“He Knows My Name”

It’s hard to believe that over six weeks have passed since I’ve written my last blog post. As I re-read it, I couldn’t help but smile as the feelings and thoughts I was processing then could still describe me today in many ways. Some things have changed; some things are the same. First, I want to thank my Heavenly Father for helping the other teachers, adults, and me the past couple months as we’ve had these precious children placed in our care. Our “family” has been growing, and we now have 20 children, and they still continually “keep us on our toes.” We continuously share some sweet memories, and I am grateful for this chance to have a tiny part in their lives. God has been teaching me so much through ministering here in the Children’s Home, and I know the lessons I am learning will continue to guide me throughout my life.

As I sit here gazing out at the beautiful Lake Chapala enjoying a rare moment of peace and quiet, I am reflecting on these different lessons. I am learning it is not the easiest thing to love others who don’t really reciprocate that love, but it is vital to living a joy-filled and Christ-honoring life. Patience is something that does not come naturally for me, and being surrounded by a different language that I do not know or understand fluently has been very frustrating. It takes patience and effort to listen and also to talk in Spanish, whether that’s to the children or to the adults that live here. Many times I feel “out of the loop” and I have to be content with not understanding the joke that everyone is laughing at or not knowing things ahead of time. It’s not easy, let me tell you, but somehow, it works out. I have loved watching my students “translate” my Spanglish for me to other people, whether it’s to strangers or to new students. I do wonder how much English they’re actually learning, but at least some of them have this Spanglish thing down. I’ll take what I can get. 😉 Teaching English here hasn’t exactly gone like how I imagined it would, but I have learned to be content with doing my best in a “different” learning environment and looking for small victories, rather than expecting giant ones.

One of the biggest lessons I am learning (and I think this will be a continuous life lesson for me) is to pray before I panic. And I tend to panic a lot, which means I need to pray a lot more. Just a few days ago, I received some information that caused me to start panicking as I tried to analyze how certain things were going to work out. I realized I needed to stop and pray (which I did out loud with a friend), and while I still struggled later in the day with holding back tears and not completely freaking out, I was glad that I had taken the time to pray in that instant. Flexibility has taken on a whole new meaning for me since living here at the orphanage in Mexico. It seems like the Mexicans are accustomed to not knowing what’s going on and just taking things as they come, but this American “northeastern” girl is definitely NOT accustomed to it, at all. I feel that I have grown in this area the past couple months, but I also know I have a long way to go to in learning to be content in being flexible. I literally just have to take things day by day. In some ways, it makes life a little simpler, and it helps me to just focus on each day and to try not to panic about the “tomorrows.” The Lord obviously knew I needed to work on these areas of my life, and I believe that’s one of the reasons He opened the door for me to come.

I’ve also learned the simplicity in showing love to others. It might be by buying snacks for the kids after our Thursday night church service in the nearby town, making handmade Valentines, giving a smile and just trying to pay attention to facial expressions of the children, or requesting that food be bought for one of our boys’ pet dove (yes, we have a pet dove here on the “ranch”). All very simple things but yet, I hope it shows the children that I love them. One of the things that has affected me the most has been trying to mentally put myself in their shoes. These children have been abandoned by their families, “voluntarily.” I’d like to think that it has been out of an act of love, that the families literally could not take care of their children properly, but it still breaks my heart to see mothers hugging their children goodbye as they are put in our Children’s Home. I cannot imagine going through that, especially at an age where I am old enough to know my mother, my family, and understand that they can’t or won’t take care of me. It makes me angry, and it makes me sad. I am so thankful that these children have a beautiful place to call home, delicious food to eat, clean clothes to wear, a school to learn at, and daily spiritual feeding through devotions and chapel times. Just this past week, I was reminded of a song that the children have learned in the past in Spanish, and I’ve been teaching it in English to my secondary class. It is a perfect reminder for the children, for all of us, that we are never abandoned by our Heavenly Father, and that He knows who we are, and where we are, at all times. The chorus goes like this,

            “And He knows my name, every step that I take, every move that I make, every tear that I’ve cried. And He knows my name, when I’m overwhelmed by the pain, Can’t see the light of day, I know I’ll be just fine, ‘Cause He knows my name.”*

I hope the truth of this encourages you as it has encouraged me and has especially encouraged these precious children.

