (Tswift anyone?) and  watch cute animal videos because they make us feel fuzzy inside. However, there is a lot more to our “girl talk”.

     Most nights when girls are at the Treehouse, we’re discussing redemption, snuggled up on a couch or in someone’s room (how secretive, I know!) No, not just singing about it or sipping our coffee reading what other women author’s have to say, but we discuss what it means to be redeemed and apply it daily. When a friend of mine has a terrible day or feels like they have screwed up, our conversation always returns back to the gospel, simply because our eyes are set on the hope before us. That hope? redemption in Christ.

     So, what’s said about this whole redemption thing anyways? Just as I tell my sisters..you are redeemed. Nothing you have done or will do can ever set you apart from the love of Christ, so long as you have declared Him as Lord over your life. Being redeemed is a process and it doesn’t stop when you accept Christ as your Lord. Each and every day through prayer you have to remind your self that worth isn’t found in clothing, how many likes you get on Instagram, what she/he said about you, or even your grades. Your worth comes from a heavenly Father desiring to redeem you each morning by waking you up with a sweet reminder that you are His. The old has truly passed, the new has come, and you are set free.

At times, I can lose my temper, I over think the smallest things, and sometimes I feel alone.

“Carmen! Don’t say that..people are reading this who don’t even know you!”

Yeah.. I know. And I’m 100% at peace with that. Because as my “girl talk” is unleashed, vulnerability needs to occur.

“But you seem so happy in all of your photos, how can you proclaim to not be at ease? Are you happy?”

Happy? No, well slightly. Joyful? In an abundant amount. Being happy: a short state of temporary contentment. Joy: a state which occurs regardless of circumstances. Around my house I’m surrounded by women who remind me of this constant state of joy and hold me accountable to my redemption in Christ. 

I know, I know this blog post seems all over the place and may not be what you were expecting. But if you know anything about me, I tend to be that way, haha (chuckles to herself as she writes line). More than anything I desired to write this tonight to encourage those of you girls (or guys) who don’t have a strong community of believers around you that you are being redeemed. My favorite scripture since this summer has been 3 versus in the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah 43:10 “You are my witness (Insert your name here),” declares the Lord, and my servant ..(don’t miss out on this next part) whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no God was formed, nor will there be one after me.”

BROKEN DOWN IN CARMEN’S HEAD: The Lord declares this over you,”Of all people in the world, I have chosen you! My sweet servant, with who I am well pleased regardless of your works. Sweet Beth. Don’t you see I have chosen you to know me like no one else. Yes, Ray may have an incredible walk with me as her master, but be still and know I have chosen you to know me the way you do. I have chosen you so that you may feel my peace and connect with me in a way I have never revealed myself to anyone else, because Beth this is our sweet walk in life. I have chosen you to know me so that you, as my daughter, can reveal my majesty to Pam and Allie, who do not know me yet, but because you know me, you will reveal life to them they have not yet experienced. Before me, your life doesn’t matter. Before me there was no god. Yes, I understand you cry out to me saying,”don’t you see.. I have a past of filthy sin?” I smile at you, scoop you up in my arms, and desire for you to know that your life before me has been washed away with the righteous blood of my son. Oh, what redemption you must feel as you embraced me as your God. Sweet girl, sweet daughter of mine, you are growing and learning that your past doesn’t matter in light of my son. Hear me when I say this..you thought you had a god over your life, until you encountered me. Now that you know me and I know you, let us be honest in our confessions that before me, there was no god. You had idols of your life, but they were broken down as you grew to know me. Dance and rejoice in knowing that there will never be another God after me, now that you are rejoicing and basking in the redemption I have set before you. Even on your hardest days, I choose you.”

How flipping incredible. Due to not wanting you to get bored with my writing, I’ll choose to save the other 2 scriptures out for my next entry.

I love you

God loves you

and remember, the ultimate redemption occurs in the blood of Christ.

Carmen Aranda

A thankful heart

As always I would like to say thank you. The support I have gotten from each of you keeping up with this trip has been overwhelming. I’m so thankful to be surrounded by so many people who support our vision as a church.

I thank God yesterday wasn’t as smooth as my team would have liked. For our sake, God stretched us. I feel as though each moment that occurred yesterday day taught me to truly be still. No matter how fast pace life can be at times, its vital for us that we take a deep breath and remember, its truly not about us. I leanred two years ago when challenged by Daniel Cazanev that its not about me, nothing ever is. We fool ourselves into this great big idea that life is about us, but in all true reality, this shows our selfishness. Going into today, I knew I could overcome any situation with being still, for the simplest fact that I overcame yesterday.

