Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Off for a week!

I am off for a week in Missouri with 12 of our Apache teens. I won't be able to update until I get back but I am sure I will have much to tell when I do. Please be in prayer for us as leaders and for our kids. Pray that the Holy Spirit would open their ears to hear and their eyes to see His glory and His love for them. I am so excited to be a part of the Warrior Leadership Summit and I can't wait to report back!

Until then! 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Worship in a dry and weary land

Last night I was exhausted (as seems to be the trend here). In all senses of the word I was burnt out. Physically, mentally, and emotionally I was spent. It was just the end of week 1 but I was already feeling the effects of living in a place of such suffering and spiritual warfare. It was in the midst of my half-closed eyelids that the Maryland team here decided to do some worship music together. To be honest, I did not want to go. I may have actually groaned out loud and dragged my feet obnoxiously because come on! I wanted to sleep not sing!

But at that moment the music started and I realized how much my soul had been thirsting for this. The words of these well-known songs meant so much more than they ever had before. The words were my prayers and they held such significance as I begged for these truths to be fulfilled in this place. As my body thirsts for more water than I have ever had to drink in my life in this Arizona sun so my soul was thirsting for the everlasting water, to worship my Creator. I needed to praise God, to feel His arms around me. I started to feel unburdened and less tired and I realized that worship is more necessary when we are tired and spent. We have to worship in the midst of all this or we will not survive. We must praise when we are exhausted for He is the one who will hold us up. As water keeps me alive physically so will worship keep me alive spiritually. In this dry and desert land God must be praised. For though this place is dry it is lost, for as God brings rain to the desert so will He bring life to my soul and to this place.

My heart will cry no other name, Jesus, Jesus. 


Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Power of Prayer

Its been the calm before the storm here at AYM. Today I got to sleep in until 8am which for me is definitely not sleeping in but I take what I can get. We have been preparing for the Maryland team that just arrived and getting ready to go to WLS next week. I will be one of two girl leaders taking about 12 students to a conference in Missouri that is specifically for young Native Americans. I could not be more excited. Though I have only been here for 6 days it seems as if I have been here all year. My heart is burdened as always but I am learning to trust completely in God and His promises as I interact with the Apache people and students. I thought I would present a few prayer requests so that you all can be connected through prayer to my work here. So here are two that are on my heart:

1. Pray for the students. Pray that God would protect them and lead them in the right direction. Pray that they would not give into temptation but instead choose to follow Him, however hard that may be.

2. Pray for God to raise up Christian Apache leaders. I truly believe that widespread change will not occur until the white leaders have handed over ministries and churches to Apache leadership. In order to do this though, God must first raise up these leaders. In addition pray for Christian leaders to take positions in the Native Tribal Government. Many of the problems here are exentuated by bad leadership there.

I look forward to updating you all throughout this week. Hopefully there will be beautiful stories of God's grace to share as I spend a week at the conference with the students. Thank you for your prayers and thoughts and I apologize for typos or bad spelling. This computer is rickity! Love to you all!  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Bittersweet Mixture of Joy and Pain

Where do I even begin? There is so much to say. So much to tell. Do I start with the details of my day? Or with the cry of my heart? I think I'll just start and see where we end.

I have been here three days and I feel like I have been here forever (in a good way). I spend a lot of time with the short term mission teams here and today we picked up trash at the school grounds and then did a VBS in the afternoon. The days are exhausting but wonderful. It is such a blessing to see people serving God and loving on kids. Tonight we ate Apache burgers (fry bread is SO good) and then I got to meet a bunch of the Apache students as they came to hang out at the Kennel (the youth center) after their youth group. I was a crazy extroverted (white) nut dancing around and being silly, but I think it broke some barriers with the kids and I am looking forward to getting to be around them a little bit more. It is definitely hot here and I have to drink sooooo much water but every minute is absolutely worth it.

But let's get serious. You drive into the rez and at first you don't see it, the pain that is. The beauty of nature surrounding this broken place seems to overshadow it for a moment. But then you look into the eyes of these students. You see the barriers they have built up, thick walls to guard themselves from any more pain. You see the marks on their arms and you see them looking for love in all the wrong ways. You hear the snippets of stories. Her parents just left her at the neighbor's house one day and never came back. She lives with cousins, aunts, uncles. You see their homes. For these kids rape, drug abuse, alcohol, and sexual abuse are just normal everyday things. In one year at the high school there were 300 cases of drug or alcohol abuse. There are only 500 kids at the school. But you can't just sit back and judge or blame. These kids have faced pain like we have never imagined. They have been hurt in ways you cannot dream of. They are stuck in generational poverty and the only one that can save them is Jesus Christ.

So yes, my heart is a little overwhelmed. It is so hard to sit back knowing that these kids are having to deal with these things and not being able to fix it. So I have no choice but to trust. I have to trust that our God is sovereign and that He will bring reconciliation, justice, and peace to this place. I have to trust that He will use me in some way, no matter how small. I have to pray harder than I have prayed in a long time. Because this is the reservation, and I may have a lot of school knowledge, but now I have to figure out how to make it work out here. I cannot fix the rez, I know that, but I can be faithful to be God's servant here.

