photos and filipinos

I said that I would make a blog of cultural experiences, and I will fulfill that commitment in this post.

So where better to start, than the beginning?

plane

Beginning the 16-hour flight from Dallas to Tokyo!

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In Japan, they are really into their toilets. Bedits, flushing sounds, music, etc. You name it.

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Here, Taylor and I are enjoying our robes, slippers, and complimentary green tea in mini chairs of our hotel room! All the furniture is fun-sized in Japan.

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A little sight-seeing

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In this picture, the man grabs a live eel from the tank, stabs its head, and chops it up right there, then the chef takes it straight to the kitchen! Pretty cool, although I can’t say that I tried any. Too American for that, I guess. ūüôā

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However, I was not too American for the chopsticks and the food that looked JUST like the pictures! Unlike in America, there were no disappointments in the presentation of food at mall food courts.

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This is the before picture of the Shibuya Crossing (basically like a giant crosswalk in the middle of the Times Square of Japan) before the signal to walk.

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After

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The beautiful view from Grace Harbor Church

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Me lookin’ ultra cute, and Alyssa stylin’ on the way to Manila.

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On the way to Maria Aurora from Manila!

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After a day of rest….

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The real fun began!

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Such as showering.

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Our Filipino friends loved pictures! This is Alyssa and Taylor at a home visit.

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Trikes are the main mode of transportation in rural Philippines. It’s basically a motorcycle with a side-car.

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These are some sweet children we met during a school visit! They love pictures, duck-duck-goose, and toothpaste!

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Filipinos are also pretty darn smart with cameras.

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Conner, Taylor, myself, and Alyssa in a giant tree-vine-mob

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A friend from the local missionary school with Baby Isaiah.

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Our friends and hosts served a traditional Filipino meal—– no dishes required, just banana leaves and hands ūüôā

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At the market—- sting ray or squid, anyone?

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There were some children that Taylor and I became friends with. They gave us these beautiful gifts of a folded leaf. They were precious.

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Two of the church buildings in the area.

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Our team with some students and a teacher from a school visit

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Taylor reading a Bible story to students

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Kindergarteners color the story of Saul to Paul

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Sweet and silly boys

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Lots of fun and cool fruit! A catmoon or mooncat, yellow watermelon, coconut, and pineapple!

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“fun” animals as well! (also, everything is poisonous there, from the caterpillars to the frogs)

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When riding through Maria Aurora, there are always children walking here and there! They always turn and wave. Alyssa took this adorable picture.

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Josh, Isaiah, Alyssa, and Autumn enjoying a birthday celebration!

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Trekking through the wilderness because there was no trike! It was pretty fun ūüôā

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At this site, I felt like I was back in the Delta.

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Caribou! (Pronounced: care-a-ba-oww, and different from the North American reindeer) Basically like a filipino ox. Alyssa and Conner got to ride one!

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A school visit ūüôā

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Last but certainly not least, a picture with the team we worked closely with during our time there. I was really sad to leave, and these missionaries and friends will constantly stay in my prayers and thoughts. I cannot thank them enough for their gracious help and time!

Thank you to everyone who supported our team with finances, prayer, words of encouragement, etc.

And thank Jesus for the time in the Philippines. You continually reveal Your people, and I am so grateful to be a small part in Your plan.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever!

Psalm 107:1

– Mary Madeline

(PS: I am headed to Math and Science school today. Prayers are appreciated! Thank you. ūüôā )

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messy ministry

The moment I stepped off 0f the plane in Manila, Philippines until we left for the USA, I was so excited that I couldn’t… I was hot.

Not kidding, it was super hot and super chaotic, and I was praying just to make it through.

Let me tell you, Manila is not my favorite place on the face of the Earth. It might be my least favorite (remember, the vision statement of this blog is to be “fearlessly authentic”).

But this post isn’t about trash-talking Manila, now is it? (I do love the people there. They were very helpful and nice.) So let us move on further into the journey….


 

When I woke six hours later, groggy-eyed and slightly confused, I found that I was in Maria Aurora, my home for the next nine days. It was about 11:00 PM, and though the air was still warm, the beautiful stars and peaceful buzzing of bugs (some of which I later found did not come in peace) calmed my anxious heart. And the journey that we had been anxiously awaiting began.

Through the laughter with children, super-competitive card games during late hours (the Filipinos whooped American tail), and worship on Sunday morning, I couldn’t help but learn and be reminded of things about our God.

#1) Our God gives joy that is beyond reason and circumstances.

Each week day we would either visit schools (This included singing songs, reading the story of Saul to Paul in Acts 9, a drawing competition, handing out school supplies, and a game) or visit homes of believers and some nonbelievers (This included talking and praying with women —with the exception of one man during our time there— meeting their children, and basically visiting them), each event taking place in morning and afternoon.

