Tuesday, 11 September 2012

A Wild Ride and a Worthy Cause

Serving God is crazy. When people tell you about Jesus and ask if you want to follow him, they don't ever tell you what He Himself says following Him will actually be like. 

He actually tells us we'll have to give up everything. He says that we'll have to leave everything behind. He says that people are going to mock and persecute us, that they won't understand... He says it pretty straight up: This is going to be HARD. 

And it is. 

I've been walking out Lordship for almost a year now. That is, I've been giving God every aspect of my life: My right to being at home with my family, my right to earn money and be self-reliant, my education, my lifestyle, my friendships, my pass-times. Obviously, it's a process. And some days, it's harder than others. As I walk into the giant task of leading this outreach team, I've found it becoming more and more of a very real choice to keep going. I miss my family, I am believing for $2500 and two visas in 11 days, I keep asking God to add hours to the day so i can fit everything in.  I love what I do, but the process can be overwhelming at times. There are moments when I consider how much simpler it would be to go home.

But here's the thing:  He also says it's worth it.

In those moments where I've gone home in my heart (and there have been those moments) I come face-to-face with a man who was willing to give up everything for me. And I look at my life, and see where my pursuit of God has brought me, and I realize that there is in fact, even in the midst of crazy hard chaos, no place I'd rather be than right here, serving Him. 

My name is Natalie Richards. I am a 20-year-old missionary who grew up going to Trinity Anglican Church in Saint-Bruno. I have spent the last three months at the University of the Nations in Kona Hawaii training a team of young people in discipleship and media advocacy, readying them for a three-month mission trip to the West African nations of Ghana and Togo. 

My journey as a young missionary began one year ago when I moved to Australia to be trained in Mercy Ministries with Youth With A Mission. After ten weeks of intensive training, I went with a team to Cambodia for two months. There, I witnessed the daily struggle of extreme poverty, the ugliness of child sex trafficking, the destitution of broken families. In a slum outside the city of Phnom Penh, I met a ten-year-old boy named Som. He and I spent every day together for two weeks. He’d take me by the hand and show me around the dirty streets of his makeshift neighborhood. Even though we didn’t speak the same language, he became like a little brother to me. Som’s mum works 16-hour days in the near-by factory, earning less that two dollars a day. He has eight younger siblings, whom he takes care of as his dad drinks the days away.  On our last day with that particular ministry, I watched my little brother run after our dusty old van as we drove away. He was crying because he knew I wasn’t coming back. With tears on my face and my heart in pieces, I made a promise: I’m going to make the rest of my life about doing everything I can to change the circumstances that people, especially children, are up against in developing nations. 

Som, and all the other beautiful people I met, are the reason why three months ago, I chose to become part of Voice for the Voiceless. We use media to expose justice issues around the world. My journey has now taken me into leading a team to the beautiful continent of Africa. I am leading five media-savvy individuals into Ghana and Togo where we’ll spend a total of three months. Our vision is to produce short documentaries on HIV/Aids and on the issue of unclean water, as well as helping practically with health education seminars and the building of rainwater tanks that provide 150 people with clean water every day.  We will also spend a month in the northern region of Ghana living and helping at an orphanage that serves about 35 children and is run by one man.  Our goal is to set up a website with individual biographies of each child, that will facilitate the adoption process as there is currently no system in place. 

All in a year, my life has taken on greater purpose. I live right in the middle of a crazy adventure. I get to tell incredible stories. I get to know the most amazing people. I learn from the best, and I have the chance to make a very real, very tangible difference. I'm walking in the things i used to dream about. 

My friend Cookie said "It will cost you your life... but is there anything you'd rather die for?"  and the answer is no. Everyone gives their life to something, and I'm giving mine for this.  

"Whoever clings to his life will lose it. Whoever loses his life will find it." [Matt 10.39]

And when they do, it will be incredible. 

Monday, 27 August 2012

Greater and Greater Things

Hello everyone,

Just a general update, since i realize it's been a while since I was in touch. It's been crazy busy, but that's no excuse!