It’s hard to believe that I only have two more months left here in Mexico. I am so very excited about the future and the doors God has opened, but I know it will be hard to say goodbye to the children here when that day comes. I have some prayer requests I would like to share. To those who pray for me, words cannot express how grateful I am. It’s been so encouraging to see God answer prayers and help me throughout my time here. Thank you!!!

Prayer Requests:

  1. For the children: Please pray that they will thrive here in the Children’s Home, and that they would grow spiritually, academically, and socially.
  2. For my health:  It has gotten better overall, which is a praise!
  3. For safety: With our weekly commute to the city and back to the country again, much time is spent riding in a van or bus, and the roads here are not the “safest.”
  4. For my teaching: It is hard to motivate children to learn another language, especially one that is hard like English. Please pray they will be more interested in it, and learn as much as they can while I’m here. I want to give them a good foundation for the future.
  5. For staff in the future: Please pray that the Lord will continue to provide the staff needed for the Children’s Home.
  6. For Mrs. Murillo’s health: The Murillo’s are the missionaries in Guadalajara who started and oversee the ministry of the Children’s Home. Mrs. Murillo was just diagnosed with cancer last week. I know they would greatly appreciate your prayers!

Also, for those who might have missed my big announcement and praise in my last blog, I would like to share it again…. 🙂

PRAISE: I have a huge blessing that I am excited to share with my readers. Lord-willing, I will be teaching 4th grade at VFBA (the school that I grew up in) in Pennsylvania starting this fall. I am SO excited about this answer to prayer and opportunity to continue to serve the Lord through Christian education! Fourth grade is my favorite grade to teach, and it is also the grade that I have the most experience in teaching! For a long time now, I’ve had a desire to have more stability in my life, especially as I enter my 30s in September. God’s timing is always perfect!

 

*”He Knows My Name”, by Annie and Kelly McRae

 

 

 

Back in Mexico!

Excited. Overwhelmed. Tired. Surprised. Frustrated. Encouraged. Awed. Thankful. Put all of these words (plus many more) on repeat, and they would describe my emotions the past few weeks. It’s been almost 3 weeks since I’ve been back in Mexico. This time around is so different from before, yet I am so thankful to be back here and that God opened the door for me to come back. I’m now living in the Children’s Home (orphanage) with the students, as well as my fellow teachers and other adults who help with cooking, cleaning, etc. The property where we live is about 90 minutes outside of the city, and it’s located on a ranch in the wilderness with an extremely beautiful view of Lake Chapala. Seriously, the view is amazing, and it is so refreshing to look at everyday.

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Living out in the country is something I’m continually adjusting to, but as time goes on, I’m becoming more at home there. We come to the city every weekend for soul-winning on Saturdays and church on Sundays, so it’s nice to get that bit of city life (occasional trip to the store or American place like Starbucks or Subway). I feel that I get the best of both worlds. The hardest part for me has been the teaching. I love teaching, and I teach three levels of English classes and then help with mathematics for Preschool level and other lessons for other grades. Teaching can be so much fun, but the language barrier definitely makes it difficult. Some of my students want to learn English, and I feel that some of them do not. Just this past week, though, I started to see more of an interest, and that is a huge encouragement to this teacher! I look forward to continuing to teach these precious kids and build more relationships with them.