During home visits I was struck by the joy of many of the elderly women. (I noticed a trend with elderly women.) Some, even with tears in their eyes because of the pain that this broken world causes, explained how great God is and how He keeps true to His constant promise to provide. Through watery eyes, they smiled at the goodness of our Lord. From a wealthy American’s perspective the incredible joy of the women did not make sense. It was slightly hard to comprehend how the women continued in the faith, eagerly urging me to do so as well. My faith felt imaginary compared to their mustard seed.

But guess who granted them such a joy?

You got it— Jesus.

Yes, it is He who gives such a joy. It is He who reaches beyond the excruciatingly difficult times and into the hearts of believers to give peace and joy that pass all understanding.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13

#2) We are defeated, but Jesus has conquered.

So… I might have broken down once during the Philippines.

And if you know me, you might have patted me on the back and given me a high-five. Only once!

But after a day full of sweet children, praying with believers, observing poverty unlike any I had ever seen, and exhausting heat, I was feeling a little defeated.

And guess what?

I was.

After a day of experiencing a world of brokenness, poverty, difficulty, and trials, my heart was a little torn in two.
I was defeated by darkness, destruction, and despair.

Many of these people had so much gratitude! The children sang and laughed and danced and played in the 110 degree heat of the day! How did they sing to God when there was so much difficulty.
But then I remembered a Jesus that conquered it all, because He knew we couldn’t bare it.

A Jesus who bore the weight because He knew it would defeat us.

A Jesus who had already won the battle.

A Jesus who would never— no, not ever— let His children drown.

We are defeated, but He has conquered it all—- even death itself.

Because you will not abandon me to the grave, you will not let your holy one see decay. – Acts 2: 27

But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. – I Corinthians 5:57

#3) Ministry is messy…. but it is worth it.

Many have a view that ministry is either:

A) Extremely hard, dirty, and not fun. People just do it because they feel guilty. They feel like they have to.

B) It is wonderful! Every one loves and accepts the Word. It’s always rainbows and unicorns. Sure, there’s some dirt and such, but it’s mostly just success.

These are extreme examples, but I’m sure that you have had one of these views of thoughts before. I can almost guarantee it, because we are all sinners with sinful thoughts. I have had both of these views before (and still caught myself having them)! We are all marked by fault.

But here’s a better picture. Let’s try choice C.

C) Ministry is hard. It’s messy. Because God is using imperfect, broken people to serve other broken people. It’s just regular life— lived for the gospel. A regular Christian, following where Jesus leads, which is often into hard places. It is tiring, laborious, demanding, and sometimes even boring. But it is also rewarding, satisfying, and enriching. It is purposeful, full of life even on the hard days when it doesn’t feel like it. It might not always be a day of success, and sometimes it might be a day of failure. But the Potter is molding the pot and the Gardener is pruning the bush the entire time. The gospel is expanding, and it is a privilege to be a small laborer for the kingdom.

So is ministry messy? Absolutely.

Is it worth it? Absolutely.

The blessings far outweigh the hardships, and I am so lucky to be a small part of it.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. – Ephesians 4:11-13

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. Open wide your hearts also. Р2 Corinthians 6:3-10, 13b

 

 

no mistake

Before June 13, 2014, I had never exited my home country, the United States of America. But on that Friday, I landed in Tokyo, expecting to never see any of the city except the airport. However, Jesus had different plans.

When we (the crew: Taylor, Conner, Alyssa, and myself) arrived at the airport, a flight attendant held a sign Conner’s name printed on it. She stated that we had a small problem; however, we had a feeling it was a big one.

Long story short, because of a passport complication, we had to stay in Tokyo for four days. We were irritated, tired, and anxious to arrive in Manila. Staying in the sixth most expensive city in the world (deemed by CNN) was not on our agenda. However, God showed us that it was on His.

During our time there, Alyssa contacted some local missionaries who were more than happy to guide us to their church on Sunday. After many subways and much walking, we arrived at Grace Harbor Church. It included a small gathering of people (about 40) above a restaurant in a mall. The bilingual service was not extravagant, yet very beautiful. A simple body of believers gathered together above a restaurant to worship on Sunday is enough to make a heart stir.

Side note: this church does not need a stained-glass window. This is the most amazing view of any church I have ever set eyes on.

A few more key facts about this church: It is the only church in the Toyosu area, home to about 126,000 residents. My town has a population of about 15,000 with at least forty churches, so this was astounding news for me.