Last weekend, some of our students were told that, as they had not met the financial deadline for their lecture phase, they would be asked to leave if there was no immediate breakthrough. We immediately pulled together as a DTS and began to ask on behalf of our brothers and sisters. One of the School leaders' contacts felt to give a huge donation to three of the students who were at risk of leaving, and it was enough to pay their debts. It was nothing less than a miracle.

It's now week 8, and we're hearing on the Holy Spirit from a beautiful woman of God named Amy Sollarz. Several people have spoken out that they feel that this week will be SIGNIFICANT for  many of our students, and so I am waiting with great anticipation to see what that will look like. I'm excited.

I am doing really well considering the magnitude of the things God has set before me. The logistics of planning and leading outreach to Ghana and Togo are huge tasks, and with God's help I am taking them on. We're on our way to having our visas granted and our plane tickets purchased, and we're in the process of getting VISION for our time in west africa. I can't believe we're leaving our  home in Hawai'i in just under four weeks... It's exciting, and also sort of scary.

On a personal financial note, to be perfectly honest with you guys, I am not fully funded for outreach. By some miracle, I have enough to finish paying my rent, and I have been able to make a $500 dent in my outreach costs - praise God. I still need about $1500 in order to go on outreach. The deadline is this thursday. If you can, please give, and if you can't give, please pray.

Actually, pray anyways... :)

I am LOVING being on staff. I get to watch as my students begin to realize who they are in Christ and what that means for the world. I'm watching as they explore how they can harness the gifts God has given them in order to release them in such a way that they bring heaven to earth. I get to watch as God takes over their lives and encourage them as they grow, and all the while God is blowing my faith out of the water. He is releasing me into greater and greater things. He's stirring something up inside of me that I am getting really excited about, even though I don't know exactly what it's going to look like yet.

I'll try and be better about updating you guys on everything that's going on. Thanks a million for your interest in what's going on in my life, and for your support.

Be blessed!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Learning Leadership

The quality of your leadership hangs on what you do when those you are leading are not around.

The other day, I was taken by surprise by an afternoon off. Somehow, we had finished our classes for the day and, for maybe the first time since I got here, I was firmly on top of things. Ah, the gift of a moment to breathe. 

You know that moment when you've been slaving away through exam period, and all you've known for weeks is textbooks, tea, memory aids and cereal, and you finally finish your last exam and you're brain automatically jumps to the next one... only to realize there is no next one? You just sort of sit there.. and don't know what to do with yourself for a moment? That is basically how I felt thursday afternoon. 

I love staffing this DTS. People ask me if it's worth it - giving up everything that is known and normal to do this - and all I can think to say is that I am exactly where I was made to be. There is nothing I would rather be doing with my life at this moment. That being said, this position is more than full time. I am learning that discipling is a lifestyle, one that does not only require constant, consistent output but also a standard for yourself that calls others to a new level. So when I find a moment to myself, I usually spend it pressing in and processing everything that is going on around me. 

On Thursday afternoon, I wandered over to the organic farm on campus, thinking I'd just take a casual look around. I found my friend (and self proclaimed african brother) Jackson working on his Master's degree project on agricultural techniques that can be reproduced in developing nations. He asked me to help him out for a few moments, so I grabbed the pitchfork he pointed to and tried to help him shovel the compost without much luck. He proceeded to change my life with his words in the following fifteen minutes.

Jackson took the opportunity to show me something about what I have in my hands. "When all you have is the "wrong" tool for the job, you have to get creative" said Jackson. He taught me in his words about how leadership is really just about being willing to step out first. It's about going where you want others to follow. It's about sticking yourself out there, being real and vulnerable, and striving for right relationship no matter what. I have these gifts; not necessarily a gift of leadership or even administration, which seem really important to leadership, but I am good at encouraging and at taking copious notes. I am designed with a knack for building relationship and for pursuing people. Those are a few of the elements that God has built into me.

And in this season of my life, I get to put those elements forward into a leadership role. I get to step out, in my gifts, my weaknesses, my choices and my annointing and go ahead of individuals that i care very much about. My gifts will determine what leadership looks like. And I'm excited, because in the same way as Esther was, I have been anointed for such a time as this. I have faith for such a time as this. I have wisdom for such a time as this. I am a leader for such a time as this. 