 

Living in an orphanage has brought a whole new meaning to “one big happy family.” We have all ages (13 kids currently) ranging from ages 3 to 15. These are only the “volunteer children” (children whose families voluntarily put them in), as the ministry down here is still involved in court battles regarding the government children. (You can see my past blog posts that describe the raid situation this past fall). Please continue to pray that more children can be returned “home” to this ministry and also for house parents to help take care of the kids. Even though we don’t currently have a “large” number of kids, they do keep us on our toes! Never a dull moment, that’s for sure! To be honest, there have been moments over the last few weeks when I wondered why I am here or what my purpose is here, but then God always reminds me that He has a purpose for everything, and He brought me back to teach me many things and to hopefully help others along the way. Some of my favorite moments have been just playing a simple game like Skip Bo or Uno with the kids, singing “Complete in Thee” in Spanish as a special in church with one of the girls, watching my 1st-3rd grade class sing “God is So Good” in English in church, having the 4 year old boy tell me to come sit and eat with him, or just looking at the peaceful, beautiful view that God has given us to enjoy. I am keeping a daily journal, and it helps me think through what has happened each day. And through it all, there are many, many blessings. I want to make the most of the time God has given me here. God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good.

Thank you so much to all of you who have prayed and continuously pray for me. In addition to the prayer requests listed above, here are a few more requests (and an exciting announcement!).

  1. For my health: I have fought a chest cold and a tough bout of influenza already during my first few weeks back. Good health is not to be taken for granted!
  1. For safety: With our weekly commute to the city and back to the country again, much time is spent riding in a van or bus, and the roads here are not the “safest.”
  1. For my teaching: I want to make learning English fun, exciting, and practical. Please pray that the students’ interest will increase. Also, please pray for me to have patience and wisdom in teaching them.

PRAISE: I have a huge blessing that I am excited to share with my readers. Lord-willing, I will be teaching 4th grade at VFBA (the school that I grew up in) in Pennsylvania starting this fall. I am SO excited and thankful about this answer to prayer and the opportunity and privilege to continue to serve the Lord through Christian education! Fourth grade is my favorite grade to teach, and it is also the grade that I have the most experience in teaching! For a long time now, I’ve had a desire to have more stability in my life, especially as I enter my 30s in September. God’s timing is always perfect!

“Fear Not!”

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

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Did you ever notice the first thing that angels say to humans in the Bible? In almost every instance, their greeting starts with “Fear not.” This was pointed out to me through an Advent devotional I’ve been going through the past couple of weeks. Just in the Christmas story alone, the angel tells Mary and Joseph to “Fear not” as well as the angels that come to tell the shepherds the glorious news of Jesus’ birth! The angels wanted the shepherds to know that they didn’t need to be afraid; they wanted them to know that they needed to rejoice!

I love the different lessons God has been teaching me from the Christmas story. I’ve known the Christmas story probably since before I could spell my own name, yet here I am, all these years later, and there is still so much to learn from and apply to my life personally! I am reminded that I need to choose joy and celebrate even when I want to fear. The last time I wrote in this blog was November 17th. I was heading back to the States the next day and expecting to be back in Mexico two weeks later. But for those who have seen me around, you know that didn’t happen. As time went on the situation with the Children’s Home in Mexico continued to take longer than had hoped, so I had made the decision to stay home until after the new year. And I am so glad I did (which I’ll get to in a moment). First, I want to praise the Lord for answering prayer (and thank all of you who have been praying) as there has finally been a positive development and wonderful news concerning the Children’s Home! Just last week, they were able to reopen the Home and 16 children came into it, just in time for Christmas!!! It is so exciting to know that these precious children are home and safe!!! But the children from the “state” have still not been returned. Please continue to pray for those children and that justice, truth, and righteousness will prevail through the midst of everything! I look forward to going back in January and to start teaching the Mexican children again!