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After church, a missionary couple, Mr. Bob and Mrs. Sharon, ate with us at the food court. Mrs. Sharon shared with me how God called her to assist in church planting with her husband. Here is her story:

She had been a missionary in Japan for three years, and she and her husband planned to move back to the States in 2014. She explained how she longed and prayed to be a grandmother to her six grandchildren in the States. However, her husband felt called to stay in Tokyo. No, she thought, I want to go be a grandmother! Jesus was tugging at her heart, and an inner voice told her ‚ÄúYour grandchildren have Christian parents, Christian Church, and Christian community. These people do not.‚ÄĚ And her heart melted for the people, so she and Mr. Bob stayed in Tokyo to assist in the ministry of Grace Harbor Church.

My heart was so encouraged after hearing her story.

After lunch, her husband shared some insane facts about Christianity in Japan:

Р      Less than one percent (estimated 0.22%) of the population claims Christ.

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The country has the highest depression rate in the world (based on prescribed and bought depression medication). It is estimated that one in every five Japanese citizens suffers from depression.

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The country also has one of the highest suicide rates.

Р      The Japanese are considered the second-largest unreached people group.

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Most people have never ever heard the gospel.

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† There are three alphabets in the language. One alphabet is of foreign, not often-used words, and Jesus Christ is in this alphabet.

 

So our problem that day in the airport—- it had an answer.

And I believe that the answer is this:

I would have never known about the brokenness of Japan if it were not for those four days.  And if I had not known, I would not have written this blog post. And you, reading this right now, might have not known.

So maybe I will be a missionary there one day. Maybe you will be or the person you share this with over email or at the coffee shop will be the one God calls.

Maybe if each of our hearts is broken a little more each day for this country, and we commit our prayers, then each day the city of Tokyo and the country of Japan will experience more restoration and more of Jesus.

And I must say that four days in Tokyo is most definitely worth an eternity of Jesus.

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‚ÄúHow beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!‚ÄĚ –¬†Romans 10:13-15

 

You can read more about Grace Harbor Church and redemption taking place in Japan at¬†Seima Aoyagi’s (GHC’s¬†minister) blog-site:¬†http://radkelifeintokyo.blogspot.com/2013/05/blog-post.html.

Saint Louis— Round Three

So you might have heard of one of my favorite places face of the Earth:

Saint Louis view

Saint Louis, Missouri, United States of America, North America, Planet Earth, Milky Way Galaxy.

Yeah, that place.

I actually began this blog two years ago because the way Jesus turned my life around in this city.  During the time spent there, my church and I sang to the homeless, comforted the widows, encouraged the broken, and worshiped Jesus through it all. Here I am, two years later, after a third round with New City Fellowship (find out more about this ministry: http://restorestlouis.org/ and http://newcity.org/southcity/) , and still learning and discovering more about the heart of Christ in every corner.  I thank Jesus for every moment that I am blessed to spend with this ministry.

Here are some pictures of our great adventure:

 

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cuties

homeless shelter

(If you want to hear us singing in the homeless shelter, here’s the link: Singing in the Homelss Shelter)

The growth and expansion of the kingdom that took place during the small amount of six days spent working for Jesus is incredible.  And the best part is that our human eyes do not even touch the surface of what Jesus has done with our tiny hands.

Since I learned something new in each moment, it is only right of me to share the simple truths that our Father has taught me.

#1) God is the same for the rich and poor, black and white, young and old— then, now, forever and always.

Seems quite simple… agreed? But this simple, yet profound, truth has been on my heart.¬†We all serve the same God. He is the same God¬†of you, Katie Davis, orphans in Ecuador, homeless, Father Abraham, Mother Mary, Apostle Paul, and every Christian that ever was and is. He is not definitely the God of the rich, and slightly of¬†the poor.¬† Or wholly the God of the Americans, and partially the God of the Africans. No, this is not our Jesus.¬† Our Jesus is wholly the God of all people— black as night, white as rice, young as babes, old as time.¬† He is the same God then, now, forever and always.

For the Lord is good; His loving-kindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness is the same to all generations. – Psalm 100:5

In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. – John 12:10

He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God. – Joshua 4:24

#2) We are not adequate.

Every night during our time at New City, we debriefed the day.  There was one particular night when someone mentioned that the work never seemed enough compared to the great need of the city.  While we were doing much work, the need was often overwhelming.

Then, we realized something—- we cannot change the world.¬† We are not adequate.¬† We are not equipped.¬† We are not prepared.¬† We never will be.

But Jesus is.

He is beyond adequate.  His glory is beyond the replacement of ringworm-infested hardwood floors.  His love reaches further than the bandaging of rotting mortar between red-clay bricks.  His grace is greater than twenty garbage bags stuffed with leaves and sticks.  We are only called to love in the name of Jesus, and He will touch places that our eyes might never see.  Christ will change situations; Christ will change hearts; Christ will change the world.