Saturday, 28 July 2012

DTS Family Portrait

This is my beautiful Voice for the Voiceless DTS  family here in Kona, Hawaii. I love them so much, and am so blessed to be a part of their lives.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Everything To Give

There are few words more powerful within the craziness of life than "me too." When someone can honestly say that they have been where we are, that they have experienced what we are experiencing, that they made it through what is currently killing us, it extends light and hope into our situation. Loneliness is conquered by the stories of people who have been where we are because they offer a sense of finality to trial that can often only be gained with the perspective of time.

Everybody has a story.

I now have the honor of staffing a Discipleship Training School of 16 students. All of them are from different places in the world. They all have different families, backgrounds, experiences, and histories. The diversity of the group became apparent this week during a time of very real openness with one another. Every person had a different story; a battle with addiction, hard family lives, broken homes and broken hearts, betrayal, mistakes, hurt, and a lot of shame.

And as they shared, the miracle became apparent. It makes very little sense as to how these 16 individuals could have made it to this same season of their lives at the same time without some divine, governing purpose. There is power in their testimonies because the very fact that all of them are alive and here at this moment is a tale of the miraculous, and I believe that that has everything to do with the purpose of this DTS: Within their stories, they have everything - life, power, victory, success, freedom and love - to give.

I get to take a group of six of these students on outreach in September to Ghana and Togo, where we will use our stories to touch the lives of the people we meet. We will relate with those that the western world has forgotten because we ourselves have at some point fallen through the cracks. We will reach out to those who have been cast aside by culture and society because we know what it's like to be chosen last. We will tell our stories, and we will also tell theirs, for everyone has a story worth sharing. Every person deserves a voice, and in september of this year, we will set out and we will be a part of that Voice for the Voiceless in West Africa.

And as we share these stories, we hope and pray to see the world become a smaller place: Where we identify with one another regardless of race, where we learn from each other, where we see and we hear and we know how to treasure the stories of our brothers and sisters, because these are the stories that will change everything.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Faith like Noah's

Recently, God has been speaking to me about Noah. (Yes, I believe that God speaks to us, but that's a different topic that I'd love to discuss with you another time.) For those of you who don't know, Noah is the guy in the Bible who built the ark and had all those pet animals. The conversation between Noah and God that day would have maybe gone like this:

"Yes, God?"
"I'm going to need you to build an ark because I am going to drown everything and everybody on the planet except you and your wife and your sons and their wives. I'm also going to need you to round up two of every kind of animal that exists and bring them on your ark with you. Make sure you bring enough food."
"Um... Okay."
"Thank you, Noah."
Noah shifts uneasily."Uh, God?"
"Yes, Noah?"
"What' an ark?"

And so on and so forth. At that point in the Bible, no one had ever seen a boat, let alone an ark. In fact, it's likely that no one had ever seen rain, let alone a flood. But Noah built the ark, smack in the middle of the desert, and he rounded up the animals and somehow got them all on the ark, and then, eighty years or so later, the rain came as God promised.

All of this is pretty crazy, but here's the thing: Out of Noah's faith came his obedience to God, and his obedience resulted in life on earth.

I want faith like that; I want my faith to bring life to the earth. I think that that is exactly what I have an opportunity to see here on  this Discipleship Training School. We have 17 students who are all incredible individuals, and I am believing, in faith, that every one of them goes on outreach this quarter. We have already seen God provide about $2000 so that some of the students could stay to begin lecture this week. I am believing, in faith, that we will see incredible, miraculous, undeniable moves of God in both of our outreach locations, India and West Africa. We want to see people set free, children spoken for, and voices of the voiceless made known to the world.

Please pray that I have increased faith - faith like Noah's.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Paving the Way with Coconuts and Prayer

Here in Kona, we've been really busy preparing for the arrival of our students. I have the privilege of working alongside Adam and Chieko Little, who are my adopted Kiwi cousins,  Samuel Brokenshire, my Aussie brother, and our new family member Caroline Wood.  We've been hacking away at our extensive, pre-school to-do list, working on everything from writing and formatting our DTS syllabus to hearing God on outreach locations.