These past weeks at home have been wonderful as I’ve been able to serve through my local church and spend time with family and friends. Two of my favorite activities have been helping out with a widows’ Christmas brunch put on by the singles group from VFBT, as well as host the Christmas party for our singles group at our home. But the most important reason why I am so glad I’ve been home is to spend time with family, specifically my sweet grandma, as she had her last days here on earth. I was able to sit by her bedside and read Scripture, as well as sing Christmas carols and hymns, which was always my favorite thing to do with her. {Here’s a link to a blog I wrote about singing with Grandma last year: “Sometimes You Just Gotta Sing!”}

Grandma went to heaven this past Tuesday, December 20th, and she is walking on the streets of gold with no pain and no suffering. I will always treasure those last precious memories I had with her. God’s timing is perfect.

As I say goodbye to 2016 and welcome 2017, I need to remember to “Fear Not!” and rejoice in what Christ has done for me and what He will do for me. The same is true for you too, my friend. I’ll be honest, there are many things I fear, especially the unknown future regarding going back to Mexico and then what to do in the fall after Mexico. But just as God has led me year by year, day by day, and moment by moment, I know He goes before me and He is always with me. I also want to have the attitude that Mary had when she responded to Gabriel after the announcement that she, as a virgin, was going to give birth to the Son of God! Pastor Wendal pointed her response out to us in his message a few weeks ago and said that it was one of the most faith-filled responses in the Bible. Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” That is my prayer, as I look to the future, “Here I am, Lord. I’m one of your girls, one of your servants. Whatever your will is, let that be done. Amen.”

I want to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year!!! Thank you for all your prayers and encouragement throughout my journeys!

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{In memory of my Grandma…Grandma, I can’t wait to sing with you in heaven!}

 

My Mexican Journey

“Faith is knowing that life can be unpredictable,                                                                                but trusting that it will all work out for good.”

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This quote is currently hanging in a framed picture on my bedroom wall here in Mexico. When I put it up on my wall six weeks ago to decorate my room, I had no idea how “unpredictable” life would become here in Guadalajara and how much my faith would need to grow. It’s hard to believe that I moved here six weeks ago. For the first 2 ½ weeks, I led a fairly “normal” missionary teacher life. I started teaching my English classes my first day here, and it was so exciting to be teaching again. I was teaching in the Christian school located at the church here, and my students were a mix of church children and children from the Children’s Home/Orphanage, with the majority being from the Children’s Home. I was writing lessons from scratch, which proved to be a somewhat challenging but fun task. My most favorite part of each lesson was teaching the song “God is So Good” in English, and adding a new verse each class period. I taught all different ages ranging from kindergarten to high school levels. I was enjoying settling into my apartment, getting to know my sweet apartment mate and new friends at the church and school, and bonding more with my students. My greatest challenge was the language barrier, but I was learning more Spanish little by little and teaching English to those around me. Things were settling into a comfortable pace, and I was once again enjoying the expat/missionary life.

 

Then came Monday, October 24th. Everything changed that day. I was at home in the morning as I didn’t teach until the afternoon on Mondays. I was keeping myself busy by cleaning, washing my clothes (yes, by hand) and preparing my lesson for class that afternoon, which I was so excited about. It was about noon when I checked my phone and saw that Mrs. Murillo (the missionary wife) was posting a live video on Facebook. I thought that was odd so I clicked on it, and when I saw what was happening, a sickening feeling started in the pit of my stomach, and I knew something was wrong. You see, the video was live footage of my students screaming and crying and being forced into vehicles. I grabbed my stuff and went as quickly as I could to the school, but when I got there, it was too late. My students were gone. The Mexican Welfare State had come and raided our Children’s Home during the middle of their school day and took our students away, against their will. There were threats of this maybe happening, as it had already happened to other Children’s Homes in our state, but I guess I just didn’t think it actually would happen to us. I can’t describe the horrible feeling of knowing your students are just gone, with their books still on their desks, and thinking that maybe you won’t ever see them again. It was surreal and unbelievable.