This morning was our last in Little Africa. We passed out the last of the water filters for this specific area of Little Africa. During our time our team was humbled to see the delegation of the leaders we are partnered with, as well as the desire of the other Haitians to help pass put filters to their own people. My favorite part about this process was handing out a filter to the voodoo temple. Seeing that I have the opportunity to be a part of a church that just desires to be Christ to each and every person we come in contact with blew me away. As we finished up, we waited in the church for the kids to get out of class. While we waited, Robb presented the gospel in such an amazing way to a congregation of people. They were captivated by every word he said,  fully engaged in conversation, many prayed to receive Christ. Before we know it, Robb Billue is going to be pastor Robb! 
Finally when the kids were out of class, they all came in the church. April taught the students about the creation story and led us in learning children’s songs together. It was incredible to see her where her passion is, with children. Each student was so engaged by who God was and what He did as April told each of them. As this afternoon progressed we were able to feed the community in an orderly fashion. Children ate first, adults followed after the children were completely finished with their meals. As I sat in the truck passing put food with other leaders from Haiti, as well as Kim and Laura, my heart becamed filled with the thought of this, “Although we may not be solving world hunger, we are solving hunger for this specific community on this day. Tonight, they will not go to bed hungry.” In missions I have learned through Michael Wahl that missions isn’t about doing everything that needs to be done, but doing what you can with resources you have access to. Missions has become so much more than a week trip to a country, missions has become a partnership with missionaries on the field and helping their vision come alive with o ur resources. Missions is a calling, for everyone as a believer in Jesus Christ. Matthew 28. And when I say missions, I don’t always mean over seas. Missions is being a disciple od llf Christ, dying to yourself for the hope that someone may come to know Christ. Missions is hard and rewarding when done correctly. Tonight I heard something for the very first time from someone I met, “People mistake being a vacationary for a missionary. A vacationary goes to a country for a week and builds half a church, goes home and rejoices about what they did. What they fail to realize is they leave the people of that country to finish that building with no  resources or money.” One thing I learned was I never want to be part of a trip that cannot fulfill what they started because lack of leadership, delegation, and motivation to get it done. I’m thankful to be a part of something greater than me, because as I have said once, its not about me. I’m thankful for the leadership our lead pastor Greg Towler gives our staff members, like Michael Wahl, who can carry out a vision through utilization of resources, delegation, and other great leaders.

As we finished serving the community, we were waiting to load up the bus as we said our “see you soon” to our friends in Little Africa. During this time I was drawn to Lisa Yancey and Kim Tidwell who were leading one of our new friends, Jedidia, in learning one of the songs April taught the students. (Its called deep and wide.) During this time, he was so determined to learn the song and exactly what the words were, so that he could take it back to his community and teach the children. Seeing the patience and joy Lisa and Kim had in teaching him filled my heart with the upmost happiness. Seeing the image of Christ shine through them was overwhelming. I’m so happy to serve with these women of God. As we drove away, we stopped one last time in some land and Robb Billue anointed Jedidia. Robb felt passionately about letting Jedidia that God had something special for him. We all could sense that. The moment Robb started to pray for Jedidia, Jedidia threw his hands in the air, showing his submission to God and desire to follow wherever God called him. We were all touched by our friendd obedience. For we know the Lord has plans far above and beyond anything we could fathom.
Finally we were heading to the metal mart. This was my first time going. The metal mart is just a market place of nothing of metal shops with people creating different art. I bought some pretty awesome things! During our time there, it was just wonderful to be shopping around with everyone. After about 40 minutes, we headed back home for dinner.
When I got off the bus, our two translators stopped me to ask when I was coming back. As we discussed future plans, they expressed to me that they are going to allow me to do some children’s ministry next time. I was taken back. I haven’t ever exactly considered doing children’s ministry. I know I’m great with kids because of my passion for that age, but its never connected. So, to say the least, I’m thrilled to see what God does when I return to thr beautiful country of Haiti.

One last thing. Where we are staying, there is an orphanage on the same land. The orphanage is maybe 50 yards away. Each night they have devotion before bed, which consists of children’s worship songs and a mini lesson from a man who helps run the orphanage. Each night many children fall asleep outside until they are carried in by a nany, which is their mother figure.  Tonight I held a child and rocked him to sleep. He is 9 years old and the size of my 6 year old sister. With sadness in my heart, I rocked him until I had to go put him in bed. They recently found him in the mountains, malnourished and orphaned. As sad as I was to hear his story, I had to rejoice and be thankful for a place like New Life that is rescuing children and keeping them safe from starvation and even death. So I thank God I’m here today, not sad, but thankful and excited to see what He does and how I get to be used in his plan of restoration for many children like the little boy I held tonight.