We also learned to husk coconuts in a base-wide effort to provide every one of the 200 students arriving on Thursday with a fresh coconut as a picture of communion and unity.  Husking coconuts involves whacking them really hard with proper technique on a pointy stick and eventually shredding off the "husk." What you end up with is the round hairy shell that we find in grocery stores. The best part of husking, in my opinion, is the part when you accidentally puncture the shell instead of just the husk and have to drink the coconut milk before it all comes out. It's a perilous task with great rewards. As you can probably imagine, 200 coconuts is a lot! We've been harvesting and husking at all kinds of hours, and finally come close to the mark. Of the 200 students arriving, 16 (or so - some are still applying) are going to be on the school that I am staffing. And I simply cannot wait.

Yesterday, we had a 12 hour "burn"(12 hours of collective, unbroken prayer) and I asked God to give me His heart for our students. He has such love and such great plans for each one of them, and I am so honoured to be a part of releasing them into those plans. Some, I have already met because they are Mission Builders here on the base. Some, I will only meet on Thursday, the official kick-off day of the school. I can only imagine what is in store for the next five months, but whatever there is, I am getting excited.

Please pray that Adam, Chieko, Sam, Caroline and I receive continued energy from the Lord. Pray that we get everything done in time so that we start off our school on the right foot. Pray that we align our heart with God's, and are able to disciple our students by loving example. Finally, pray that each of us recieve a renewing of support. It's super important to have a solid support network behind us if we are going to pour into the student's lives as we intend to. I definitely can't do this without the words of encouragement, the prayers and the general support of all of you back home and in various part of the world.  I love and appreciate all of you.

P.s. We HAVE been praying about outreach locations, and we know roughly where we will be sending teams. Only a few are privy to the details, but I'll be letting you know as soon as I have the okay!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Welcome to Hawai'i

Aloha Friends and Family,

After the longest 40 hours of my life, I arrived here in beautiful Kona, Hawai'i late on Wednesday evening. Getting here was difficult after getting held up in customs - I've never been in one of those stark white interrogation rooms before, so I guess you could call it an adventure... After missing my original flight, I then got rescheduled three different times, all of them not working out for various reasons. I ended up staying Tuesday night in oh-so-friendly Newark, New Jersey. Then, at 3:30 am on Wednesday, I set back off for the airport for a six o'clock flight to san francisco. I then connected through honolulu, and finally arrived on the Big Island to the waiting and much-needed hugs of Adam, Chieko and Sam, who were there for me with leis in hand. There was also a little mishap with my bag, so that didn't actually arrive with my flight, but at that point nothing was phasing me anymore, so we went for dinner and my bag showed up late that night. I am officially 100% here.

I now live with six beautiful women, who are from all kinds of places. Each one is very different from the other, and I love that. Living with them is already so much fun, and such a blessing, and for someone who, a year ago, was uncertain about sharing a room with THREE girls, being excited about living with SIX is a pretty big deal.

Here at the Kona University of the Nations campus, Voice for the Voiceless is a small division of all the media-focused departments along with PhotogenX, film studies, and Grassroots News. The idea behind all of these is to tell the stories of God's people, to bring attention to important matters in an accessible, up-to-date way. We've spent the last two days praying into our school as a team and hearing God on His vision and His dreams for us and our students. We are getting really excited, but are realizing that we are going to need a lot of strength and a lot of guidance. We have been meeting with all kinds of people, trying to get an idea of how to work the media aspect of our school - the students will be trained in media throughout the lecture phase so that once they are on outreach, they will be capable of producing full-on stories and short documentaries in an effort to advocate effectively for the Voiceless. We are still not sure about outreach locations, but we will be praying about that on Monday.

As for me, I am doing quite well. I'm slowly getting over the time difference, though I still wake up really early, and start falling asleep at about 8pm. I'm loving Hawai'i, with it's colourful gardens and beautiful scenery. I'm finding it difficult to catch us with some of the logistical stuff for our school since the others have been here for a while and have already been working hard towards setting things up. Please, Please, PLEASE pray for energy for me as well as for Adam, Chieko, and Sam (who is fighting a cold) and also for financial breakthough. I am happy to report that, thanks to the generous support a few individuals, I have enough money raised for my first few months of rent here, praise God. I'll know more about how much I need to raise for outreach in a few weeks.