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What was also sad was that they even took children who were not under the state’s jurisdiction; they were so disorganized that they took other children, including church kids (who were later returned to their families). It’s hard to explain all the reasons for the raid, but what I can say is that it was unjust, unfair, and in some ways, illegal. It was mostly unfair and unjust to the children, who were taken away with the clothes (school uniforms) on their backs, not even letting them grab their possessions (such as clothes, toys, photos) from where they lived. Seeing the video footage of the children sobbing is enough to know that they did not want to go. Since that day, the missionaries and staff here have been working literally nonstop to get the children back and our Children’s Home reopened. We are working on improving one of our properties that we are being demanded to improve (although it was already nicer than many other places here). (If you are reading this and are interested in helping financially with that, please email me and I’d be happy to share with you how.) Also, on that day of the raid, I moved in and stayed with the missionaries, helping watch their own four kids and supervise their homeschooling, while they have been very busy. I was so thankful God had me here during this time so I could help this precious family. I stayed with them for over three weeks. I am now back in my apartment, and it feels weird as I haven’t lived here since before the raid. The school is closed for right now, so I am not teaching at the moment. Because of people’s schedules (including the missionaries’) and things that have come up, I’ve decided to take some time and visit home. Yes, I’m going back to Pennsylvania for a visit, and yes, I leave tomorrow. To put it simply, I am not needed down here during this next 1-2 weeks, and with it being over Thanksgiving, I’ve decided I’d like to spend it with family. I’m only planning on being home for maybe two weeks at the most, but at this point, I’m just taking one day at a time. I really am not sure what the future holds. As soon as I am needed, I will be on the next plane down here to Mexico. I don’t believe my time here is finished, and I look forward to seeing what God will do. We are continually hoping and praying that our Children’s Home will be reopened and our children returned very soon. What a wonderful Christmas celebration that would be for everyone! With God, all things are possible!

Some Scripture passages that have encouraged me during this time are:

Psalm 3, “LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! Many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah. But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about…Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.”

 

Psalm 62, “Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved. How long will ye imagine mischief against a man? Ye shall be slain all of you: as a bowing wall shall ye be, and as a tottering fence. They only consult to cast him down from his excellency: they delight in lies: they bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly. Selah. My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us.         Selah. Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity. Trust not in                      oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your            heart upon them. God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power             belongeth unto God. Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work.”

Thank you to all those who have prayed for me and who have encouraged me. As Thanksgiving approaches, I know I have so much to be thankful for, especially the chance to go home and be with family. But as I sit here and write this knowing I’ll be home soon, I can’t help but think of the precious children and teenagers who are in unfamiliar and bad places, wanting to be back home here in the Children’s Home.

Believe me, there is so much more I could write, but this is what I can share for now. Please continue to PRAY for the children to be returned to the Children’s Home here, where they are loved and cared for so very much. Also, please pray for wisdom for the missionaries and staff here as well. If you are interested in learning more about what’s been happening or in giving financially to help this ministry, please send me an email at gracecoulton@yahoo.com or find me on Facebook and send me a message. Thank you so much and God bless! Happy Thanksgiving!

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“Jesus Opened the Door”

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts,” {Col. 3:15a}

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The above Scripture verse was such a wonderful reminder from God’s Word that my pastor preached yesterday on my last Sunday at home before I leave for Mexico. I know some people have been wondering if and when I am going, and I’m happy to say that Lord-willing, I’ll be arriving in Guadalajara, Mexico, this coming Wednesday night! This move has been a long time coming, but now that it’s almost here, the familiar worries and fears have started creeping their way into my head and heart. But my God is faithful and stronger, and I know that each time a worry starts to come, I need to stop and pray.

The past few months have been an absolute whirlwind! After finishing the school year the beginning of June, I was able to drive down and visit my brother one last time before he was to become a married man. It was fun to see more of beautiful Tennessee and to just have some brother/sister time that I truly needed. In the latter half of June, I had the opportunity to go back to my beloved Kampala, Uganda, to visit the Hudsons and my dear Ugandan friends and students. I know without a doubt that this trip was God-ordained. I was able to check on some people (specifically on a former student) who were very special to me, and the Lord allowed me to be able to find certain people and help out with certain situations. I was so overwhelmed with God’s goodness and His perfect timing. Uganda will always have a VERY special place in my heart, and I look forward to visiting there again in the future.

