Sunday, November 21, 2010

Learning from The Baby Elephant

Few weeks ago I went on a school trip to the Mara on safari. We had a small group; about 10 students and 9 staff. We left the school on Friday morning, for three day, and returned on Sunday evening. We drove about 5 hours. Instead of staying at a fancy hotel we decided to save some money and camp instead. We camped at an Adventist mission field. When we arrived, we set out tents, went on a walk, ate, had worship, and then went to sleep. We wake up very early the next morning excited to enter the park and spend the whole day there. We had a blast! We saw a lot of animals: buffaloes, zebras, lions, crowned canes, ostriches, elephants, secretary bird, water-bucks, and a leopard. After learning a lot about these animals, we left the park around 5pm. During our worship that night we went around the circle and everyone shared what he or she was blessed by for the day. One of the students, Dale, said that he was blessed by the way animals take care of their babies. “ It reminds me of how God takes care of us,” He continued.
The next morning we were allowed to go to the park for three more hours. It was worth dragging my self out of bed as the sun just rose. We saw a leopard and a cheetah walking not further than 10 feet away from us. However that was not what made the trip very special to me. What made it worth going was a scene I saw of an elephant and its baby. About 100 feet away from us was an elephant and her newborn baby walking across the park. We decided to drive closer to get better pictures of the baby elephant. When we came closer, there was another truck taking pictures of them as well. When the baby elephant realized that there were a lot of people around, it felt unsafe and scared. Without even thinking, it started running and hid under its mother’s feet where it felt totally safe and at peace. I immediately remembered what Dale said the night before. Yes, God is always there for us to run and hide under his feet when we are unsafe, hurting, lost, and scared. The question the kept going through my mind was not if God was there for us like the mother elephant was to her baby, rather it was, “do I run and hide under his feet in times when I need to?”  I was also thinking about Isaiah 49:15 “ Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the Child she has born? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” It was impossible for me to even think that the mother elephant will leave her little baby unsafe, but even if she did, God will not leave it alone. So many times I tend to focus more on the situation I’m in rather than running to the person who will always be there for me. I tent to keep being insecure instead of running to my tower of refuge where I can feel safe and at peace. So my prayer was,” Lord, help me to learn how to take refuge in you when I am disturbed and unsafe”.  

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Not Giving Up

It’s not fun when a person plans and works hard on something for some people who just do not appreciate what’s been done for them. It’s hard for a person to keep going when they know that the very people they are working for will constantly reject what they are doing. It just makes a person feel like giving up! Well, I know a man who did not give up on his good works, even when those whom He was working for rejected Him and did not appreciate His sacrifice. His name is Jesus.

The night before Jesus was arrested was a tough one for Him. He knew what He was about to go through. His physical and mental strength were decreasing incredibly. He asked Peter, James, and John, hoping that they would realize how much He needs their support, to stay awake with Him in prayer. Unfortunately, they fell asleep along with the rest of the disciples. The book of Matthew tells us that three times Jesus went to the them hoping that they will be awake praying for Him and themselves, but every single time He found them asleep. Just imagine what was going on in Jesus’ mind. The very people whom He was about to die for cannot stay awake for few hours to pray with Him. Do they even appreciate what He was about to do for them? Not only that, He knew that one of these very close friends was finishing his last deals on betraying Him; and not longer after that another one will deny that he even knows Him. Why would Jesus keep going when the very people He planned to die for do not appreciate the sacrifice?
If Jesus did it then I can do it. If Jesus was willing to die by the hands of those very ones He wanted to save, then I can put more effort for those people who do not appreciate. Praise God that Jesus did not give up on us when we did not deserve His sacrifice. He loved us so much that He decided to die for us even when we did not appreciate His great sacrifice. It is true that Jesus would have died even if there were only one person to die for. And for those who did not accept Him He prayed and said, “ Forgive them for they do not do what they are doing” Luke 23:24.  I’ve learned to keep putting effort in my work even if it was going to affect one single person. I’ve also learned to pray for those who keep rejecting that one day the words would touch them and they would understand.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