Finally, I wanted to express my appreciation for those of you who have encouraged, prayed for, supported, been there for, listened to, (put up with), offered me a hand or a hug in the last few months. Preparing for this was both exciting and hard, since it is both exciting to pursue God's plans for my life but still hard to leave my family and friend in montreal once again. I couldn't have gotten here without each of you. Mahalo!

All my love, and  blessings to all of you.


Thursday, 8 March 2012

Finding Family in the Province of Takeo

What does it look like to cram nine missionaries onto bamboo sleeping mats under five mozzy nets hung in the upper room of a simple yet lovely cambodian home? It looks like family, and it looks like the kingdom of God in a small village in the province of Takeo, Cambodia.

After recuperating from our time in Svay Rieng, we packed up our things and headed south for twelve days- days that would touch our lives in ways we never saw coming. Our ministry was entirely spirit-led, so it turned into an amazing adventure. We went on prayer walks around the village- walks that took us to both likely and less-likely places. We visited the homes of some of the local families where we prayed over the people and over the land. We hiked up the mountain that we lived near and built an altar next to the buddhist tamale at the peak. There we worshipped our king and we prayed for the province and over the kingdom of Cambodia.

On one of our home visits we met with a woman who wanted prayer for healing. We got there and quickly discerned that we needed to take her to the hospital. She had a two week old gash on her ankle, that was massive, deep and visibly infected, from an accident with a motor blade. She had seen a nurse for stitches, but those had torn out of her soft tissue and made things worse. At first, she didn’t want to go with us because her family couldn’t afford it, but we knew she needed to or she could lose her whole foot. We took her to the hospital, where she was seen and where she needed to stay for a few days. The whole process – the daily cleaning, the hospital stay, the sugar for the wound, painkillers – ALL OF IT, cost twenty dollars and this woman got to keep her foot. But this story doesn’t end there; While we were at the hospital, we got to pray for eight other patients. We saw three people get healed, we cast out demons, and we saw four people come to know Christ as their savior. For one woman the difference was literally life and death. And it was all due to our obedience in taking the lovely lady to be cared for at that hospital.

We built really strong relationships with this woman and her son, Kim Hong throughout the week. The family we were staying with quickly became like our own, we gained a mum, a sister and a baby brother. Our translator Sam was this incredible young man with a strong brave heart. He primarily manages teen challenge and a rehab centre for boys; but his dreams with God are even bigger. He has plans for a new community centre in the village and for a new ministry that he will call “Sons of God”, and for a traveling medical ministry based in Takeo. We got to be a part of Sam’s current ministry when we went to teen challenge to play volleyball with the boys. We also got to know the other team he was working with from the world race. Together we worshipped almost every evening, filling the nights with our voices - with our praise. We made with them the kind of friendships that go the distance – that will stretch around the globe as we go our separate ways. We asked God to meet us in a big way, and he obliged. We saw healings, we saw deliverance, we saw freedom and salvation, and we saw relationship within the body of Christ. We saw, simply put, the glory of God in the province of Takeo.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Made For This

The past ten days have changed a lot about the way I see the world. We got to spend time getting to know some of the most genuine people I have ever met. The people in the villages of the province of Svay Rieng live in the midst of chaos, trouble and defeat with a zeal and a zest for life unlike any other. Their lives are centered on generosity, simplicity and honour, and it's beautiful to behold.

We worked with an organization called Kone Kmeng, which translates to Little Children. Their mission is obviously children-focused, but the way they are going about changing the lives of young ones is fresh. It is the belief of those involved with this organization that change in circumstance is brought about by change of heart. They focus on community development/ standard of living, community awareness, education and spiritual growth. They are involved with everything from running community workshops on human trafficking and hand hygiene to drilling wells and providing water filters. They are in the business of saving lives.

We helped out by teaching english at their dorm in Svay Rieng every evening, and by visiting the surrounding villages, encouraging the leaders of the churches there. We also mixed and poured concrete as part of building latrines for the villages.