July proved to be another busy and exciting month as our church had VBS, and I had the opportunity to teach the 2nd grade boys’ class again this year. What a fun age! I just loved teaching them, and was once again so grateful that I could be a part of VBS at VFBT. On July 19th, I flew out west where I had the opportunity to go to six states (two I had never been to before),and visit and spend time with six college friends. What a special gift it was to see these ladies after so many years. It’s just amazing how the past seven years have flown since my time at WCBC.

The conclusion of my trip out west was definitely the special highlight and the most important reason why I had to go out west. My brother Ben married his sweetheart Annika overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean in southern California. The wedding was so beautiful, and we gained the perfect addition to our family. I’ve decided it’s wonderful to have a sister, and Annika has been such a sweet friend and encouragement to me. Family is such a gift.

 

After my trip out west, I came back to Pennsylvania, which is where I’ve been the majority of the past two months. Originally, I thought I would be going to Mexico in September, but because of the missionaries being in the States for their daughter’s wedding, and because of other scheduling things, I decided it would be best to wait until October before I head south of the border. And once again, God has reminded me again that His timing is perfect. I don’t think I realized how much I needed this time of spiritual refreshment and time with family and friends. Without going into much detail, I just want to say that I really needed this time to grow and just be here at home. From spending time with family in the beginning of September for Ben and Annika’s Pennsylvania wedding reception, to visiting friends in Ohio and close by, to spending time with my Dad while my mom was out of town, to helping out at the academy where I worked last year, to being here when my Grandma was in the hospital with double pneumonia…it’s been a full and busy time, but such a gift to simply be here. One of the highlights for me was being able to attend the first annual Triple S Ladies Retreat (Singles Serving the Saviour) held in Lancaster County, PA. I was at the Tri-State Bible Camp’s ladies retreat over a year ago when this idea was “born,” and what a wonderful privilege it was to attend and be under the teaching of Debi Pryde. I love meeting ladies who are joyfully and contentedly serving the Lord as singles, no matter what age they are or location they are at. There were so many rich truths from God’s Word that I soaked up while I was there, but one quote that really blessed my heart was this, “God will give you the grace you need today. And then tomorrow, He’ll give you a bucket load of grace for that day—each day at a time.”

 

As I conclude, I just want to mention where the title of this blog entry came from. I went with my dad a few weeks ago to visit a sweet widow in our church. As she was asking me about Mexico, and as I was explaining to her my desire to teach on the mission field at least one more time, even if just for a short time, she smiled and simply said, “Jesus opened the door.” That has resonated with me so often in recent weeks. Jesus opened the door for me to serve Him and encourage others in Guadalajara, Mexico, and it’s time for me to walk through that door. As He’s led me thus far, I know He’ll continue to in the days ahead, as I let the peace of God rule in my heart.

Prayer Requests:

{A special heartfelt “thank you” to those who pray for me!!!}

  1. For a safe and smooth trip down to Guadalajara on Wednesday, October 5th
  2. For me to adjust to the culture quickly (and the language as well)
  3. For wisdom as I start teaching the precious children at the Annabel de Vallejo Children’s Home and for me to be a blessing, encouragement, and help to the missionaries and Mexican people
  4. For the Murillo family and the ministries in Guadalajara
  5. For the Lord to continue to provide the finances and necessities for Mexico

Muchas gracias!!!

 

 

Me Gusta Mexico!

