Every Life is a Journey: Here's a Bit of Mine

Every Life is a Journey: Here's a Bit of Mine

Thursday, March 15, 2018

My First Mission Trip at Age 11



Before the age of 5, I wanted to be a missionary. No one remembers anything else that I ever wanted to be when I grew up but that. Around the age of 10, my church was sending a team to Kenya, and my dad encouraged me to show up to the meeting for those that wanted to go. Sadly, they said that I was too young, but that didn't stop my dad. He connected me with a missionary friend of his based out of Singapore. I sent out support letters to hundreds of people, and was able to raise around $5,000 which covered much more than I needed for my own expenses. I went with that missionary's adult daughter to Singapore. Once in Singapore, I went with that missionary to Malaysia, Indonesia, and Nepal. In Malaysia, we visited an orphanage relatively briefly where we were able to give them some of the funds that I had raised through support letters. I also spent a week in Nepal.

Nepal was the 6th poorest nation in the world at the time, where a common wage for working women was 200$/year. The kids in the Christian orphanage had 2 pairs of clothes each, which we are washing in the picture, and little else materially. They ate porridge in the mornings, and rice with sauce (a rather thin dall) at lunch and dinner. Their only meat source, a single chicken spread out throughout the whole orphanage once a month. It was so cold, that after the first night, I curled up next to the heater off the bed every other night; the kids didn't have heat.

Despite the lack of physical resources, they possessed a joy and love in an abundance that I had never seen before. They were the happiest kids I had ever seen, loving each other, me, and everyone they encountered to a degree that had previously been exclusively theoretical for me. This could only be described as the joy of the Lord, something not manufactured by religion, but truly born of God. We would play fight, but if someone was ever hurt, everyone would be legitimately concerned, including the aggressing party. On one occasion, I through gum to the kids from a balcony, and rather than the kids running as fast as they could to get all that they could, they walked instead, with quiet smiles. They then freely distributed the gum to each other so that all could have some without any direction from adults to do so. Of my first two decades of life, I can think of no week more important or joy-filled than my week in a Nepali orphanage.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A New Position as the Youth Minister of Joyful Community Church

Sometimes people ask me how I came to be at Joyful. Someone asked just a few days ago, and I thought a more proper response than a few sentences would be better for him and for others who have wondered the same thing.

Dr. Jim Rudisill is a man that I met through my dad. He ministers to the homeless, as I documented with a partner in this short film. How Jim & I met was that Jim told my dad that part of his ministry to the homeless included overnight stays with the homeless. My dad said that Jim was the first person that he had ever met besides me who had ministered to the homeless in that way. As you can see from this picture, when I did it, I dressed the part:

With that unusual form of ministry in common (that I don't advise for most, I might add, due to the danger inherent, despite the fact that I don't regret it, grew through it, saw God moving through it, saw others grow through it, & discerned a clear call to it), my dad thought to connect us. If you think such an action by anyone to be wrong or foolish, as some have told me, I invite you to read my blog post on that very issue, "I AM HOMELESS: Introducing a Culturally Proposterous Notion When Executed in a Voluntary Fashion"

Since we've connected, we've done homeless ministry locally together in addition to plenty of other things. He & Mary are such a joy to be around.

Jim got connected to Joyful Community Church because of a homeless Korean woman who didn't speak much English who lived on a boat. Jim tried to help her, and asked if Joyful might be able to help. Joyful's pastor, Pastor Cho, and some ladies came and blessed that woman, welcoming them into the community and helping with some of her needs. The response was very different than most churches in their concern for the homeless, and Jim thought it would be good to develop a relationship with Joyful.

One day, Jim invited me to have lunch with Joyful after my church at the time had finished the service. There I met Pastor Cho, who told me about the need for a youth minister. There I also got to hear about the heart of the people and of Pastor Cho. On another occasion when I was spending time with Jim after that lunch, I asked Jim, who has a PHD from a seminary, a masters from Regent, has taught the Bible extensively, and is an ordained minister, if he might like to be a youth minister. He did not feel called to it.

