Sunday, December 4, 2011

Patience... a virtue and weakness

"Time is a trainer, teaching you to wait upon Me, to trust Me in the dark." ~ Jesus Calling by: Sarah Young

It would seem that as a 7th grade teacher... patience would be one of my strengths. If you know me... you're aware that's not typically the case. Patience at work... yes! Patience with friends... a few! Patience with family... sometimes! Patience with life... typically never!

I'm finely attuned to my spiritual weaknesses... and patience with God is definitely one of them. It's interesting how I'm never upset with myself for being "late," but you can often find me questioning God when I believe He's late. I guess the key word(s) here are when "I" believe He's late. Let's be honest... if we're looking for the church answer here we all know He's never late... but haven't we all felt that way at one point or another? For the general population it's questions about careers, finances, housing, etc. For women it's questions about whether or not they'll ever meet "the one," settle down, etc. For men... well I can't speak for them and won't try ;)

So what is the solution to our spiritual impatience? We live in a culture that survives on the "me first," "take whatever you want" mind frame. Biblically, we are told not to be a part of this: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing, and perfect will." ~ Romans 12:2

Maybe the answer is being not of this world. Maybe the answer is to transform our "me first" attitude and remember there is a bigger picture out there... a plan that is bigger than anything we could ever imagine. After all... who wouldn't want "...immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine..." ~ Ephesians 3:20

It's easy to say and even easier to support with scripture... but I still struggle. If any of you have it figured out... let me know! ;)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Trip to Haiti = Lighter Load

The desktop screen on my laptop contains five pictures of Haiti... a daily/hourly/sometimes by the minute reminder of my experience in Haiti and how God has changed my life through the Haitian people. Four months ago... that's it! Only four months ago... I was in Haiti, embracing the culture, the people, the language... and even the food. If you know me... the food part is a pretty big accomplishment all on its own. I'm more of a tailgate food type of southern girl. Show me a burger and a football game and you'll see a big smile :) SO... needless to say Haiti was a large step out of my comfort zone.

Since having returned from Haiti: I still love a good burger, LOVE GEORGIA FOOTBALL, but I cancelled my cable, sold my elliptical, and am sitting on my sofa for the last week I'll own it. SOFA? As if that's a big deal... well, my friends, I taught summer school for a month a few years ago just so I would have the cash to buy it! She's kind of my baby; soft leather, and perfect for a nap after a good run. I'm going to miss her.

Coming back from Haiti made me re-evaluate what my priorities were. I think I've mentioned before that on the last morning of our trip one of my group members showed me their daily devotional: a few words on what we ask of God, and praying for only what God has planned to provide us, nothing more... only our daily bread. It really hit me at that moment: I'm so incredibly blessed... and so incredibly greedy. No I didn't need to sale all of my possessions, but there was definitely room for improvement when I returned.

Here I am, four months later, getting ready to move across town and I feel like packing isn't so much of a chore anymore. Each corner I turn I find something else I'm taking to Goodwill. What single woman needs two TVs?? HA... and a single woman who doesn't even have cable at that! Yeah... I've definitely held onto some things over the years, but I'm ready to let go and trust that our amazing Lord is going to provide me with everything I need in order to fulfill His plans for my life.

And as for Haiti... I just applied to go back again next June. Praying that God has planned for me to go back and visit the Bohoc community again in June of 2012! At least there I won't have to worry about not having cable ;)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Running the race... doesn't mean you always have to be the fastest...

The past few days have been very difficult. I'm missing Haiti more than ever before and I'm holding on, as tight as I can, to the emotions of being there, the people, their smiles, the smells, and the joy. It feels like it was so long ago, and yet... I was there only 38 days ago. At times I feel like I can remember my birthday party when I was 5 or 6: sitting on my grandpa's lap on the porch outside of our house, rocking back and forth in the black iron porch chairs (well... maybe not those exact chairs, but I remember chairs like that from growing up, so let's say it was those), as my very long, blonde/white hair swung in the breeze, and we celebrated mine and my cousin's birthday together. That was the year of the Mickey Mouse record player. My dad was out of town for work, so we video taped the festivities. The video consisted of footage from the party, as well as an instructional portion where my mom showed my dad how she had learned to tie a necktie for him when he returned... I feel like I can remember those memories more vividly than being in Haiti one month ago and it breaks my heart to already feel distance.