And that is where we will end. After a long day I will go to bed with a mixture of joy and sadness in my heart. For this place is broken and full of pain, but my God has overcome it all. He has already won the battle and He is victorious. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pick-up trucks and long long days

The stars! Oh my goodness the stars! It is as if I can see the whole milky way out here and I just stare and stare! What an amazing reminder of how amazing our God is!

Tonight it is late and I have had another long but good day. I worked with the visiting church pulling weeds at the elementary school and then doing another VBS. Tonight we picked up the other intern and we are pooped! But I will leave you with one picture of my day:

I am in the bed of a '89 pick up truck sitting with about 12 Apache kids and one adult/sister flying (safely) down the road as we go to drop them off at their houses after VBS. Can you picture it? Pretty cool, right?

This is the life, I am telling ya! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rez Day 1

I am exhausted. What a long day it has been. I drove all morning through the wild wild west and arrived on the reservation about noon. I jumped right in, met the short-term mission group that is currently here, and headed to VBS. The kids were adorable although a little chaotic! Then it was an afternoon of hanging out with a few of the girls from the youth center, eating dinner, learning about the rez from the girls, and watching (NOT playing!) basketball. Basketball is a huge thing here so I have to figure out some tactics to get out of it. The kids don't believe me when I tell them how bad I am.

At any rate, tomorrow it all starts again. Some things on the list of what to do while on the rez are: eat a pickle covered in kool-aid powder (?), eat or make fry bread, attend a rodeo, and ride in the back of a pick-up truck. That last one was already accomplished today. I felt quite the rez-girl riding in the back of the truck with the kids, although I am sure those driving by did not mistake this white-girl for Apache.

The girls also taught me a few Native American words today that I can't remember but when I ask again I will share them with you. They taught me how to know if someone is talking about me and how to tell them to stop gossiping.

This is going to be fun :) 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Arizona: Where everything melts.

Oh Arizona. What an impression you have made on me. First, you have shown me the true meaning of hot. When the weatherman says a "cool front" is coming in on Wednesday so we will have a low of 107 degrees, I know that I have officially reached a whole new level of sweat. Then you have shown me a new type of storm. Apparently out here storms aren't made of water and thunder, but dust. Yes I was confused when they said a storm was coming and they were watering their plants, but just five minutes later I thought I was back in that book my fourth grade teacher read to us about the Dust Bowl. I never knew that air could be so, well, dusty.

But these few days in Arizona have been fun spending time with an old friend and learning not to say, "Wow it is so HOT" every time I walk out the door. Tomorrow morning bright and early I will leave for the reservation. I will have a four hour drive and I need a lot of prayer for traveling mercies as the heat can do crazy things to one's car (I am so glad I stole the sunshade from my dad a few years back!). Then I will hit the ground running and the next thing you know I will be updating with news from the rez.

Adventures, adventures. Its what I asked for and here it is. Prayer warriors....unite! 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Open Roads and a Fierce Sense of Independence

And she is off!

I have officially become an independent, solo road-trip-taking kind of girl. I must say I feel very accomplished. My summer adventure has started and this morning I set out for Arizona. I have to tell you that I was not quite as confident when I left my apartment as I am now. I got quite shaky as I finished packing and I had to sit down and stop freaking out. Thankfully I have a blissfully nice roommate who talked some sense into me, prayed for me, and sent me on my way. 20 minutes in and I was loving it. I was cruising down the open roads, alternating between a riveting audio book and some sweet tunes. The roads had beckoned me and there I was, just me and the hills. As I drove through wind farms and endless desert I thought ah, this is the life. After 200 miles of desert I did get a little bored, but I was still pleased with my journey. My favorite sighting of the drive was a sign that said "State Prison next exit" with a sign under it that read "Do not pick up hitchhikers." haha, thanks for the warning!

So I made it to Mesa! With a kindly packed snack bag and the resolve of a women bent on adventures I made it to Mesa without any problems. I now have two days here with my dear friend Cassie and then on Tuesday morning I will head to the reservation. I won't have any cellphone service once I get to the reservation so I will be relying on email, Facebook, and my sweet blog to communicate with everyone. Once I get permission I will post my mailing address at the rez too so that we can all enjoy the sweet rewards of snail mail if we so choose.

Keep me in your prayers as I prepare for being at the reservation. I know God has big plans for this summer and I cannot wait to see them unfold. Until next time! 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Home again.

And just like that I am home again, to the big city home that is. Being in Georgia was a wonderful time of connecting with dear friends, spending time with family and people that I love, and getting to enjoy some unexpected adventures. I left exhausted but so happy and so blessed. One of the most exciting things was arriving back in Pasadena late last night. As I drove up to the apartment with my friends here I felt like I was where I was supposed to be. I was elated to feel such joy at being back in Pasadena, as the last year has been full of the ups and downs of any transition. As I reunited with friends here I felt the same happiness and excitement as when I met my friends in Georgia and that meant so much to me. I have finally settled here in Pasadena and I feel like a smile has been plastered on my face all day long!