I felt called to missions before I was 5. God has given me the privilege of actively serving on the mission field since then. While the call on my life remains, right now I feel led to be in the US in order to build the funds for most of future missions work and also build the assets to support a family. While in the US, it seems only natural that God would lead me to a cross-cultural church where most of the people were born in another nation, bringing the mission field home, even though I know that much of South Korea is Christian. One aspect of being in a cross cultural context, whether at home or abroad, whether with the homeless or with the Koreans at Joyful Community Church, is that when you immerse yourself in a different culture, it is not only a unique opportunity to minister to people, but a unique opportunity to learn & grow as you allow God to use a different context and people with a different frame of reference to help shape your own. I know of no pastor on the planet that is more humble than Pastor Cho. If that was the only thing I ever learned from my time at Joyful, it would absolutely be worth it from the learning side of things. I have a long way to go to be like Pastor Cho, so prayers in that regard would be greatly appreciated! From the ministry side of things, Pastor Cho told me about the need for a youth minister, as they hadn't had one in years. I have had ministry experience including ministry to children since I was 11 on my first mission trip with a missionary friend of my dad's to 4 nations in South East Asia.

I also have a degree in Christian Education and minor in Bible from Wheaton College, and at the time that Pastor Cho told me about the need, I was just under half-way through my MDiv at Regent University.

I asked Pastor Cho about the job and submitted my resume. Sometime later, he asked me to preach one Sunday. Pastor Cho & the elders saw me preach on the day of Pentacost in 2014, and the next Sunday, I was a minister at Joyful, where I've been ever since.

It has been such a blessing to spend time with the church ever since! I love the community!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

El Salvador Mission Trip 2014: Blog 1 - Unforeseen Costs, Disappoints, and Future Dreams


5 8 The trip is getting close and I am so excited!!! I praise God for what I know He's going to do, and am readily awaiting the unexpected blessings as well! I discovered at the last minute that we had not budgeted in and planned in Maria Fernandez, who will be joining us in El Salvador. She found me online after helping with Orphan Helpers in the past. She regularly attended the "Hungry" Bible study that I hosted in person and online via webcam through Google Hangouts. By not budgeting her in, it caused over 300$ in unforeseen additional expenses. A generous long-time supporter provided this entire expense. He has been such a blessing to my life and ministry in the many years that I've known him. I also remembered that there would be a baggage fee, and asked another supporter who had pledged money to give 100$. He did so. It is so wonderful to have people who have supported me in the past who I can count on. Though I was only able to raise pledges for around half of what I needed to go to the Harvest School of Missions in Africa for a few months in the summer, prohibiting me from going unless I had accepted my parents' willingness to cover the rest (which I determined was not a sustainable approach to long term missions), it was a tremendous blessing that friends and family gave me enough money in addition to those African pledges to go to El Salvador. Even if I could only go on one mission trip in my life, it would all be worth it. God has blessed me so much with the privilege of going on more. I believe this was the 6th team that I led on a mission trip with Orphan Helpers out of over a dozen total trips with Orphan Helpers. Missions has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.
Even before Orphan Helpers existed, I loved missions, wanting to be a missionary since I was four and a half, feeling called to be one. By the grace of God, I went on my first trip to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Nepal when I was 11 with a missionary friend of my dad's Tim Blanarik, based out of Singapore.
While I know that full time missions isn't ahead of me in the near future, since the inability to go for just a summer due to funding is indicative of the fact that I can't do it longer term either right now, short term missions is an absolute blessing in the meantime. It is also a blessing to know that I live in a country where there is so much more opportunity for me to make money to help supplement support raising. The number one reason why missionaries never reach the field is costs, but I have been given the resources to work, and hope to do that for decades so that I can build up the assets where passive income could supplement support raising in the future. I am and will be forever grateful for those who have supported me in the past, since my first mission trip, for those who support me today, and for those who will support me in the future. With their help, I won't have to work for nearly as long before getting onto the field long term.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Days 4 and 5 from my last trip with Orphan Helpers

Day 4:

Today was our last day with my dad, Jolly Green, Mush, Z, and Fossil. While prior to the trip I barely knew only two of them besides my dad, it was so hard to part ways. Amidst smiles, there were tears.
We had breakfast, went shopping, said goodbye, and prayed for those going back to the US.

