Thursday, September 30, 2010

To the Kind and Honorable Judge

To the Kind and Honorable Judge of an Unnamed Region:

In your land there lives a people,
An aching, tyrannized people.
Their mouths are open in a cry,
That the world is deaf to.

In those people lives a girl.
A lonely, little girl
Who waits with open arms
For what will never come.

In that girl there lives a heart,
A sad, perplexed heart,
That waits for what
It's never known.

In that heart there lives a love,
A love the bearer can't detect.
It's hidden away, buried deep,
Under confusion and misery.

In that love there lives a sister,
A melancholy, hopeful sister,
Who above all else wants one thing,
One thing she can't yet have.

In that sister lives a love,
A love for what she's never known,
But understands she's bound to love,
Whether she knows or not.

In that love, there lives a heart,
A heart that beats with fury,
A righteous indignation
That none can take away.

In that heart there lives a girl,
A stranded little girl,
With the smallest sliver of hope
The world tries to cover up.

In that little girl there lives a people,
A people only she can fully know
Whose suffering is yet to be discovered,
And never yet may cease.

In that people there lives your land,
Your land that hates with a fiery passion,
When you are the oppressors, and they are the oppressed.
They have no fire for you, and no water to quell your flames.

Best wishes to you. May God bless you.


One Who Will Never Understand

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Don't Underestimate

Tonight, I spoke to a group of 400 middle and high schoolers. Yes, it was only for about 2 minutes. Yes, it wasn't a "sermon" or a testimony or anything, it was just things that my youth pastor had taught me. But, it was a big deal for me. Two months ago, I would have had a full-on panic attack. I wouldn't have eaten anything all day, I would've been so nervous I'd make myself physically sick. But, now I can do it.

Or rather, I can't do it. God can do it through me. Truthfully, when I speak, I'm as nervous as ever. God calms my thoughts and puts the words in my mouth.

Don't underestimate what He can do through you. Teenagers are capable of so much more than the world, and especially they, themselves, think they are. No, I'm not a good speaker, but yes, I can be when God speaks through me. God takes your imperfections and turns them into something beautiful.

Don't underestimate what God can do in your life, and through your life.

On a sidenote, for all who are interested, a little update on Carmensita, my precious Peruvian girl. I now know the way to send money to Peru for her to see a doctor for her eyes. Once we know exactly what's wrong with her, this process will become more elaborate. We'll start researching medical visas and surgery grants, if she needs it. Also, I've been able to sidestep the horrible Peruvian mailing restrictions (no toys, no clothes, etc.) by a wonderful woman offering to take the gifts for Carmensita, Héctor, and César over to Peru for me when she goes! God is so good! And he is doing incredible things through this little girl's life!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Call

Since I was about twelve years old, I've known that my mission was Africa. I remember the first time being a missionary to Africa ever entered my little mind. I was watching "Idol Gives Back" on American Idol, and they showed footage of the judges visiting the children in Africa. I sat transfixed. I want to do that. It was followed my a song sung by the African Children's Choir. The music was beautiful, and I fell in love with it.

I've had various phases since then. The rock star phase and the famous film score composer phase (I'd send my money to Africa). The orchestra director phase (I'd start a youth orchestra in Africa). Or the just plain, old teacher/orphanage worker phase (in Africa, of course). See, I've never second-guessed my call to Africa.

I went to Peru this summer as, well, sort of settling. They didn't have a youth trip to Africa, so I guessed Peru would have to do. I honestly was not prepared for how much I would love it.

All through the week while I was there, I considered the fact that maybe I wasn't called to Africa. Maybe I was called to Peru.

But, I was so happy to be home, I figured, no. That can't be it. I didn't love Peru, I loved what God did in Peru. That's true, but when I think about it now, I think maybe, just maybe, God does want me to serve him in Peru.

Because my views have changed since that trip. Before, my heart was set on Africa, and I wanted to go on as many other missions as I could. Now, that's still sort of true, but it's changed. I would absolutely love to be able to go to Africa. But, I have to go back to Peru. I have to see my friends again. I have to love on my kids again.

It scares me. Not knowing where I've been called. It limits my preparation. I don't want to bother learning a language yet, what if I never need it? I can't roll my "R"'s, so I can't even pronounce Spanish. Why would God send me to a country where I can't even pronounce the words?