We had the priviledge of getting to know the students living at Kone Kmeng's dorm in Savay Rieng, and it blessed us so much. There isn't one person on our team that didn't learn tons just from being with these people. There is something about meeting people who have every reason to complain, every reason to be upset because they don't have things - but aren't. The young people at the dorm are regular young people who just love life God, love each other, and love life.

I don't think I'll ever be the same. There was one night, after english class, when the students decided it would be fun if they drove us home on the back of their bicylcles. Clinging on for dear life as we raced along the main street of the town of Svay Rieng, passing Jeremy who was glued to Soytry (our translator) I realized that this is what life is meant to look like. All at once, it was like my brained checked in.

I am living in a place where you can't drink the water because you'll SERIOUSLY regret it later, but it doesn't really matter because even THAT builds community for it's comedic value...
I get to spend my days meeting and interacting with people who may or may not know what a western toilet looks like, who don't believe in toilet paper, who know what it is to work for next to nothing and who know, in the rawest sense, what it is to rely on the Lord for everything.
My friends are people who love each other with thier whole hearts, who know each other inside out, and who think it's fun to terrorize white people by riding their bikes the wrong way on the street as they ride us home.

I came on outreach to bless the people I meet. In an unexpected twist of events,however, I have found myself being blessed by a life that I somehow know I was made for.

Thursday, 26 January 2012


I've been thinking a lot lately about home; I miss my family, I miss my friends, I miss days in the coffee shop with snow sparkling in the window, chatting with some of those dearest to me. I miss game nights, and I miss lacing up my skates.

I miss my Newy family, too. I miss staying up until the final minute before curfew, deep in conversation with my brothers and sisters. I miss late-night snack-and-craft time with Holly (and sometimes, Cookie) and, more than anything, I miss the people who really invested in me during my lecture phase.

I guess for me, it has always been the people - the relationships - that make a place "home".

But now, I find myself moving around on outreach, meeting all kinds of incredible people, on the go all the time. I can't shake the feeling that everything is so temporary. Even when I find I've formed a solid relationship with someone, I know that I may never see them again.

I know that I will always have a sense of home with my parents, and with my brother and sister. Mum, Dad, Alex and Katty, you know me better than anyone else. We might argue lots but I love that we forgive more. I hope you know that I'd do anything for any of you in a heartbeat.

I know that I will always find home with my senior camp family. I know that I have a home in Newy, and I know that I have a home in all kinds of places because of the beautiful relationships that I have with people in those places; The Chans, The Wockners, The Miskiewicz's, Trinity, Saint Mike's, Jackie, Mel, and so many more. But what about here, in the villages of rural Cambodia? Here, where it's hard to communicate even my name with the people I so desperately want to get to know?

How do you build home where even relationships are temporary? How do you build home where relationships only run so deep because of circumstance and language? Do I let timing and language determine that I simply don't persue "home"?

Here's the thing:
" They say 'home is where the heart is', so if you give your heart to God... home can be anywhere." - Micheal Cooke.

If I give my heart to God, then I find home wherever He is - in service, in joy, in peace,in hope... In love. I find home in the kingdom of God.

When I love, and when I give, and when act out of grace, then I bring heaven to earth. I build the kingdom of God. I build my home.

Because my heart is God's, my home is in relationships. They are a reflection of God's character, and in the space between two people who care about each other, the kingdom of God is found.

Because my heart is God's, I am able to build my home wherever I go. I make space for the kingdom of God in every circumstance - a smile with a stranger, a cup of tea with an old friend, a cuddle with my dad. I establish heaven, I make space for God, and in that space I find rest and peace... And home.

My house is mine to build, not out of bricks but out of love.

So I'm charging into hell, and I'm bringing heaven with me. I'm building my home where there are the remnants of hell. For me, home is where brokenness was, but restoration is found. Home is where the was selfishness, but now there is humility. Home is where integrity and love reside. Home is where the kingdom of God bridges the gaps formed by race, ethnicity and language.