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Morning meeting
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Johnny passed out before our day started
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April and Robb get ting ready to teach the children
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April bringing the word to these students!
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Momma Mary and Kim preparing the food
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Lisa and Kim in thr background, this is when they were teaching Jedidia Deep and Wide
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This sweet little girl wouldn’t let Brian go
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Jedidia being anointed today by Robb
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Our team! Minus Johnny
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Medal mart shopping!
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Laura, me, Michael and our new friend who helped pass out some food.
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New bracelets from the mart
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Dinner down at the orphanage
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The sweet 9 year old who has forever touched the depths of my heart.

Thank you for being a part of what Crossroads has the opportunity to do because of the doors that God is opening. As always, this trip if fully about Him. To God be the glory

Lesson learned..

As I spent time with the Lord I kept asking for Him to show me something new today, to give me a deeper understanding of being His child, and by God, He freaking showed me. Haha, so if you ever pray for God to do something in your heart..be prepared. I’m having a horrible time putting my words together tonight, so please be understanding!

As we started off this morning, we had expectations that today would blow yesterday out of the water. And as we all know, if you’re always on the mountain top experience, you can never appreciate the accomplishment of surviving the depths of the valley. For me personally, today was tough because the beginning of our morning didn’t go smoothly as any other morning.

We handed about 80 filters out today, stopping occasionally to explain the process of how to effectively use the filters. Because we are partnered with a team that lives here, they agreed to have leaders of each community checking weekly and helping with the filters if some people find themselves having trouble. Frustration arose because our team, made of incredible and strong leaders, all had an idea of how things should have been, but as Proverbs 16:9 states, “in his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” What I and some of my team failed to realize was as we were passing out filters to homes according to “plan” God was working so powerfully and mightily in a mans’ heart at the front of the community.
As I became overwhelmed in selfishness and frustration, my teammate Geno stopped me and taught me a quick lesson on patience with others. I had an idea of things that should have been done more “effectively.” But I also was not the one In charge. Geno let me, lovingly, know that God had this & I ultimately had to submit to God’s plans, not my own.
As time continued, Geno, Lisa, Janie, and myself continued to pass out filters until we no longer had any to give. When we returned to the bus, we learned that a voodoo priest (who was yelling when we arrived with much anger) was talking with Michael, Beth, and the pastor we work with from Haiti. In the midst of this Laura Billue realized we hadn’t prayed, so our team stopped and we surrendered  the remainder of the day to God and His will. This moment changed everything.
Bondage was broken, unity was brought, and joy filled our hearts. As our team went onward to continue passing out water filters, we had no idea that God was about to change the day.
About an hour later, we came back to the bus & Beth informed our team on the events that occurred with the voodoo priest. She explained he was really upset we were there because a lot of missionaries promise things, but never return to fulfill them. After Pastor Lionel spoke with him explaining we have now fulfilled our promise twice, the voodoo priest accepted the fact we were different. Through all of this, he dropped to his knees and completely surrendered his life to God. He said he couldn’t make the decision right because he had to pass down the title of being the voodoo priest, but when we returned tomorrow he would make that decision and commit to Jesus Christ as Lord of his life. This was amazing for all of us!
I don’t exactly have words, so I’m finishing this blog in pictures!
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The Billue’s are so cute! Its truly been a joy to have them here and getting to know them more.
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This guy climbed up a coconut tree to give us some coconuts!
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Water source for someone before the filters could provide clean water
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As you can see from the next few photos, we all enjoyed the coconut water, especially Geno
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Heather shared the gospel with this woman, it was incredible seeing the joy that came from this extension of hope
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Michael prayed with an older woman of a community that was so thankful we had come. This moment was when our translator told us,”I don’t know how you ended up here, but this is why God sent you.” The picture below is the only source of water this community had. Because the source was so filthy, multiple people have died of cholera and dysentery. Thanks to filter of hope, they now have clean water.
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And as we came back to meet the rest of the team, we found April in her element teaching children songs!
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Kim and her baby!
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Such a cute moment to see our team being so welcomed by the children
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Lisa and April being walked by children.
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All in all, today was amazing. I have never been so stumped on how to descibe a day. God was evident through difficult moments and we were all reminded that He is the ultimate planner of our day. Our team has been bonding and growing to know each other much deeper. I’m so thankful to be here.

