Friday, June 22, 2012

LFR... Giving you and those you serve my heart!

Being a short term missionary has it's ups and downs. We all know the enemy attacks whenever we are on the brink of doing something amazing for the kingdom. It comes with the territory. So while experiencing missions can be very fulfilling, it can also be very draining. But THIS... this experience is like nothing I've ever experienced. I am humbled and in awe of the amazing works of our God.

Instead of going back to Haiti... like last year, or going to Kenya... as was originally planned... I followed what I felt was the Holy Spirit guiding me on this journey that would lead me to Lighthouse Family Retreat in Florida this summer. Equipped with His love, comfort, and the support of so many of my family and friends, I embarked on an adventure of co-leading 21 rising 8th graders and 20 of their parents on a trip that would change each of us forever. We spent months preparing this young group to do laundry, love on children who are/were on treatment for cancer, show support and enthusiasm for those in the family who are well, and to show the love of our Heavenly Father in ways that only He could do through us. And boy did they represent our Lord! I am so incredibly blessed to have been able to witness the workings of these 21 students. I didn't hear a single one complain! They did laundry, cleaned up after other people, filled drinks before family members had a chance to ask for more, and some of them even carried around children who were weak and tired throughout the entire day (Susannah... you're my rock star!) I am incredibly encouraged by this group of young students... who will one day change the world. They can do it! I know they can! I've seen them change the lives of 15 families already! It just goes to show you that if you put a little faith in our younger generations... they will take charge and make waves in a messed up world.

The week was full of fun, laughter, talent shows, ice cream parties, movies on the lawn, and yes... even questions and tears. It's hard to be in a situation with children who have been diagnosed with cancer, and not have questions. One of the children in treatment told one of my students they aren't afraid to die. Of course this brought up questions for my student, who thankfully opened up to our small group and began to discuss this. It's a hard concept for any human to understand... not being afraid to die... but the faith and love for our Lord and Savior answers and brings peace to the idea, because for that child... and for each one of us... when that day comes... we get to BE WITH our Savior! That's nothing to be afraid of my friends! A parent on the retreat even told me: "I can't wake up every day wondering if my precious son is going to relapse. I have to have faith in God." Another parent told someone on our trip: "I believe God gave up His son, so I wouldn't have to give up mine."

The lessons I have learned, and will continue to learn, from the people on this trip are more than I could have prayed for. Missions are funny in that way... you leave to serve others and always find you feel they are serving you more than you could ever give to them. Thank you to Lighthouse for reassuring us that "He doesn't call the qualified... He qualifies the called."

It's interesting... I don't shed tears or get a little sad now for their situations or for fear God doesn't have planned to heal each child with cancer. Reality tells us He doesn't plan to heal each child while they are on this Earth, but when they meet Him... they will be healed... AND He has a perfect plan for each one of us. However, I do shed tears because I miss them... Each person I spent that amazing week with. I do shed tears of joy for having experienced a perfect week and for thankfulness for the amazing people God allowed me to meet.

God has been working! I mean... we know He always is... but it's really amazing when we get to see it play out.

Here are some photos from Retreat 3 - Gulf Place, FL: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10101436452185150.3112923.4903588&type=3&l=4323ef40b4 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lighthouse... Here We Come!!!

It's no secret to all of us that God loves His children. In fact, He loves each and every one of us more than we could dream of being loved and in ways that we haven't even thought of loving someone. We need His love... and we need to be people that want to show His love, as best we can, to everyone around us. That's what we're called to do. We're called to love. We're called to love the weak, the sick, the poor, the rich, the healthy, the strong, the old, and the young. We're simply called to love.

Within that calling it is said in 1 Peter 4:10 that the Lord has equipped us all with special gifts that we are to use to show the world his love and grace. With those gifts, God urges us on different paths in life to make sure we are making the most of the gifts He has given us. Thankfully... He gifted me with the ability to relationally relate with His children... and to love seeing them smile :)

In three days I will be on a bus headed to Gulf Place, Florida to serve as a co-leader on a team that will be serving families who have children living with childhood cancers. What's in Gulf Place, FL for these families?? An organization called Lighthouse Family Retreat! LFR is an organization that works to provide a week away from the challenges these families face in a fun in the sun type of way. Families who have children living with cancer are able to apply for a free trip (minus the cost of transportation) to this retreat. They hold many retreats each year at different places up and down 30A. I am incredibly humbled and blessed to be able to go this year and to be able to serve the families that will be there.