Last weekend I was back home in St. Simons talking to my mom. As we discussed my new hobby of taking up running she said "You're the kind of person who goes all in... you give it everything... what about your knees?" Well, beside the worrisome moments of my Mom and my knees... she's right... I'm registered for a half marathon on Thanksgiving day! Be afraid, people! Giving life everything I have is so engrained in me that I can't put a book on my bookshelf until I have finished reading the book. Books I have not read sit strategically placed on my dresser until they have been read and are ready for proper placement amongst the others I have completed.

Some say it's a character flaw... I call it a passion to always give life everything I have, but with that comes pure exhaustion and a blurred focus for other things in my life. Those of you that know me well enough know I went into teaching to "save the world" one underprivileged child at a time. I wanted to have an impact... but that was during the days my focus was not set on our Lord. I was focused on what I could do, not what the Lord was and could do through me. I became frustrated and even had plans to go into radio sales and leave teaching. Thank goodness for my Mommy convincing me to stick it out for one more year in a different school. It took some time, but I have opened up to allowing God to use me for these students! The ministry I've found in education is more than I could have ever prayed for!

The past year and a half has been a crazy whirlwind of dipping my feet in everything the Lord has to offer me... saying "no" has never been a big strength of mine. "Why say no when it feels so good to say yes?!" ~ Name that movie! ;) This has created a culture of go, go, go in my life and I often find myself overwhelmed, tired, and spread way too thin to accomplish what I feel God is leading me to do. I don't want to miss it... so I'm working on running at a slower pace...

Our life isn't a race... no matter what race we register for, and no matter how it might appear, God has a plan that comes complete with a timeline, expectations, road map, and people. God has designed each of our invidual lives to last for as long as they need to in order to accomplish what He placed us individually here to do. No more time, no less time, and the more we try to race through it, the better chance we have of missing it... missing the point... missing our purpose and our design (Small Group - our blueprint - love you, ladies!).

Before I left St. Simons to drive back to Atlanta last weekend, I woke up and decided to go take one last run through the island. St. Simons is a very flat island... so I was able to run farther than the mountains of Chastain Park typically allow me to. Running the 3 miles on the island felt like the equivalent to the Bulldawgs winning the National Championship... pure success!! If you haven't visited before I HIGHLY recommend it! More than ever before I have started to realize the beauty that God has placed on that island. I used to see it as the last place I lived with my parents for my senior year of high school, a place I would go home to visit, but not have any of the friends I grew up with (I went to four high schools), and a place where I often felt like I just wasn't a part of anything... since I only lived there for one year. By running, at a slower pace ;), I began to soak up God's beauty on the island and, for the first time ever, I began to understand the beauty He created there. 

God is trying to speak to us ALL the time, but we usually need to be still to listen... a speaker at Grace Midtown said a few weeks ago: God speaks to us in a whisper, because that's how He draws us closer to Him... and boy do I desire to be close to God! SO... this weekend I took a hiatus from technology, to clear my mind, spend time in prayer, remember Haiti, and create the time needed to reflect on my life, relationship with Christ, and read.

I took the time to slow down, because running the life race doesn't mean you have to be the fastest... it just means you need to know where you're going. Without being able to hear God's whisper... you're probably going to get lost...

Ephesians 5:15-17

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Videos from Haiti!

Hey, guys! Here's another way to have you experience Haiti with us... tons of videos for you to explore taken by myself and a few members of our team! Feel free to visit my YouTube Channel (SnmImmel) to watch the videos from our trip. These videos range from playing with kids, to Haiti lightning storms (with great commentary), to fun on planes, to interviews with some of our team members and Pastor Georges! Enjoy and let us know what you think ;)

How to access my YouTube Channel:
1) Go to http://www.youtube.com/ and search for SnmImmel

2) Click on one of the videos in the gadget to the left on this blog page, click on the title of the video. Once in YouTube, click on my name next to the top of the video.

OR

3) Click on this link :) haha... let's see how far down you read ;) http://www.youtube.com/user/SnmImmel

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thank you!

Family and Friends,

Beginning this letter is one of the most difficult tasks I’ve ever had to complete. I feel like I’m back in grad school beginning a 50 page research paper and after many days of collecting my thoughts I still don’t know what the first sentence should look like. Writing my blog was easier than writing this letter because it was in the moment. Now 4 days removed from the trip of a lifetime I’m finding it very difficult to put into words just what this trip has done for me and for the people of Haiti.