No confidence in flesh.

Day 3.
Philippines 3:7-14 (NIV)
“But whatever were gains to me now I consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake  I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”
Ahhhh, insert synonyms of being in complete awe of God here! I am so thankful to serve the God I do, who shows me how life is found in the gospel daily! I want to shout, but you wouldn’t hear it on the other end of the screen, so those of you who know me well..imagine my happy dance and the sounds of excitement, facial expressions, and lots of hand motions showing you how much this trip is opening my eyes to the beautiful God we serve!
This post is lengthy, so if you’re here for photo’s, they are posted below. However, I encourage you to be encouraged through what God is doing here by reading the next few paragraphs..

As I stated yesterday, we went into Little Africa today to gift hope through the ability to provide water filters. As we gathered with the community to explain what we were doing, there was much uncertainty that fell upon the people surrounding. As a country, much less a community who has no access to clean water, they were skeptical, but honestly. .I would have been too. After Michael’s demonstration of the installation process, he drank a glass of water from the filthy water bucket, after it was filtered. The people cheered and clapped, for we all knew this moment was ground breaking. Thanks to everyone who purchased a water filter for Project 300, we were able to install water filters for each home in the community today, which was well over 300 filters.
Quick insert, project 300 was a vision Michael Whal had. When he discovered we, as a church, could partner with Filter of Hope to provide clean water, he jumped on board and moved forward. Back in October we launched this ministry with the goal of selling 300 filters by December. Well, God showed up & the same Sunday we launched we had over 400 filters sold. The door was opened and we moved forward with an unplanned & unexpected trip to Haiti. Originally the trip was supposed to be in spring, which there still will be. However, if we have filters provided, we wanted to waste as little time as possible and begin getting into the communities. &&& to add on this, crossroads now has an established trust and bond with little Africa because we installed water wells/pumps and have now returned to give clean water.
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We split into a few different groups so that we could visit each home, donating water buckets and filter kits, walking through the process with them on how to connect the filters, and presenting the gospel if the person was interested. The second home my team, (Michael Whal, Johnny Taylor, and Kim Tidwell), went to visit is a highlight of my day, maybe even my trip so far. An order gentleman invited us into his little hut, and before we were all in, he dropped to his knees saying he desired to know the God we served. He desired to be a believer of Jesus Christ. As we prayed with this man, mt heart was overwhelmed with the thought that although we spoke different languages, I now had a new brother in Christ that will one day stand in the throne room of God in complete awe of who God is, because of the decision he made today.
As we continued our journey through different huts, my team became completely inspired by what God was allowing us to do here in Haiti.
As our team met up from distribution, we soon had a crowd of children we were playing with. As I chased kids around, I was reminded of the universal gift of love. No language or poverty could ever create any barrier too great to extend love. I received so much love, as well as my whole team, from a joyful group of children.
As the time passed we found ourselves standing in front of the village with a group of about 30 people and our teammate Robb Billue presenting the gospel. And by the holy spirit guiding Rob in confidence, almost every person standing there accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior today. I’m, once again, overwhelmed by what God is doing and how He Is using us out here.
The rest of the day was filled with laughter, community, astonishment at God’s beautiful nature, a few head bumps on our tap tap truck, and an incredible dinner, followed by chocolate chip cookies.(Courtney Thomas, if you’re reading this..I was thinking of you & I cannot wait to cook some Tollhouse when I get home!)
So, overall today..I saw what a beautiful God we serve. And just as you date your spouse to keep the love alive, you should spend time with your father who yearns for you to know Him.
This trip isn’t about me or my team. Its not even about the water filters. This trip is about seeing the glory of God shine through such a broken and poverty struck country. But don’t be fooled, He is here. Jesus is evident from the moment I wake up, to the moment I fall asleep, not only here, but also there, as you sit behind a screen scrolling to my next sentence. Spend intimate moments with our awesome God tonight as you have the few quite hours of night or early morning hours. & just as Paul spoke in Philippines 3, its all for the glory of God.

Until tomorrow, here is a glimpse of today, captured behind my lense.

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Water pump provided by crossroads!
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As we started putting project 300 on the ground today, I found a Haitian guy wearing the same shirt!
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Restrooms!
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Water wells installed within the past few months
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The second house man who dropped to his knees in awe of God
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Thanks for catching up with us!