We Can Only Fear The Future If We Forgot How God Lead Us in The Past

Lately I’ve been reading a book called ”Man of Peace”; it is the contemporary version of the “Desire of Ages” that is written by Ellen G. White. The book states, with details, the life of Jesus. It explains the books Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John on a deeper level. Two days ago I was reading chapter 35 about the storm on the sea. After long day of healing and talking about God’s word, Jesus needed some rest, so He asked the disciples to take him to the other side of the lake. As soon as Jesus got into the boat, he fell asleep. The evening began really calm and peaceful, but not too much longer, a strong storm started. The disciples were experienced fishermen who handled many storms before, but that was a different one. It was a rough one. When the disciples failed to save the boat, they started calling Jesus. After several times of trying to wake Him up, He got up, looked at them with love as peace covered his face, then lifted His hands and ordered the wind and waves to be still. “Instantly, the wind stopped, the waves sank, and the clouds dissipated. The boat bobbed on quite waters under a sky full of stars.” P. 96 All the disciples were amazed at Jesus’ supernatural power. “What kind of man is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!” The storm pushed all the other boats near to the boat where Jesus and the disciples were at, and they all witnessed the miracle. Because of the storm, it took Jesus and the disciples a while to get to the other side of the lake. They arrived as the sun was coming up. When they got to the other side, they found two wild men with broken chains trying to attack them. Here comes the interesting ping. The disciples forgot what just happened a few hours ago and how Jesus calmed the crazy storm. Instead of depending on Him for another challenge and trusting that He will act, they were terrified and ran to the beach. However, Jesus stood calm and “ held up the same hand that had quieted the waves in the storm and they could not come nearer.”
I found myself in the same situation as the disciples this passed week. New challenges and storms started to rise again in my work. Instead of realizing that the same God who calmed the previous storm is the same one who will calm this present one, I focused on the storm itself. All the problems I faced became my reality; I was not able to see beyond them. It was not until I read this chapter that I realized how important it is to remember how God has been leading me in the past. One of my favorite Ellen G. White quotes is from Life sketches, p. 196, “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has lead us, and His teaching in our past history”. Why should I be worried of my future or even the present time when I know that the same God who lead me in the past is the same on who is leading me now and will continue to lead me? I love the fact that Jesus didn’t just give up on the disciples and tell them, “ Well, because you still don’t believe in my, I will not help you”. He stopped the wild men with the same hand that calmed the storm. It just gives me hope to know that despite of my unbelief, God is still so patient with me. He is still willing to give me strength to face my storm. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Putting a Smile on God's Face

“I’m happy that you and Violetta are getting to be good friends.” Mrs. Meds (the Principal) said as we were heading to joint worship.
“I discovered that our cultures are really close and warm. We ask about each other and we take time to talk about our day and how it’s been.” Violetta replied with a smile on her face. “Sometimes I just wish I can tell people to wait and give me time to reply when they ask how I’m doing. I don’t want to say, “good” when I’m not good, or when I even have more to share.” She continued.
I’ve been thinking for a while about what Violetta said. Am I really willing to take time to listen to others when I ask the common question, “ How are you?” I was also thinking about my devotions and I realized that my daily routine is to tell God what is happening in my life, how I’m feeling, how my classes are going, and things I need His help with. “Do I take time to ask God how He is doing?” the thought came to my mind. “ I think I should. Well, if we have a relationship, I think it’s important to know how He is doing.” I thought as I was laughing quietly. Weird, ha? Well, I did ask Him and gave myself some quite time to hear his response. I could imagine God answering something like this, “Well, Some of my children are bringing big smiles to my face by caring, loving, and serving other children of mine. They just make me happy by acting like my Son Jesus. But it hurts me to see some of my children destroying and hurting their brothers/sisters. I just feel sad when I see my children living opposite of what I created them to be.  It breaks my heart to see my children living a selfish life when I created them to be totally selfless.”

Yesterday, Tuesday, was the SM’s town-day. We had work up until lunchtime and all the rest of our afternoon was off. Violetta’s friend came from Ukraine with her husband on a business trip for about a week. Violetta had planned to pick up her friend from the hotel and spend some time with her along with the SMs.  When she asked Thomas ( one of the returned SMs this year) if he is ready to drive us there, he said that he was sick and needed the afternoon to sleep. Everyone else did not feel comfortable driving in the crazy roads of Kenya.  We asked if we could use public transportation but we discovered that we could not because we were going to bring a big box about 10Kg back with us. That left no other option for us. We could not go any other day because we had to work. When Thomas saw that we had no other option he decided to drive us there. Even though he was sick and needed to rest, he decided gave part of his afternoon up to help us get to Nairobi. Not only that, we even got tuck in traffic and ended up talking the whole afternoon driving. Thomas gladly drove us to Nairobi and back to the school. What a selfless act! That is something that Jesus would do if He was in this situation. I can imagine Thomas putting a big smile on God’s face by doing that.
At the end of my devotions I was thinking of my own life and how I live everyday. “Do I put a smile on God’s face or take it away? I know that I want to make Him happy all the time; but I also know that I disappoint Him sometimes” I thought.  Well, good thing God knows that I am a human being and that I am weak. I know that I cannot do it on my own, but I know that He is there to give me strength. “ He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” Isaiah 40: 29. I need God’s help, every single day, to teach me how to be more and more like Jesus so I can put a big smile on all the days of my life.  