I’ve heard several times that people who go on mission trips feel they come back more changed than any change they could have done for the people they were working with. It’s so true! I am so blessed to have been given this opportunity by God to work with the people of Haiti and it’s such a humbling experience to realize just how much, these people who have very little, have given me. Their sense of pride in their country, pride in what they do have, and faith in our Lord is inspiring, especially coming from our culture where we often get lost in the day to day tasks and tangible goods we desire beyond what our Lord has provided for us.

During our trip we had 4 main tasks: painting dormitories at the Haitian American Friendship Foundation (HAFF), weighing malnourished children, construction on a local church, and loving and working with children in local orphanages and through the community. We started the first day of our trip off right with a visit and stay at an orphanage in Port au Prince. This orphanage is run by Americans who have made it their life mission to take care of the children in Haiti. Their story of being called by God is one of inspiration, trials, tears, and triumph. It’s so amazing to hear of people like us just going “All Out” for our Lord. That first night we sang many songs, “How Great is Our God” and “Mighty to Save” to name a few, with the children as videos of the song were projected on the side of a building in the playground yard. We then went on to watch “The Karate Kid.” I’ve never loved that movie more than I did that night. With adorable children, left without families, and many without limbs after the earthquake, sitting in our laps and yelling “Miyagi” all night… whose heart wouldn’t have overflowed with joy and love?!

From there we left Port au Prince the next morning and headed over the community of Bohoc. Located 90 miles outside of Port au Prince, the 8 hour bus ride proved to be quite the long, sickening, treacherous ride that none of us will ever forget. We have all agreed that we will never complain about the pot holes in Atlanta again! ;) There in Bohoc we worked on the four main tasks mentioned above and spent all of that time getting to know the Haitians in the community, listening to their stories, and learning to understand their hearts. If you’ve been keeping up with my blog then you’ve heard the names of Pastor George, McGlover, Pablo, and my sweet Rubin. If you haven’t, and would like to hear about them, please take a moment to see their stories and the events as I described them while in Haiti by reading the previous posts on this blog page.

The Haitians, and the Lord through them, have showed me what true love and faith in our Lord looks like. To live daily for our Lord, in everything that we do, and desire nothing more than what He affords us is my ultimate goal. I couldn’t imagine going through life any other way now. It’s amazing that a 14 year-old can teach me that, but hey… you learn something new everyday ;) They have forever changed my life and my relationship with Christ and I will be forever thankful for them.

I pray that all of our hearts will remember the lessons we learned from the Haitians; That each day we will wake up seeking the Lord in everything that we do; That when we face the most difficult struggles in our lives we look to the Lord for comfort and guidance; That we will always trust in the Lord; and that we will never seek out more than the Lord has offered us.

First, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.” ~ 1 Timothy 1:12

And… I sincerely thank you all for all of your support and prayers through this experience. It would not have been possible without you and you were as much of our team’s ministry in Haiti as we were! Please keep our team and the people of Haiti in your prayers, as they continue their work there and we become acclimated to the culture in the states again. I can honestly say it has been more difficult coming back than it was going in. Prayers for us to remain open to what next steps God has for us would be so helpful. Many of our team members are already planning their trips back; many are considering long-term missions as an option in their life; and well… I’m looking forward to either a December or next June return to Bohoc! Hopefully some of you might join me J

You are all angels in my life and I will remain forever thankful for each of you!

If you do not have facebook and/or have not had the opportunity to check out the pictures from the trip, please visit the following links to the public albums:
God bless,

Stephanie

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"I love you now... and I'll love you forever... no goodbye... only love..."

"The Perfect Storm" was a heart wrencher... full of drama, love, fear, and death. I once dated this guy and whenever he would fly out of Georgia to visit his Dad he would tell me, "no goodbye... only love..." Even at the ripe old age of 17 I felt like I understood it and I really felt like he meant it, but at the same time never imagined that he wouldn't come back home. He always did and everytime I took for granted his presence and took for granted just how much he loved me and took care of me... as much as a 17 year-old boy can take care of their girlfriend. I mean... I call driving to the mainland to get Zaxby's for me when I was sick... taking care of me! It was my favorite and he knew it.

Leaving Haiti felt much like the goodbye we had when he would leave. I love Haiti and I left a lot of my heart there when I left, but I knew when I left that I would see them again. I know I'm going to see McGlover, my lovely little lady (who, if I thought God made mistakes, I would swear she was supposed to be mine), Rubin, Pastor George and Pablo again. I just know it! But what I also know is that there is more I can do for them here in the states, at this time, than I would be able to do for them over there. You see, I believe God calls us all to do different things. Some people He calls to do long-term mission trips, others He calls for short-term trips, and for some He calls to use their resources to assist others in helping on the "battle grounds." Neither calling is less than the other... God has built us all differently.