What do you do when you don’t know what to do? You do something!!! It’s easier to steer a moving car, a sailing ship, etc.” Let that sink in for a moment. When I heard my pastor say those words in his sermon yesterday entitled, “Let God Have Your Future,” I felt like those were being said right to me. A few months ago, I didn’t know what I was supposed to do next, but I knew that God wanted me to do something. Specifically, I knew that God wanted me to go back on the mission field. To be honest, ever since I stepped off the plane back on American soil in December 2014, I knew that I wasn’t done teaching on the mission field. I just didn’t know when or where God would send me next, whether that would be back to Uganda or somewhere else. Throughout the first few months of 2015, God made it clear to me that I needed to stay home in Pennsylvania for at least another year, and I started my job this past August as Drama Assistant at my home church and school, Valley Forge Baptist Academy. I have really enjoyed working back at the school I grew up in, and I have learned so much this year. I truly believe that this is where God wanted me this year. But no matter how nice it’s been to live back in America, especially back at home with my parents, I’ve known that this was just for a time.

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{VFBA’s Cast for our fall drama, Hidden: Esther of Susa}

To make a long story semi-short, towards the end of 2015, I started looking for opportunities to serve and teach on the mission field again, and I found out about Robert and Joy Murillo and their ministries in Guadalajara, Mexico, specifically the Annabel de Vallejo Children’s Home. After a couple months of prayer and communicating with them, I was able to take a short “survey trip” the last week of February and visit the Independent Baptist Church of Guadalajara and the Annabel de Vallejo Children’s Home. (For more information, see http://www.annabeldevallejohome.com)

I really loved touring the beautiful city of Guadalajara and getting to know the people there, especially the children. The Murillos were generous hosts and really helped me to have a wonderful, thorough visit during my short five days there. I had been praying that God would use this trip to show me clearly that this was where He did or did not want me next. Well, as Lamentations 3:51 says, “Mine eye affecteth mine heart…” On my fourth day there, I knew that this is where God was leading me next and I distinctly remember saying “yes” to Him, “yes” to coming to Mexico. Lord-willing, I’ll be moving to Guadalajara, Mexico, this coming September, after my brother’s wedding and Pennsylvania reception. I have committed to serve and teach there for at least one school year. The Mexican school year is similar to the American school year, except it starts a little later and goes longer into June with longer vacation times throughout. I’ll be helping with teaching English to the children (both young and old) in the school, and with helping the Murillo family in different ways. I hope I am able to share Christ’s love to the Mexican people, especially to the children in the children’s home, who have been through some incredibly hard times. I am thankful for this opportunity and door God has opened, and I know He’ll help me walk through it! I know there are still many things to figure out, but I know that if God wants me there, He’ll make a way and will lead me step by step.

In conclusion, there was something else my pastor said yesterday that I wrote down, and I’d like to share with you, friend. “Every day of your life is like a dollar—you can spend it any way you wish, but you can only spend it once.” We might not know what future plans God has for us, but we do have today. We need to make it count! A verse that God gave me that has been a huge encouragement to me through this decision-making process is Isaiah 41:13, “For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” Thank you to those who have prayed and encouraged me throughout the past year…you are a blessing and God is using you! I’d like to mention some prayer requests below for those who are interested…

Prayer Requests:

1) For wisdom in making continual decisions as I prepare for September

2) For me to become more familiar with the Spanish language (I’ve already bought Rosetta Stone, and I plan to work on it this summer.)

3) For the Murillo family and the ministries in Guadalajara

4) For the children in the Annabel de Vallejo Home

5) For the Lord to provide the finances and necessities needed for me to live and teach in Mexico

Muchas Gracias!!! And now…a little glimpse of Mexico…

 

 

 

 

 

“Jehovah-shalom”

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{Peace after the winter storm, Jonas}

 

Peace. Such a small, simple word with a profound impact. Just like love, people seek for peace in many ways and from many sources. Yet, as much as people want to have peace, it seems that it’s too far from their grasp to reach it. Whether it is wanting peace with God or wanting peace with others or even peace with oneself, it’s something that all humans do desire to have. Even when you ask people what they wish for, you’ll often hear an answer like “world peace.” But no matter how many times someone searches for peace or how many sources someone reaches out to for peace, true peace is found in God, the One True God. Why? Because that’s Who He is…the God of peace.