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sweet Hour of Prayer

 Every evening at 7:30 Tom and Martine have their daily worship with their little angle Enoch. Tom is Computer teacher and information technology director. Martine is a cafeteria assistant and French tutor. At the beginning of the year, on a Wednesday night, they invited Violetta (a Ukrainian SM) and I to join them. We decided to give it a try. When we arrived to their warm house we started our worship with a song from the Hymnal, followed by prayer then elaboration on a Bible verse. At the end of our worship Tom and Martine told us that they would be more than happy if we decided to join them again. Violetta and I got a little busy and skipped some days until one night; we were free so we decided to go. Our worship was about prayer. We started by singing the hymn, “Sweet Hour of Prayer”. It was my first time singing this hymn. When we finished singing we started praying for all the students, staff, and faculty on campus. We decided to divide them into groups and each one of us chose a group to pray for two days straight. “Praying for others bless one’s own life.” Martine said.
She was right. Praying for others encourages a person not to focus on their own difficulties and hardships. Since that time, “Sweet Hour of Prayer” became Violetta and my favorite hymn.  Every time, when asked what song we want to sing, we choose this hymn.  The words of the hymn takes us away from our busy world and helps us to remember what we are here for.

1.              Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief,
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare,
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!

2.              Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
The joys I feel, the bliss I share,
Of those whose anxious spirits burn
With strong desires for thy return!
With such I hasten to the place
Where God my Savior shows His face,
And gladly take my station there,
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

3.              Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
Thy wings shall my petition bear
To Him whose truth and faithfulness
Engage the waiting soul to bless.
And since He bids me seek His face,
Believe His Word and trust His grace,
I’ll cast on Him my every care,
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

4.              Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
May I thy consolation share,
Till, from Mount Pisgah’s lofty height,
I view my home and take my flight.
This robe of flesh I’ll drop, and rise
To seize the everlasting prize,
And shout, while passing through the air,
“Farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer!”

Saturday, September 18, 2010

New Life Mission Orphanage

some of the students and their kids for the day
Katoka and I 

Here comes another Sabbath with another opportunity to show God’s love to His people. This time, the spiritual committee arranged a trip to New Life Mission Orphanage, which is 10 minutes away from the school. We took the school bus that holds about 53 people and drove down the street to where the orphanage is. When we first arrived, the kids were all gathered in one room waiting for us. All of us went to the room, shook some of the kids’ hands and gave hi fives to some. Following that, four of the academy girls started singing Swahili songs and the kids joined in singing. Then we all started singing some of the kid’s favorite English songs. When we saw that the kids were kind of shy, we asked them if they wanted to sing a song for us. They were really happy to do so. All of them came up with a beautiful “choir”. They lined up according to their height, starting with the shortest and moving to the tallest. Instead of singing one song, they sang three. After that, the pastor told us that we could pick a child and go out and play with them. Some of the students picked kids and others the kids came running to them. I hanged out with Katoka. Katoka is  years old. I was surprised when she told me that because she is pretty tall for a 5 year old kid. I thought she was 7 for 8. Katoka didn’t speak a lot of English but we were able to  survive as we used some motions to communicate. I discovered that she loved talking pictures as she pointed at my camera and said, “picsha, picsha”. I took Katoka to the swings for some times then we joined some of the other kids and started playing in bigger groups. We held hands, made a big circle, and went around and around. They we played “red light, green light”, “Duck, duck, goose” as the guys played soccer on the side. No surprise, African guys LOVE soccer; even the little boys.  After that everyone hanged out with their kids for about 45 minutes then we had to go back to school. It was hard to leave the orphanage. Some of the kids got really attached to us and did not want us to leave, but we had too : (
Brinna playing " Pom Pom this that" 
Erik playing with the little two boys 
Ricky and the wheelbarrow 
Everyday I become more positive that the best life is a life lived for serving others. What a joy that a person can get when he/she sees that beautiful smile they can put on the faces of other people! Yes, most of these kids don’t have biological parents, and some of them come from really poor families. However, I believe that they have greater parents; God is their parent! Today God used us to show these kids that He is there for them and that He loves them. My heart was rejoicing as I was looking at the academy students,15-19 years of age, trying to come up with the best games they know to make the kids happy. Briana playing “ Pom pom this that” with a little girl, Eric caring two kids on his shoulders and running around in circles, and Ricky pushing 4 kids around in a wheelbarrow. Just seeing the smiles on these kid’s faces made our day today. Not only that we were a blessing, we also received a blessing by seeing the difference we can do in other’s lives. “ This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15: 12,13. What a simple and deep commandments. If Jesus loved us so much to the point of dying for us, what should we do with this commandment? We did not die for these kids, we simply decided to give some of our own time to show them our love and that made a huge difference in their lives. If this commandment is one of the most important one Jesus emphasized during His life here on earth and before he left then it is of great importance! 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