After much turmoil, many tears, mass confusion, and spiritual rollercoasters since re-entering the states I can confidently say that I feel like God has called me to be in the middle... He didn't make me a middle child, so why not make me a "middle missionary?!" :) You know what I mean... short-term once or twice a year followed by some work in the states that can carry back over into Haiti to assist them with what they're doing over there. There are so many things they need help with that can't be accomplished while sitting in Haiti... they need so many resources from here and they need PRAYER. We can pray from anywhere... did you know that? Just tonight I heard about a small group friend who was praying in the shower ;) He really does hear us wherever we are!

So... as I continue processing through this and try to put my thoughts, emotions, and spirtual journey into a precise tale of "glory" I can, for right now, wrap up my trip in this: "I love you now... and I'll love you forever... no goodbye... only love..." for my dear Haiti.

More on the details as I continue grasping what God is teaching me in these moments... ;)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My heart belongs to Rubin

As a middle school teacher I have the honor of working with students from ages 11 - 14. Personally, I feel like teaching is a job that requires much more than educating children on math, reading, social studies, sciences, and English. Education is an area that encompasses all learning: social, moral, spiritual, and life skills. Let me start by saying that I absolutely love my job and I love my students, but I wish Rubin was also one of my students.

Rubin is 14 years old and lives in the community of Bohoc, which is a community that is located inside the city of Pignon in Haiti. Rubin speaks very good English for it being his second language and has a passion for life that can sometimes be hard to find. He would like to be a doctor one day and come to the United States for medical school. I asked him a lot of questions, more than many of the other kids. At first it was because I was just very excited to be able to speak English to him, but mostly because of this first answer: "Why have you decided to be a doctor and go to the United States for medical school?" "I pray to God and He knows all, so I do what He says I should do."

Now I'm no expert... but I'm pretty sure I haven't heard that from too many of the 14 year old children in America. I decided to do an interview with him and learn more, but the basics: He would like to be able to help the people in his country who lose limbs. It's a phenomenal story of a child who has grown up in a poverish area who prays for more for himself and his community. He is 14 years old and I am inspired by him, his love and faith in our Lord, and his pride for his community.

 Before we left the community gathering I met him at 2 days ago he told me he was going home to paint. I didn't think much of it except that this young man was not only very smart for 14, had a love for Christ, and a passion to help people, but that maybe he was also very talented. Last night we had the opportunity to go into a "gift shop" for the community that a few American missionaries have set up to run for them. People from the community create things to put in the shop and all of the money received goes back to them in the community. What did I find??? Nothing less than a beautiful painting of a flower... on the back of a record :)... signed by none other than the adorable Rubin. The lady in the shop told me that he had just brought it in that morning and it was the first thing he had ever decided to put in the store. I am now the proud owner of Rubin's record flower and couldn't imagine coming home with anything more meaningful.

I'm excited to keep in touch with Rubin over the years to learn more about what he is doing, and hopefully one day help him earn scholarships and apply for colleges in the states. It's the very least I can do to help him fulfill the calling he believes God has put in his life. Tremendous young man who has captured my heart... it doesn't hurt I have now heard he asks for me when I'm not around ;) It's official... I'm a Rubin fan!




Monday, June 13, 2011

A few pictures to wet your whistle ;)








No Comcast in Haiti??

It's funny how when we begin doing things in our life that make sense, that God has truly led us to do, we forget about the other aspects of our lives that tend to consume our interests and thoughts. Last night, after debriefing our day, somebody pointed out that we hadn't watched TV... if I'm being completely honest, I have NEVER gone one week without TV in my entire life... or at least not since I was in control of my regular TV consumption. To make the comment even more impacting... I hadn't even realized that TV had not been a part of my daily schedule the last three days. Shocker!!

God has really begun to put things into perspective for me here in Haiti. We wake up, get dressed, have quiet times, do devotionals, share community, eat breakfast, and are so totally focused on what we're here to do in Haiti that all of the "extras" we have in the states don't even come to mind. I mean... I didn't even pack make-up or jewelry! BIG step! For me, personally, this is such a blessing. I have a DVR and record, on average, 10 hours of shows a week. The question... when do I ever have time to watch all of it? Well... I tell you I do, because at the end of every week it's empty again waiting for the next week. It's a little disturbing when I really begin thinking about it... and most important... what could I have been doing with my time other than watching my recorded shows? What does God want me to do with that time? I assure you there is a lot I could be doing that would glorify God much more than watching TV.