Today was the most relaxed day by far, although it needlessly transformed into a stressful day for me. When leadership of the team went from my dad's shoulders to mine, and there were some unforseen changes of plans, I felt as though I didn't make right decisions fast enough, resulting in consequences for the team that remained with me in Honduras. I struggled to not dwell on these matters, and the remnant team could tell that I was troubled. Please pray that in the future, as failures arise amidst my leadership in variant arenas, I would note mistakes, learn from them, but not cry for too long over spilled milk, even if it spills a few times in a day right into the lap of someone sitting next to me!

James 1:2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.


Day 5
Today we went to the center where girls go for protection with another missions team from a different missions organization. The remnant team and I took part in the other larger team's activities.

One girl receiving protection there knew some English. I asked her where she learned, and she replied that she had been in the US for 6 months. She had been in the center 3 months. She, like many in the center, knew about a much more materially abundant existence than the life they were living while at the center. Very recently for many of these girls, they had been suffering abuse, yet when not being abused had in other ways far more freedoms and physical pleasures than they do while at the center.


At one point in our time, I asked why a few girls were crying. One girl said that it was because they didn´t like it there. They may be relatively safe when compared to where they came from, but to many girls, it´s a dismal place. The girls said that they were bored. One even said, "quiero morir," which means, "I want to die." While some girls said that they missed their families, she said that her parents had abandoned her and that she didn´t want to see them. It sounded as though this girl also said that she wanted to kill her baby. If she said this, she probably did not want her baby to live in the same kind of situation that she grew up in. My prayer is that the Love, peace, joy, and hope of Christ would come in to heal the brokenness in her life. I praise God that even though there are few amenities in her setting, Orphan Helpers, and Perfect Love, are right there too.

1 John 4:8 ...God is Love (Agape).
1 John 4:17 There is no fear in Love. But perfect Love drives out fear...


Even though the Orphan Helpers teachers don't have the funding to be there around the clock, the time that they are there, and the time that our short term OH team spent with the girls, was time that the girls could see those that cared for the pain and suffering that these girls have been through. When girls that have been treated like trash come to believe that someone in this world cares for them, and that there is a perfect Father in Heaven that would love to be with and cherish them throughout their days, there is hope.


After the larger team left the center, Wendy came, who I had never met prior to this trip. She is like a sister to many of the girls in Hogar Torrech, the half way home for girls located in Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras, maybe 4 hours away. She came with folks from a nice hotel in San Pedro Sula, bringing food prepared by she and the folks at the hotel. It was such good food too! For kids that usually have very simple foods, beans and rice, plantains, rolls, chicken, and cole slaw was a treat! It wasn't her first time bringing food for the kids there either! At some point in our time together, I asked her why she went into the centers, and she explained how it was such a blessing to see kids go from tears and despair to smiles and hope, knowing that you were the reason for the change. I praise God for allowing me to be a little piece in such changes as well; it is a privilege I could never deserve.





We went to an orphanage for the last time, and although we only got to spend around an hour with them, playing with the kids and praying over a few of them was a blessing that we could have overlooked with ease.




Tonight we had an excellent dinner,




but even though the dinner and the last nightly fellowship was wonderful, it was rather bittersweet knowing that we had to go back home tomorrow, and that the orphans we were leaving weren't going to be eating anything like we were that night. I've been on around 2 dozen mission trips, and despite all the comforts and amenities found in the US, not once have I ever been ready to come home. If you have never been involved in missions in the 2/3 world, you may have difficulty understanding, but for me, spending time with and ministering to the poor in foreign lands (and domestically) has been one of the greatest blessings in my life.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Reflections From the 3rd Day of my Latest Orphan Helpers Trip

Today we went to church, then had a little ¨fiesta¨ with the girls at the center made to protect them. In centers where kids might only get meat a few times a week due to the expense, cake, ice cream, and soda was a treat.





After lunch we went to the Genesis center, a massive complex that Orphan Helpers hopes to be operating within the year, then back to the juvenile detention center for boys.





Dinner tonight was the last dinner with the full American team. Most of the team leaves tomorrow, going to the US. It was a special night, where each person went around and shared some of their highlights from the trip.