His Power is Made Perfect in Weakness

“Why did you decide to be a student missionary? “ Tyson asked me as we were enjoying the delicious pizza and pasta at the Italian restaurant.  “I guess my main reason is to grow I a deeper relationship with God.” I replied.
“ What made you decide to come to Maxwell academy? I mean, why didn’t you go to your academy in Egypt. At least you know the culture and the people.”
“I wanted to be in a place where I knew no one. I wanted to go outside of my comfort zone so I could learn to trust God and depend on Him more.” I replied  “ It’s weird because I already feel comfortable here.” I continued.
This conversation took place on staff training week, 5 days before all the students arrived to Maxwell. And yes, I was really comfortable at that time. All through the week I was hanging out with the SMs and all the other long-term missionaries. It was not that much different from home. I just felt in place. Well, this feeling did not last for a long time. When school started and all the students arrived, I started to realize that I was in a whole different culture dealing with different people with different characters. Let me tell you something I discovered, dealing with teenagers is NOT easy!!! I’ve been having some problems trying to connect with some of the students. It was hard to get them to do their work and show them my love and care at the same time. It was hard to decide when to be firm and when not to.  I tried different ways, but it just seemed that nothing was working. All that was building up in the inside of me until it was too much and I needed to let it out. I needed to talk to someone! I went and talked to pastor Kent (Academy pastor/ Bible teacher ). He encouraged me not to give up as he was giving me advices. He prayed with me and advised me to pray on my own and ask God to show me the best way of dealing with the students that fits my own character. I went to my room and started reading my Bible. As I was reading I came across 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ”So I will boast more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardship, persecution, and calamities for the sake of Christ for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”” All the sudden it clicked. Yes, I was weak, BUT I was not alone. God was there to give me power. His power was made perfect in my weakness. “ Dear Jesus, I am weak but you’ve promised that your power is made perfect in weakness. I need your power.” I prayed. My God is a promise keeper. He gave me power, peace, and confidence that I was able to go through it with His help.  
            As I was thinking of this verse I though of the story of Moses. God does not use people who have it all together. In fact, he used those who know that the do not and are willing to depend on His strength every step of the way. Moses, the great leader who talked to Pharaoh about taking the Israelites out of Egypt, was slow in tongue. This man who lead about 2 million Israelite for 40 years into the desert did not even have the gift of speech. BUT, he had what was more important than language; he had Jesus and he was willing to depended on His strength. “Who gives speech to the mortal? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now, go and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.” Exodus 4:11-12. God gave Moses the ability to speak.
It might sound wired to you, but I am really thankful for all the hard times I go through. I learn to depend on God more and realize that I can NOT make it on my own. “ So I will boast more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardship, persecution, and calamities for the sake of Christ for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Msai Land