It's a convicting realization, but just one more lesson God has taught me on this trip. I have found more peace, happiness, joy, sadness, and love in the last 5 days from the PEOPLE God has placed in my life than any TV show could ever give me. I think Comcast may be getting a phone call from me when we return ;)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Just like the movies...

Usually waking up at 3:30am would bother me, but yesterday was a different ballgame. Waking up at 3:30am felt like I was a child on Christmas morning. In our household we would wake up early... usually our parents were already awake because my Dad had a tradition of taking a shower before we could go down to see what Santa brought. After the shower, we would wait, not patiently, to go down the stairs, but we always had to wait for my Dad to get his video camera ready at the bottom. He needed to capture our reactions. Yesterday, I woke up early, and time was just like my Dad... keeping me from getting where I wanted to be. I got up, took a shower, made my bed, closed my bags and waited... not patiently... for my ride to take me to the airport.

I felt like Kate Hudson or Julia Roberts walking on to a movie set. It was as if I had prepared for years for my role, studying other people, rehearsing my lines, and diligently researching my role. Everything had come down to this moment, the moment when all of my hard work would be put to the test... I'd either be paid the larger reward or fired like Lindsey Lohan on a bad day.

The airport was fun... Atlanta airport is what it is and Miami is like one big circle with only one restaurant in the whole place that served lunch. For a group who woke up at 3:30am, 9am = lunch time! We had a 3 hour layover in Miami which turned into a 4 hour layover after we sat on the tarmac for an hour. The announcement made: "We are waiting on the rest of the crew." Well... at least we can thank American Airlines for not letting the flight attendants fly our plane! Finally we made it to Port au Prince!! We were greeted by the hot, humid air and a Haitian band playing what sounded like an introduction to Jamaica... needless to say I danced as I walked through :) From the gate we rode a bus to where immigration is located. This building looks more like an airplane hanger. In case anyone is interested... there is no picture taking in Haitian immigration! I got a pretty ugly look, so I smiled, waved my hand, and put my camera away. There were no signs... or at least none in English :(

From there we had our bags loaded on to a bus and headed to New Life Children's Home, the orphanage we are staying at until we leave for Bohoc. First, the people in Haiti drive worse than me... and that's saying A LOT, so I'm thankful we got here. There aren't many words that can express the scenes we saw driving in and I'm not sure pictures will do it justice, but please wait for the pictures to be posted. It's easier than putting it into words... but what I can do... is talk about these kids. Pablo... my little buddy... will have a place in my heart forever! We were here on the perfect night... we got to sing worship songs (How Great is our God and Mighty to Save) with the kids... IN ENGLISH!!!!... and they knew every word. After we sang we watched The Karate Kid... there's nothing like sitting outside, looking at the Haitian stars, and watching a Karate Kid screening on the side of an orphanage building. Pablo... a little shy guy sat on my lap with his backpack and clenched on to my heart forever. Pablo had a hold on that backpack, too. It took until about half way through the movie for him to remove the pack. By the end, he had put both of his tiny hands in mine and wrapped both of my arms around him. At the end of the movie I walked him to his room and watched him place his backpack under his pillow. Part of the pack remained hanging out, so I let him know it wasn't all the way in. He sweetly told me that he holds on to it while he sleeps. This adorable little boy has... a backpack, roof, food, water, and school in an orphanage. The word humbling doesn't do this experience justice... Definitely an experience I will never forget. I would say I have played a successful role for the first day.

Just like in the movies there is a writer, producer, director, actors, etc. Obviously our role here is actor... but God has been our writer, director, and producer... that is more than evident in everything we have done. We are blessed to be here and be a part of this mission and I can't wait to see what God has in store for us next. Off to breakfast and then hopping on a 5 hour bus ride to Bohoc, so... To be continued...

Pablo, me, Wisben, and Ryan

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Team blogger!!!

Hey, guys! If my rambling thoughts don't wet your Haiti trip whistle... check out my family's, I mean team's, blog: http://globalxhaiti.tumblr.com/ :) 63 hours!!!!!

Numbers...

512… the number of days since the 7.0 magnitude Earthquake hit Haiti
141… the number of days since I applied to go to Haiti
65….. the number of days since I met 22 individuals (most of whom I did not know)
18….. the number of days since I began calling them family
3….... the number of days before we leave for Haiti

Infinite… the many ways God, our supporters, and our Haiti family have already changed my life

Making the decision to simply apply for a trip to Haiti was difficult enough. I spent many days speaking with people I knew had attended missions, speaking with people from Haiti, and speaking with friends and family members about what I felt God had been calling me to do. After a lot of conversations and many prayers I finally decided to apply to go to Haiti.