For the month of January, I wanted to study the attributes of God. I “googled” Bible studies of the attributes of God, and I found a calendar that is entitled “30 Days of Praying the Names and Attributes of God” on The Navigators’ website.* Each day has an attribute or name with a description and verses where it is found in God’s Word. Back on January 8th, the study was on “God is Jehovah-shalom” or “The God of peace.” God gives peace; God is peace. In Judges chapter 6, Gideon named the altar he built “Jehovah-shalom” after the angel of the Lord had come to see him and had said “Peace be unto thee.” God wants us to have peace, and He gives us peace when we seek Him. I have prayed countless times for God to give me peace if He wants me to do something, and I’ve also prayed for Him to not give me peace if He doesn’t want me to do something. Any decision, little or big, should be made after we have sought God’s will for it. On that same calendar from The Navigators is this quote to explain the wonderful thought that we serve a God Who is the God of peace. “We are meant to know the fullness of God’s perfect peace, or His ‘shalom.’ God’s peace surpasses understanding and sustains us even through difficult times. It is the product of fully being what we were created to be.” Wow! I just LOVE these sentences. The last one really jumped out to me the first time I read it. The peace of God “is the product of fully being what we were created to be.” If I’m living my life obeying God and doing what He wants me to do, then I will experience His peace. And if I’m not, then I won’t have that perfect peace. How do people have peace through the midst of some very enormous difficult trials, like a life-threatening illness or the sudden death of a loved one? The only answer is through God. God never leaves His children. Yes, evil does exist in our world, and because of that, bad things do happen, but God is still on the throne and He is still there for each and every one of us. He doesn’t force us to go to Him, but He willingly opens us with open arms! That just brings a huge smile to my face!

As I consider what the future holds for me in the coming months, I pray that God gives me peace (or doesn’t give me peace) about what He does or does not want me to do, where He wants me to go, etc. I’m very excited about the doors He’s opened up, and I am eager to see if those doors stay open and where exactly I go as I walk through them. Each day is a gift with many gifts included in each day. The past four days I’ve had many peaceful moments as I’ve been mostly house-bound because of the winter storm Jonas. I love these extra “rest times” that God gives; He knew someone (if not many of us) needed it! One verse that has helped me make important decisions in the past is John 14:27 where Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” See? Jesus gives us peace. We don’t need to worry or fret; after all, He is our Prince of Peace. There are so many more verses I could share about peace (after all, the word “peace” is mentioned 400 times in the Bible!), and there is so much more I could write about serving the “God of peace,” but I hope these thoughts encourage your heart today as they have mine the past few weeks.

In conclusion, I’d like to share another one of my favorite Bible verses. Isaiah 26:3 says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” I want that “perfect peace” everyday. I need to make sure my mind is on the Lord and not totally focused on others and myself. I just need to trust the Lord and keep looking unto Him. And I cannot finish this entry without saying this…Friend, if you don’t know Jehovah-shalom personally, then you won’t know the gift of His peace. To have a relationship with God, you need to believe on His Son Jesus Christ and believe that He paid your sin debt when He died on the cross two thousand years ago. He conquered the grave by rising from the dead three days later, and He’s alive today! You can know for 100% surety that you are on your way to heaven, if you choose to believe in Jesus Christ as your Saviour and ask Him to forgive you of your sins. That is the only way you will ever know true, everlasting, perfect peace. (John 3:16, Romans 6:23; 10:13, 1 John 5:13) If you’ve never made that decision to call on Jesus and you want to, please do so immediately, for we don’t know what tomorrow brings. And if you have any questions about this, please contact me. I would love to help answer them.

Thank you for reading. May you know the blessings of God’s perfect peace, from Jehovah-shalom.

 

 

*Here is the link to that calendar…

https://www.navigators.org/Tools/Discipleship%20Resources/Tools/30%20Days%20of%20Praying%20the%20Names%20and%20Attributes%20of%20God