The particular retreat that I'm attending is a little different than others... in fact... half of the team going with us to volunteer is middle school students! The other half? Their parents! haha If you know me, know my job, and know my heart... you're thinking to yourself... "she just can't get away!" The student/parent teams going with us are going to be serving meals, doing laundry, making beds, and cleaning condos all week. Yes... middle schoolers doing laundry... I'm excited to see this in action ;) One of my students has even been practicing his laundry skills so that he's ready! That's dedication!!

I am so thankful that I get to be on the frontline to witness the life changing experiences that are going to happen, not only for the families that we will be serving, but also for the volunteers on my team. They, nor I, have any clue just how amazing this week is going to be. God is going to show up in a huge way... I just pray that we're ready!

Below is a list of prayer requests I sent to my team this morning. If you could partner with us as our prayer warriors we would absolutely love it. I have felt the prayers and love of my supporters up to this point and am so thankful for each of you and what you have given in love and financially to support our team! You are a HUGE part of what is going to happen next week... so thank you thank you thank you!!! Also, below the prayer requests, is the Lighthouse Family Retreat blog. Please feel free to check back here next week for updates and on that blog, as well! I love you all and thank you again for all of the support you have shown!

Prayer requests:
- We want to pray for, not only our safety in travel, but for the safety of the families that are traveling to Lighthouse, the crew members, and staff members.
- We want to pray for the health of all of the children: that their doctors will provide them clearance to make it down to the retreat and that they will remain well to participate and enjoy a stress free week of fun in the sun!
- We want to pray for our own provision and peace as we pack, pick up last minute items, and make our way to the busses Sunday morning... (You're supposed to be on this trip! God chose you specifically! Nothing is going to get in the way of that... don't let any lies reroute your motivation or your thoughts. Remember... God only provides truth and goodness... any lies you hear are not the Lord... but the enemy distracting you from your purpose.)
- We want to pray: That the Lord will open our hearts and minds to what He has planned to show us, teach us, and how He has planned to use us for the families we will serve. Each person on this team comes equipped with talents and gifts that God has given us... let's use those to extend His grace and love to the families we will serve.
- We want to pray that the Lord will humble us. To use us so that the families will see Him in us first. (1 Peter 4:10 says, "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." - I'm humbled to be a part of a team that knows this to be true and is following God's call to serve in this way!)
- We want to pray that during the difficult times... when we're tired, hungry, and sunburned that we find our strength in the Lord... only He can make this week successful!

Lighthouse Family Retreat blog: http://lighthousefamilyretreat.blogspot.com/

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thank you!!

Dear friends and family,

I can't thank you enough for the amazing support and love you have shown me over the previous months. I continue to feel your love and prayers as our team prepares for this amazing journey. Tomorrow night we will be having our last leadership team meeting and then next Sunday we are off to Florida. It has been a long road of preparation, but I am so confident in my team of middle school students and their parents. They are going to do amazing things for the families we are going to serve while at Lighthouse Family Retreat. A few of my students have even started learning how to do laundry at home in preparation for the week of laundry, making beds, writing sweet notes, and playing with the wonderful families of LFR.

God has provided in such a huge way through relationships and financially. Our team is definitely blessed by our amazing Lord... we are in great hands. Please continue to pray for the students traveling on my team and for their parents. Many have expressed feelings of anxiety and concern. Please pray for their discernment, peace, and for our safe travels. I don't think you can ever fully prepare a person for the relationships they are about to build with a family who is living through one of life's most difficult struggles, so please pray for all of our hearts, as well... that during our weakest moments, the Lord will lift us up and be glorified through our love for the families we are serving. Thank you all again so much for your love and support!

I'll be updating my blog during the week while I'm down in Florida. Please feel free to follow the journey as I go :)

http://stephimmel.blogspot.com/

Love you all!

~Steph