There are many men who work on the custodial staff at the school I work at. They are Haitian, and during the earthquake of 2010 I was in direct contact with each of them as we worked to support them, love on them, and raise funds to send to Haiti in their names. Their accents are very heavy, but that hasn’t stopped us from communicating. There were times I would talk with them about their families in Haiti, those who survived, and for a few, those who did not survive. Since having been accepted on the Haiti trip, our conversations have now turned into their joy to share their country with me. One man even said, “I go with you!!!” He was so overjoyed that he just wanted to go with us, to be back in his home country, and to share how much he loves Haiti and his family with me.

God has blessed me with this amazing, yet scary opportunity, to leave my comfort zone, meet 22 of the most amazing people I have ever met, and work with them for Him and His people. Through meeting these amazing people, raising funds, witnessing to people as they ask about the trip, and becoming a part of my mission family I have become so humbled and stand in complete awe at just how amazing our God is. Pray big, people! God answers! Our Haiti family is solid proof of that!

In 3 short days we leave to go to Haiti. Some are excited, some are scared, some are nervous, some are packed, some won’t pack until Friday morning… and some of us are feeling all of the above. What do we all have in common right now? We all are going into this knowing that we are loved. We are loved by God, by each other, and by the huge showing of support we have all received in preparing for this trip. Please continue to pray for each of us as we finish preparing for our departure. Please pray that we will remain focused on what God has called us to do during these last days. We are excited, humbled, and can’t wait to share this experience with all of you! 3... 2... 1...


God bless,
Stephanie

"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20

Monday, June 6, 2011

Here's to my family!

Family - (noun) a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not. http://dictionary.reference.com/

Family is an interesting word. I just got home, to my apartment in Atlanta, from our last team meeting before we leave for Haiti on Friday... and all I seem to be able to think about today is this word, family. My entire family: brothers, sisters, step-siblings (which I clearly include as my biological siblings since I refer to myself as being one of 6 children!), parents, step-parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents (though now all deceased I feel even more inclined to make them proud), my FRIENDS... yes... you're my family, too... the families in Haiti, the families of the Haitian custodial staff at the school I work at, etc.

Aren't we all family?! The definition above says it all... parents, children, group, whether living together or not. I don't know about you, but that's God, our Heavenly Father, and every single one of us here on Earth. That's a family! I'm already emotionally dumbfounded at the idea of how OUR family and OUR God, have come together to put together this amazing team, equip us with the words, resources, love, grace, etc. that we need to get to an area that needs so much help... an area where God will work through us to help out our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I'm scared I'm not ready. I'm scared I won't have the ability to be all they need. I'm scared to just leave the country for the first time. BUT... I'm sane, willing, and able because I KNOW I have a family and a Father who will be with me every step of the way. Tonight I'm not praying for God to be with me... why? He's already with me! I'm praying for our family... that we will allow ourselves to be all He intends us to be. That we will see Him at the end of our rope, knowing that everything we do is for Him and our family members. He is enough... Lord, please give us all the strength, wisdom, and courage to follow You through this journey. We know You're leading us and we want to follow... we need to follow You!

"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." ~ Romans 15:5-6

Friday, June 3, 2011

One week away!!

I can't believe we're only one week away. It was almost a year ago that I began having conversations with my friend Mike about going on a mission trip. I was feeling the gentle shoulder shoves from God to get out of the south (which I've never left) and work with others in need, in His name. Mike was a huge support system and someone I knew I could speak to about this topic, especially since he had already been on several trips to Cambodia. He advised me to pray, so I did... I prayed for some time about what trip God really wanted me to be on. After praying and many conversations with people, including the Haitian natives that work on my school's staff, Haiti seemed like the clear "winner"... if you consider me entering your country to be a "win!" I might think twice about that if I were you...

Now... a year later my palms are sweating thinking about even flying down to Miami, let alone a country that struggles to obtain clean water; I just took a pill that has a little Tyhpoid Fever guy in it... so now he's inhabited my body; and I'm having nightmares that I've left my passport and below the knees pants at home when I arrive to the airport! How am I supposed to do work in the field if my shorts are above my knees... this isn't acceptable! So I woke up this morning and did what any sane person would do... I began packing... one week in advance. Some might claim I need therapy, my friends might laugh at me, my Mom would tell me to write out my list. Well... the list is made, I have a bag sitting next to my door with band aids, a hat, pens, trash bags, neosporin, etc. It's a far cry from being completely packed, but even just a little start makes me feel better. Ahhhhh... but I didn't even include my passport... after all that! See... writing it out certainly does help! I guess I need to go put it in there before I forget... AGAIN!