When I was working at summer camp I went through an experience that made me certain that I was pursuing the right career. All through the weeks, the media team took pictures and videos of the different activities that camper’s experience. At the end of the week, they made two clips showing the big amount of fun that campers got to experience. I remember at the end of the very first week, when I first saw the clips, my heart was torn into two pieces. Part of my heart was really happy that all the campers had fun, while the other part of my heart grieved over all the kids in other third world countries that do not even get ¼ of this chance. This part of my heart was filled with anger, sadness and determination to step out and change something about the problem. I knew that I couldn’t start a big program like summer camp in those countries, but I knew that I could at least show the people that there is someone who cares. I knew that I couldn’t start a ropes course or go carts lessons, but I knew that I could tell them that they are valuable and that we’re all precious and equal in God’s eyes.
Today, I was part of a group who changed the lives of some people on the Msai Land which is about an hour away from the school. People who live there don’t have any access to clean water, so Maxwell academy takes a group of about 10 people staff/students and go to give them clean water once a month. Once we arrived there all the people brought their empty tanks and crowded around us. With beautiful and wide smiles they showed us their appreciation. The story does not end at this point. When all the little kids crowded around us we decided to play a little game with them. We couldn’t think of any game so we decided to just hold hands and ran in circles. You might imagine that the game was really silly. It may be in some places, but not in this village where people were acceptable and loving.  This simple game of holding hands and going around and around in circles brought the biggest smiles on those kid’s faces.  They knew and could feel that we cared and loved them.
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If I can just express how I felt! Words cannot explain the JOY I experienced during that time. Seeing those beautiful smiles on those people faces made my day. On that moment I felt that I was on cloud nine.  My heart was full of JOY I never experienced before, not even when I got an A in my Theology class! I was more sure that I went to Kenya for a reason. It felt like Jesus and all the angels in heaven were looking down and smiling at us. I felt privilege to be a part of a group that was God’s hands, feet, and even smile on the Msai Land today. 

My Trip to Kenya

“Now Faith is the assurance of things hoped for the conviction of things not seen” Hebrews 11:1. When I first decided to take a year off college to be a student missionary, I thought that everything would flow easy as ABC. I thought that I did not have to do any hard work because God was going to take care of it all. As time went by, I realized that I was partially right but mostly wrong.  It was not that easy for me going through the process of being in Kenya. I realized that I had to work hard in order for me to be there. I had to do a bunch of paperwork to get accepted and of course because I’m not a US citizen I had to do extra paperwork. I had to work with La Sierra and the airlines to find the right timing for my plane ticket that would allow me to return to the US legally. You know how paperwork can get frustrating sometimes. At some points of this process, I questioned if it was a wise decision to even go to Kenya! However, when those moments came, I always remembered something one of my best friends, Deirdre, told me when I first told her that I want to be a student missionary. She said, “God is not asking us to wait until everything is easy and all the doors are open smoothly ahead of us to go and serve Him. He’s asking us to step out in faith”. Remembering those words gave me comfort and courage to step out in Faith. Yes, I had to put effort, but God was sill there ready to help me make it everything possible.
            Unlike most people, I was not worried about being in a different culture away from the place where I am comfortable. I guess it’s because I already experience that when I moved to California. I was actually worried about the flight and arriving to Kenya. Besides that it was my first time flying alone, I was worried about having some difficulties in dealing with visa issues and getting in the country. You know, having a Middle Eastern passport can put you in some interesting situations sometimes ; ). My flight was from LA to Denver to London (7 hours transit) then from London to Kenya. Flying from LA to Denver was very short. It seemed like I fastened my seat belt to take off and 15 minutes latter I had to fasten it for landing. On the other hand, flying from Denver to London was long. Of course I was not excited about arriving to London. All that I could do was sitting in the airport for 7 hours babysitting my suitcases (not fun). However, I was not alone and God was there ready to make things easier for me. I meet a really nice guy from Holland who watched my suitcases while I went to get food and used the restroom, and he even let me borrow his computer and use his Skype account to call mom in Egypt, which made time go by much faster.  

            When it was time for me to get out of the airport I was a bit nervous about being in a different country where I knew no one. Once I got out of the airport, I was not in a country where I knew no one. I meet my first 3 friends, Thomas, Tomiko, and Robert; beautiful people who gave me a worm welcome and made me feel like home. Once I got to Maxwell Academy I meet the rest of the family I became a part of. “Do not fear, for I am with you” Isaiah 43: 5. I knew that I was not alone. I am sure that God has been working in y life every for 20 years.  Sometimes it’s hard to realize it. Life’s busyness can hinder a person from seeing our amazing God work in our lives. Once pastor Rich Carlson told me that all I need to do is to be attentive to how God is working in my life. That is what I want to do this year. I want to be able to see how God is working in my life and in the lives of all the students here at Maxwell Academy. I also want God to use me to help them realize the great planes He has for them and how much they are valuable and precious in His sight.