So I realized that I have added one more home to my list. One more place where there is love and joy, where adventures abound and reuniting is sweet. On Saturday I head to the reservation. I am not unpacked from Georgia and I am not packed for Arizona. I have a lot to do but I know it all will get done. And who knows, I might be adding another place to call home to my list. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Home.

I'm back in the ATL! It is a whirlwind of a trip that started off with a cramped and cold midnight flight (no one told me to not dress cute but to dress warm and comfy) and 40 hours without sleep but I am so happy to be here. Though most of my friends from college are out of town I feel very loved to have friends back in Pasadena to wish me well and friends and family here to embrace me. Tonight I am heading to a Braves game and I am SO excited. Tomorrow will be full of farmer's markets, free time, and good food. Not to mention tooling around in the golf cart my family just bought...I put the peddle to the metal and go a whopping 15 mph! woo!

There is something about being home, maybe the familiarity, maybe the smells or the sights, but it is like I can breathe easier here. Its as if I transform when I drive through the wooded roads. I breathe in the clean (smog-free!) air and I relax. I start using "ma'am" and hear the Geaw-ga accent come out. Its blissful coming home and I love it.

I love my life in the small town and my life in the big city.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"Not all who wander are lost."

What a day. What. a. day.

Today I had a lot of joy. It was busy as I finished my assignments and got ready for going home tomorrow but there was such happiness in my relationships today. The first joy was getting to talk to my brother who is in Ecuador for a few weeks. Having never been on this side of a Skype call (I have been the traveler of the family) I was amazed at technology and the joy of getting to see his face even though he was in a whole different country. To hear his stories, to see his joy and enthusiasm, it filled my whole heart. I know that traveling and experiencing the world can change a person and I am so pleased that he has been blessed with getting to see the world in a different light. I felt like I was there with him and I look forward to the day when he and I get to roam the world together.

My poor parents. They now have two rogue children with wanderlust.

Then I just came back from sharing a special moment with a few Fuller friends of mine who are quite dear to my heart. It has been weird having to say good-bye to my new friends as I leave for the summer. I guess I kept resisting being so attached to them, but the truth is, I have become quite attached. So tonight I met with my "crew" and we sat in a courtyard in the dark and prayed for each other. I have to admit, we have never done this before, and I think I had forgotten how much corporate prayer can soothe the soul. It was such a blessing, realizing how far I have come with these four friends, and getting to be in prayer for each of them as we go separate ways for the summer. It makes everything different knowing that I am never truly alone on these wanderings of mine, and I praise God for that moment He gave us tonight to truly open our hearts to Him and each other.

Being in seminary, I think we might start praying for each other more often. :)

I know I might sound like a broken record, but life is good my friends. Yes, there is pain and sadness, and I have had my share of bad days, but God is so good. God is so good. And I never want us to forget this. He is sovereign and He is loving and He is gracious. How blessed we are.

Tomorrow night I fly back to the homeland and a whole other set of joys.
Summer adventure #1, here I come.




Monday, June 4, 2012

A nickel for my thoughts? I take cash/check too.

Thumbs up! You are reading my blog! Woo!

1. Eating healthy is manly. Don't any men believe me?

2. If your name is Ashley chances are I really like you, a lot. And I know a lot of Ashleys.

3. Why is there always so much to do and so much time to do it in, yet in the end my list gets longer and
    the time gets shorter?

4. Shouldn't I be packing?

It isn't my fault duvets are so complicated. 

Would this look be a good first impression for the rez?



Saturday, June 2, 2012

The joy of an unexpected dinner party

My heart is full. You know those moments when you just feel utterly and completely loved? Though we always know we are loved these moments only come every so often and they leave you feeling like the whole world is at your fingertips! (I am a hopeless feelings person so the slightest joys can make me feel like writing poetry or leaping across my apartment complex, the latter of which I do on a regular basis). I just spent a few unexpected hours with a particular family that I care about as if they were my own blood. What a joy to have visitors all the way from Georgia having dinner with me! here! in Pasadena! When my separate worlds collide it is like color rushing back into my vision. It is such a privilege when this happens because 2,000 miles of separation is quite the distance. But tonight I laughed, oh how we laughed, and I ate. Oh my did we eat! I kind of learned how to do the wobble, but at that point it was getting late and I'll admit, I think I need a bit more practice.

Oh this night, it was so full of joy, and as I jump into another "adventure" and run straight into the unknown yet again it was such a comfort to sit with my two "little sisters" and remember what it is that makes my life so worth it. It was such a joy to be back with the familiar, with that home feeling, and regain my confidence to continue following in the way of the Lord. Because when God reminds you of the love that surrounds you, when He lets you hug the little sisters you care about so much, you know that you can do anything He asks. You know that no matter the hardships to come you are loved, and you have the capacity to love, and with love there is laughter, and with laughter you can get through almost anything.

And that is what keeps me going. Love. Hugs. Laughter. Worlds colliding, and God's reassurance that He never has and never will let me go.

What a joy my life is, and all because when God is your light, the whole world brightens.