Home, they say, is where the heart is.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Kingdom of God and the Letter "B"

We've been in Cambodia for just over two weeks now, and ten of those fourteen days have been spent in the bustling city of Phnom Penh. The city is busy like you can't imagine, and more chaotic than anything I've ever experienced. The lines on the roads are more like suggestions than they are rules, as are the traffic lights. Here, business governs the work day. The shops seem to close when the sun goes down, when the people go home, when the mozzies and the dogs come to find dinner.

The people, however, live just on the brink of the business that is created by the need to earn money and the eagerness to meet demands. Depsite the daily challenge of earning enough to feed themselves and their families, the people in the city are so vibrant. they are so....genuine. Everything they do is saturated in this keen attitude, this servant- heartedness.

When a Cambodian smiles, they smile with their entire body. When they're upset, you know it because it's written all over their face. And when they trust, they do so with reckless abandon.

In the evenings of our week in Phnom Penh, we taught english at a Christian School called Lighthouse. The building was actually a church, where one of the few english services in Phnom Penh is held. The teachers in this school are, to our understanding, volunteers. They come every night and work with their students, teaching them english and building relationships.

The teacher that I got to work with is named Saray. She is this young, beautiful Cambodian woman who is studying biochemistry at the local university. She also works a lot to be able to scrape together her monthly rent of 100 USD, and she still makes time to teach. Her dream is to teach biochemistry - a dream that isn't so far-fetched if you ask me.My favorite thing about Saray is her relationship with her students. It's so much fun to watch. Saray teaches with a grace that reflects God's own, and a heart for her students that reflects His as well. She is so humble and yet commands respect, she wants her students to learn and to grow not so they'll pass but so they'll excel; in school, in life and in all things they put their mind to. She's a strong woman of God, a beautiful sister of mine, and a great role model to her students.

If there is one thing we can learn from the Cambodian people, it's trust. On monday morning, we walked into this school in downtown Phnom Penh, with nothing but our knowledge of the english language, our nerves and our eagerness to serve. We were met with the voices of dozens and dozens of children chanting "TEACHER, TEACHER!" all of them keen to learn our names and hold our hands as we walked to class. For one week, we became their teachers. We all taught different age groups, and with them faced different challenges and had different victories.

I got to teach kindergarden. It never occurred to me how terrifying thirty little tiny faces can be when they're all peering at you from just over the edge of their classroom tables, expecting you to communicate with them. I knew very well that nothing I said would be understood, and when the actual teacher left the room, I was left floundering around, trying to think up ways to communicate with my toddler-aged students. Early on, I figured out that they liked it when I made funny gestures and sounds - so that's what I went with. The next thing I knew, I had a swarm of tiny asian children following me around the classroom, giggling while we learned and acted out the word "plane." I also had the privilege of teaching my class how to write the letter "B". This particular class was made up of students who had only just begun school, so when they all ran up to me, showing me the fruit of our combined efforts, I was quite pleased. Then, a little boy came up to me, looking really upset, and uttered something in his mother tongue. It quickly became clear that he was still having trouble shaping his B's. So we sat down together, and I carefully showed him. We practiced , his hand in mine, a dozen times. Then, he tentatively drew something that looked rather convincingly like a "B", and looked up at me and grinned. I smiled at him, and we high-fived.

I struggled a lot during the week, feeling sometimes like I was getting nowhere for all the effort I was putting in. Teaching english is a slow process, demanding of both the teacher and the students. But this one little boy's success was enough for me. He might not remember me in a week's time, but I'll never forget how much joy there was in that one smille.

This week, I learned a little more about what love in the kingdom of God is like. I learned that love doesn't require a common language, nor does it require much communication at all. Love teaches with both grace and humility. Love makes a fool of itself if it makes a child laugh. Love does not demand to see the fruit of it's labour, but rejoices in the small things - like the letter "B".

Sunday, 15 January 2012

All In a Day

"I've got sunshine on a cloudy day" were the words that beautiful Rebecca Loree and I woke up to at 6 o'clock this morning, our last in Australia before setting off for Cambodia.

I rolled over, my body still sore from the work we did in Toowoomba, but appreciative of the mattress beneath me. I groaned, turned off my alarm, and then it hit me. "Holy crap, we leave for Cambodia today" I said, and Becca laughed.