Here's to still praying for...
  • our team's safety.
  • the Haitian people we will work with.
  • that God will work through each one of us for them.
  • that we will all remain open to what God wants to show us and teach us through this experience.
and...
  • for my precious sanity ;)

And to Mike... my dear friend who allowed the Lord to speak through him, thank you for your long lasting encouragement, grace, and support. I'm blessed to know you and your amazing heart for our Lord!


Love you all!

Steph

Monday, May 23, 2011

Update #4 :)

May 23, 2011

Hello, everyone!! I am writing to you on the heels of what proved to be an absolutely phenomenal weekend with our Haiti team. This weekend our team got together for a retreat at Lake Lanier to spend time together building team unity, learning more about where we all come from, and learning how God may want to utilize each of our different talents to work with the people of Haiti. Our team originally came together as a group of singles from the Buckhead Church community that serve within different environments as leaders. Many would say that it might be difficult to put 23 leaders together in one group and ask them to work together, but as a team: we jumped over ropes, body surfed over ropes, sat on shoulders to turn carpets over, and worked our way through human knots. I mean… if we can get 23 people over a rope (without touching it… well… more than 3 times) that stands almost taller than myself (I say that like the height is impressive)… we can widen roads and dig trenches in Haiti ;)

Our team includes: teachers of all levels, engineers, many from the business world, consultants, contractors, Canadians ;), Midwesterners, Northerners, Southerners, some who live off of coffee, and others who wake up best after a “3 – 4 mile run.” Some of our team members come from the foundation of a Christian home and many do not. The one thing we all have in common: a desire to spread the Gospel and extend the reality that Christ is our Lord and through Him we can accomplish anything!

I am humbled that God has put me with such an outstanding group of adults! It is through Him, and your continued support, that I have been afforded the opportunity to get to know these people so that we may continue our work in furthering the Kingdom of God. I will never be able to express the depth of my gratitude to each of you for your prayers and financial support. You are a part of this journey, just as much as I am, and I’m so excited to continue sharing the experience with you. I’ll be in touch!

18 days…

Stephanie


“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united in Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” ~ Philippians 2:2

Monday, May 9, 2011

Update #3 :)

May 9, 2011

Hello again! I hope this letter finds you well! Recently, God has blessed me with so many opportunities to see the light in each of the amazing friends and family members He has strategically placed in my life. We are all so blessed to have a God who loves us enough to make sure that we are loved for, encouraged, and supported through what can often be a very difficult world.

The preparations for our trip to Haiti are moving right along. We have discussed our team work efforts, what we are packing (including the importance of packing beef jerky J), and where our fundraising efforts are. As a team we need to raise ~$45,000 dollars by next Monday, May 16, for our trip. As of Friday morning we were at $28,300. Thanks to many of you, my personal support of $1,900 has already been met, but any monies raised over that amount can go toward helping the rest of my team raise their support. If you still feel led to give, you may do so through my fundraising site to help the rest of my team get to Haiti: http://my410bridge.org/simmel.

Thank you all so much for your amazing support, both financially and through prayer. I can’t even begin to express my gratitude. This has already been an amazingly humbling experience and I’m so excited to see what else God has in store for all of us and the people of Haiti. It is with you, and through Him, that we go to Haiti in the hopes of spreading the name of Jesus Christ.

Thank you for all you do and your amazing hearts!

Stephanie


“In that day you will say, ‘Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done, and proclaim that His name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for He has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world.”~ Isaiah 12:4-5

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Update #2 :)

April 19, 2011

Hello, family and friends! Let me just start by saying, “WOW!” Our God is amazing… but we knew that already ;) The past few months have been pretty long. For those of you that keep in touch with me personally and closely you know, or have heard, about my student’s passing this past February. While we all know that the passing of loved ones is a part of life and something we will all go through, there is something about losing a child that forces you to trust in God and His plans. There is nothing natural about it. The rollercoaster of this healing process continues each day that I wake up; however, this trip and the Lord, through all of you, have shown me more than I could have ever imagined in such a short period of time.