Behold! I am making all things new. – Revelation 21:5

How great is our God! He is exalted beyond our knowledge. – Job 16:26

We cannot find the Almighty‚ÄĒ he is majestic in power and justice, and overflowing with righteousness. – Job 37:23

#3) He loves us.

I say once again— simple, but so true.

This was a sweet reminder from on my friends, who is planning on attending seminary soon.  He spoke about the prodigal son.  If you do not know the story, or you do but need a refresher of details, here it is:

¬†‚ÄúThere was a man who had two sons. 12¬†The younger one said to his father, ‚ÄėFather, give me my share of the estate.‚Äô So he divided his property between them.13¬†‚ÄúNot long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14¬†After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15¬†So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16¬†He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17¬†‚ÄúWhen he came to his senses, he said, ‚ÄėHow many of my father‚Äôs hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18¬†I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19¬†I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.‚Äô 20¬†So he got up and went to his father. ‚ÄúBut while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21¬†‚ÄúThe son said to him, ‚ÄėFather, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.‚Äô 22¬†‚ÄúBut the father said to his servants, ‚ÄėQuick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23¬†Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let‚Äôs have a feast and celebrate. 24¬†For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’– Luke 15: 11-24

This son had completely and directly sinned against his father, and he knew it.  But the father, so over-joyed that his son was found, graciously welcomed him back into his home. This is Jesus.  He is not condemning us because we have fallen short.  Instead, after sinning and rebelling against His perfect love, He is ecstatic to give us abundant grace, mercy, and love. He does not need to love us, but He wants to love us.

And I am so thankful to serve a God of such unfathomable love.

 

uganda, please

If you have talked to me in the last month, you probably have heard at least one comment about this amazingly impactful book that I have read: Kisses from Katie.

Let me tell you… I only thought I wanted to visit the impoverished parts of Africa.
After reading this… I know I want to visit these places at the least.

After consuming Radical by David Platt, I had to do some more research on this guy and what he had to say about Jesus’s teachings.¬† (Radical is an amazing book, please do read.) However, as I went looking for David Platt, I found an interview he was initiating with a young¬†lady named Katie.¬†

After the first few sentences slipped through her lips, I was captivated. 

I’m only sixteen, but if I could go visit now, there would be nothing stopping me.

This girl… her life is a picture of the gospel.¬†

This is short, because if I started talking about the book, I would end up plagerizing.¬† Going to jail isn’t exactly on my to-do list.

But let me leave you with this to watch:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TY0YGrGZdR4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGyYsA62CxY

Now you tell me… is that not amazing, abandoning love?

open eyes

I could definitely say that my life has taken a U-turn in the last few months.¬† In March of 2012, I¬† went to St. Louis, Missouri with my youth group. I was expecting maybe an hour… stretching¬† to two hours of “Jesus-talk,” but mostly a “good time.”¬† Plans did not go as expected.¬† Each day was a crazy new adventure.¬†¬†From the moment we woke up, we were committed to service.¬†¬†Every day was an challenge to heal broken hearts, tend to the widow, love the homeless, give hope the¬†hopeless.¬† Even if it meant raking leaves in the¬†inner-city, or¬†hanging out with homeless¬†people.¬† And get this— we actually enjoyed it.¬† Together, we learned more about God and ourselves than we ever expected.¬†We learned how dead we are to our sins.¬† But also, how jealous God is for hearts of sinners like us.¬†We would stay up¬†past midnight talking,¬†singing, crying, praising, and laughing, only to wake up at 6:30 every morning.¬†It was life-changing.¬† Not just changing lanes either, but totally different highways.

We could not keep it to ourselves.¬† Such love calls us to spread the news, and we couldn’t help but do exactly that!¬† We were on fire for Christ (and still are.)¬†¬†It turned out, that we were actually dead to our sin.. BUT by God’s great mercy and love for sinners like us, he gave us eternal righteousness.¬† A newness of life, as long as we trusted Him with that life.

However, trusting Him with my life had alot more that met the eye.¬† Everyday, I discover how dirty I am. I discovered the selfishness of the human nature.¬†But the more I notice my sin, the greater God’s grace looked.¬†¬†It is¬†breath-taking.¬† Such abounding, indelible¬†love however, calls me to radical abandonment.¬† I cannot simply sit in the pue every Sunday morning, listen to the words, and not allow it to change who I am.

Such love calls me to serve others, to give something of myself.  To sacrifice.  It calls me to love others more than I love myself.  Everyday, I am challenge to deny myself, and take up the cross. (Luke 9:23)

And in that, I have never found greater joy.