Some shared about how wonderful it was to have 3 kids who had come out of a juvenile detention center after coming to Christ and being discipled alongside us, going back into the centers and preaching the gospel, a message of hope, of positive change, of Life, of forgiveness no matter the past, and of redemption through the blood of Jesus.


One shared about how wonderful it was to not have so many programs, but to be led by the Spirit and have time just to be with the kids. One of the things my dad shared about was how wonderful it was for me to be there, after almost losing me in November, unconscious and fully submerged in a dark river on a dark night for at least 10 or 15 minutes.




I shared about four things special about this trip. Many of the blessings that other people mentioned were matters that I had encountered on a number of trips in the past. First I praised God for my room mate Al´s daughter, an 11 year old girl who faithfully prays for the kids and for the ministry of Orphan Helpers. A second highlight was going with my dad, and seeing him on his knees in prayer in our room and the opportunity I had to join him on my own knees. Third, it was wonderful to pick oranges from the Genesis center, a complex with over 100 fruit trees, knowing that the oranges that would otherwise mostly be wasted won´t be wasted for long as more and more Orphan Helpers and kids come into the place, and the Lord uses it mightily for His glory in redeeming lives and healing brokenness for so many.

The last thing I shared about was how wonderful it was to see some of the fruit from the missions conference Urbana, where Orphan Helpers was represented for the first time over a year ago.

The OH volunteer team
I had the blessing of helping to represent OH there, and it was so wonderful to have two brothers and two sisters in Christ with us. It is such a privilege to know a bit of the impact that they have made here, and that has been made in their lives. They’ve seen not only some of the realities of the effects of sin in this world in breaking lives, but the redemptive impact that Christ, through hands and feet of people and by his redemptive power at work in people´s hearts, can make in healing this world.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Honduras 2011: Day 2

Day 2
Today was packed. We went to an orphanage for kids 0-12 in the morning.






We went to a boys juvenile detention center in the afternoon and early evening.


Please pray:

In the orphanage:
For so many urine-soaked diapers on kids receiving so little attention,




For my response to kids there, as anger and frustration could be seen in my face on multiple occasions as soccer balls hit my head without my intending them to- pray that the peace of Christ would rest on me no matter my circumstances.

In the juvenile detention center:
for those that made commitments to come to Christ for the first time, for some who committed to come back to Him, and for others who were walking with Christ,
for real faith in the absolute love of God for the kids, His absolute goodness, and trust in the perfection of the plan God has for their lives,
for real faith to believe that ¨God´s kindness leads you towards repentance (Romans 2:4)¨
for the breaking of pride of kids who think that they don´t need God to change



In both places:
For more local churches to get behind what the Lord is doing in the lives of the kids in the centers,
For more empathy resulting in greater volunteer efforts and funding from Central America and the United States that could greatly increase the impact on kids´ lives,
For more prayer warriors to rise up for the kids - praise God for one team members´ 11 year old daughter who has never gone down, but prays daily for the kids,

For the team:
For recognition that only the power of God can change the hearts and lives of those with so little hope without Him

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Honduras 2011: Day 1

In February 2011 I was in Honduras with my father and the other missionaries on an Orphan Helpers Vision Trip, where I composed a few notes. Here's my first of them:

Today, we went to a center in Honduras where girls go primarily for their own protection. Most if not all of the girls have been sexually abused. This was the first time that most of the team members have served with Orphan Helpers.


The pain in the eyes of the girls came as a shock to some of the team members that have never been, who expected to see a multitude of happy faces upon their arrival. My father reminded the girls in the center that no matter what they have done in the past, and no matter what others have done to them, they are all beautiful. God knows it, my dad knows it, and I pray that some of them who may doubt it might know it as well.






Please pray:

For girls struggling with loneliness (one girl missed her own little girl who had been taken from her) - that they would learn to walk closely with the ¨Friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), who will never leave them nor forsake them (Hebrews 13:5).¨

For girls bound by the bitterness that stems from unforgiveness and hatred towards those that have wronged them and brought so much pain into their lives, including family members who have sexually abused them, prostituted them, and done other horrible things to them.