I have had absolutely no choice but to trust in the Lord and that His plans and timing are perfect. I am only human… which means I’m not perfect… in fact… I’m a pretty broken individual. Without my trust in the Lord I am nothing, so while this has turned into a very difficult season in my life, for the first difficult season ever I am absolutely positive that: I am so blessed! I am blessed to have faith and trust in a loving, forgiving Lord; I am blessed to have been afforded the opportunity to even know the heart and smile of my dear student who passed; I am blessed to have the opportunity each day to work with kids; I am blessed to have the family I have… though we aren’t perfect… there’s a lot of heart in all of us; and I am blessed to have ALL of you! You have each played an impactful role in my life, whether obvious or not, and for that I will be forever grateful for you.

As of today my personal fundraising goal has been met and I have felt all of your love and prayers everyday. THANK YOU, thank you, thank you to everyone who has not only donated their resources, but their prayer time for our team. I will never be able to express just how thankful I am for your generosity and kind hearts. Our team has spent time getting to know one another through sharing testimonies, dinners, and “speed dating,” and we can’t wait to go on our retreat and continue getting to know one another. God has really chosen a phenomenal group of individuals to serve Him and the people in Haiti. As a team we work to continue raising funds, so even though my personal goal has been met, if you still feel led to give, please do, as the funds over my goal will go towards other team members’ goals so they will also have the opportunity to work with us. If you still feel led to give you can visit my fundraising page at: http://my410bridge.org/simmel .

Thank you all again so much for your love and prayers. Please continue to pray for myself, our team, and the people of Haiti as we continue working together to prepare for our trip. I’m so excited to see what the Lord has in store next J



Love you all and I’ll be in touch!

Stephanie

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Update #1 :)

April 3, 2011

Hey, everyone!! Last night was an incredible night! We had our first Haiti team meeting and spent a little time getting to know one another, discussing the purpose of our trip, and filling out some fun paperwork J At the end of the meeting I was talking to a friend and we were both in agreement… we were walking away from that meeting so excited about what’s to come that we weren’t sure how we were going to fall asleep last night! Sadly for him he had to work this morning and I’m on spring break ;)

Before the meeting last night, there were many emotions dwelling inside of me regarding this trip. There was a bit of anxiety, apprehension, excitement, and definitely a little bit of fear. After last night I’m so excited to get out there and be the hands of feet of Christ that the rest of it seems to have taken a back seat. We will be leaving Atlanta around 6am on Friday, June 10th to fly to Miami. From there we will fly to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. At this time we are unsure of whether we will be leaving immediately to go to the community we will be working in, or whether we will be leaving the next morning. As well, the community assignment at this time, as well as many other details, could change as we get closer to our trip. It’s the purpose of our mission to ensure we are working in the areas of greatest need. Fortunately, we have teams out in Haiti right now and another team going in May. Our final mission will depend on the work they have completed.

For now, we will be working in a community about 5 hours outside of Port-au-Prince called Bohoc. This is a community that has a population of about 5,500 – 6,500 people. The community is made up of farmers and craftsman who work very hard for the little they have. Their leadership council is made up of 10-12 Christian leaders who live in the community and their main focus is building up a community that will allow their children to grow up educated with opportunities for work with good pay within their community. Currently their children are leaving the community for work in Port-au-Prince only to find themselves not succeeding. Finding clean water is a challenge in this community, and the education system is broken with little to no access of education for the children. I am overwhelmed by the perfection of the placement God has chosen to allow me to work in… a community that strives to provide good education and jobs for their children?! Thank you, God… this is what my daily life is already focused on! It’s so amazing to me how He uses our gifts even in other countries around the world!

Our team mission there is simple, to continue growing and fostering relationships within the community. Right now it looks like we will be digging and expanding roads and digging latrines, though we have been strongly encouraged that if an opportunity arises to connect with the Haitians, our tools become the words and ministry God has instilled in us, not those we are using to dig.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to all of you for the support, kindness, and strong faith you have already shown me on this journey. The prayers and financial support you have already shared with me is beyond anything I could have ever expected. Please continue to pray for our team as we prepare to work with the people of Haiti. Prayers for our safety, our team leads, that God will open our hearts to the work we have in Haiti, and that our focus will remain on Him. We are still in need of both prayer and financial support. If you still feel led to give, please visit my donation page at: http://my410bridge.org/simmel. More instructions are included on this page.

I am already humbled by this experience and can’t wait to see what more God has in store. I am carrying each one of you with me on this trip and can’t wait to share more information and stories as they come!

Love you all!

Stephanie

“Each one should use whatever gift he has been given to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” ~ 1 Peter 4:10