I checked my email from my bed, (ah, the rare luxury of wifi ) and couldn't believe what I read.

I am still working on completing my fundraising for my outreach phase, and it's s due to the grace of my parents that I got to begin with my team. So, even on the day I was leaving for Cambodia, I was praying for breathrough.

And that is what I got. I woke up to the email of a good friend, with the great news of a generous donation from Saint Micheal's church towards my outreach.

I stood up and cheered and hopped on the spot and shared my news with Becca.

How crazy is that? The day I'm leaving, God provides. He's so good, and so loving, and He's got me becauae that's all in a day of being his daughter; and that goes for all of His children. He is faithful, even when we don't understand the timing. Even when we mumble, and we set up back-up plans in case the God of the Universe doesn't show up, He comes through, and He does so in His own way.. And it's always the best way, the way the stretches you and teaches you the most.

So I left for Cambodia on thursday having learned (another) lesson in God's provision and His timing, and with a greatful heart.

Thank you, brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles of Saint Mike's. Your partnership in my dreams for the people of Cambodia, means the world to me. It gives me such confidence knowing that I have such a beautiful extended family behind me.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Joyana, Jérémie and Berith

Joyana: A beautiful young woman with a zest for life and a passion for people. She has spent the last three months assuming her identity in Christ, and she now wears that identity with style. She is so at ease with people, and when she speaks, you can't help but listen. Such a priviledge to know.

Jérémie: A young man, and a new friend. An inspiration, a seeking heart. Jérémie left his life in Sherbrooke four months ago, and I got to meet him on the beach in beautiful Byron Bay, playing volleyball. We ended up hanging out a bunch during the week and having some really memorable
conversations about life and God and the past and the future. He's a man who I looking for something and finding the most beautiful thing of all. He's encountered a God who hears him, who inspires thought and pondering - a God that simply has to exist. I love Jérémie's brain, because it works through everything. He makes me think about things in new ways, and reminds me to go back to truth whenever I'm uncertain.

Berith: A sweet young lady from Denmark with one of the most gentle spirits I have ever met. Berith has a heart of gold, and a love for the Lord that is so inspiring and so genuine. She's easy to talk to, and makes you feel like you are going to be okay no matter what. she's a great listener, and has wisdom far beyond her twenty years that she shares with the great discernment that God has annointed her with. Hugging Berith is like hugging the holy spirit. It's more than just a hug, it's like sharing. Spiritual touch rather than physical touch. I got to spend the last morning of my time in Byron with this young beaity, and it was a morning that I won't soon forget.A new friend, a new sister.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Byron Bay

We’ve been here for nine days already, but they have all sort of
blended together to take the shape of Impact Summer 2011-2012.

We rolled up in Byron Bay last Wednesday, after saying our good-byes
back at Lewis House and being on the road for a good ten hours. We
were greeted by booming atmosphere of a town saturated in a vibrant
beach- nightlife culture. The sidewalks were packed with young people
who had no place to be and every reason to accept what the world was
offering them. It seemed like the whole town had been dipped in this
sense of mistaken identity.

We began to absorb how big the task ahead of us really was.
Partnering with teams from bases from all over Australia, we gave away
hundreds of sausages and burgers and, on other occasions, pancakes and
chai. We performed dances that spoke of identity, we acted out skits
that remind us that we are sought after, that we are always loved. We
engaged with the inquisitive, creative minds of the locals and with
the meaning-seeking hearts of backpackers. We entertained skeptics
with absolute truth and answered questions about our own personal
beliefs. We saw incredible healings, from age-old injuries to
fractured wrists, from headaches to lactose intolerance.

We have spent the first nine days of our outreach meeting people
where they are at, and loving them in a way that speaks identity into
their lives, that calls them to more.

In the chaos of the end of a year and the beginning of another, we
met the town of Byron Bay with the love of the Father on our hearts.
We have seen God move in incredible ways, and as we prepare to move on
to our next destination, we go with even bigger expectations, with
more life-long friendships, with more love for each other, and with
faith as big as a town covered in the love of God by the actions of
only a few.