I don't know. I just don't know much of anything yet. And, I don't like it one bit. But, I suppose He reveals everything when He should, so, for now, I'll just try and be patient. Try not to think about Peru every hour. Try not to let my heart hurt for my Peruvian babies. Try not to think about the life-changing decision I'll have to make someday. I'll try, even though I don't know where I'm going.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Devil Attacks

As I walk down the sandy, dirt path, surrounded by hundreds of colorful lines of laundry and vegetables springing up out of the ground, I'm filled with an uncontrollable excitement. My heart rate is beating quickly, a huge smile overtakes my face. Soon I'll see her again. Soon, so soon, I'll get to hold my little Carmensita in my arms. I walk into the bland rooms of the baby house, and walk up the creaky stairs to where the babies are sleeping. Just waking up, they're being sent to take their baths, a glorified scrubbing while freezing water is splashing on you. After all the babies are in the bathing/dressing room, I look frantically around for Carmensita. I don't see her yet. I don't see any little crooked eyes, I don't hear anyone singing a song with the words "bonita, bonita" in it. Ten minutes later, I couldn't stand it any longer. Where is she? I get one of the translators to ask an orphanage worker for me, ask her where my baby girl is.  The woman replies with no emotion, but the emotion on the translators face is enough for me. Shock. Tears. What is going on? With a quivering voice, the translator replies, "She's dead."My head spins, my heart rate explodes, I'm having trouble breathing. Dead? No. No, no, no. She's not. She can't be. The translator asks the orphanage worker again, if she was absolutely positive it was Carmensita. She was sure. There was no mistake. Carmensita was gone forever. Died in a dirt poor orphanage where no one cared about her because she was different. I felt hot tears roll down my cheeks, my heart feel like it's been stabbed, sobs start racking my body.

And then it's gone. I sit straight up in bed, shaking, the tears still fresh. Just a dream, Tori. Just a dream. It's not real. Carmensita is fine. You're sending her to a doctor, remember? It's all okay. Slowly, slowly, I coax myself back into sleep, still shaking.

It was an attack. A direct attack on me from the devil. He meant to unnerve me, he meant to make me scared. He meant for me to doubt Carmensita's safety. I know that God holds Carmensita in his hands, and I know that He loves me, but I was shaken. You can't have that kind of a dream and not be shaken.

The devil attacks. Don't think he won't. I've never had a dream like that before, not that I can remember. It had to be the devil. I didn't know the devil could invade dreams, but I guess he can. Don't underestimate him. Yes, God is ten times more powerful than him. Yes, he has already lost the battle. But, we are sinful people. Don't underestimate his skill at taking over people.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bad = Great

Something that I have realized, but can never fully understand in the moment is that what seems bad at the time, God will often turn into something great.

For instance, last weekend, I learned that my youth pastor, my spiritual hero (minus Jesus and my dad, of course) would be leaving the staff at our church. Needless to say, I was absolutely devastated. I cried for a day and a half. Who would teach us? Who would take us to Peru? I felt desperate, and I hated it. Things were never going to be the same. I'd never see him again.

Over time, I realized that all of this was an extreme exaggeration. His family is good friends with our family, I babysit his daughter. Of course I'd still see him. I can be excited for him now! He's taking a job at Show Hope, where he will help students be involved in orphan ministry, and I get to help him develop the program! I might get to go on mission trips with him to orphanages! How cool is that!?!?

What I thought was so horrible for the moment, God used to bring about something so great I could never have imagined it! Through this change, my youth pastor will touch hundreds of teenagers and get them involved in caring for orphans! And I get to help!

Even when things seem like they couldn't get worse, be encouraged that God will turn it around, and show you how beautiful He can make a bad situation.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

God's Perfect Timing

Meet Carmensita. Carmensita is a little girl I met while I was in Peru. She lives at an orphanage where the children are not adoptable because their parents never gave up custody of them.

Carmensita is around four or five years old, yet she still lives in the baby house. She eats in a high chair. This is because of her eyes. She has "a neurological problem in both of her eyes" as well as a "deformed left leg". She didn't get a lot of attention at the baby house, and she didn't seem to have any friends.

I thought she was one of the most beautiful little children I've ever met. She loved to sing, and she would try so hard to focus her crooked, little eyes on me. But she couldn't quite do it. She fell asleep snuggled up to my chest, even called me Mama. Carmensita touched my heart.

So I was determined to help her, in any way I could. I asked the pastor of the church we partnered with if it would be possible to send her to a doctor to have her eyes examined, to see exactly what was wrong with her.

I waited and waited and waited for a reply. I don't remember patience ever being that hard. But, finally, I got a reply.

The pastor said it was VERY possible for her to see a doctor for her eyes to be examined, and that it would cost around $75. I couldn't believe it! Finally, finally, there was something I could do to help her, my little Peruvian princess.

They also said that I could send her a Christmas present! Carmensita will have Christmas this year! They also said they could find César, the little boy with cerebral palsy, and Héctor, the little boy with Down syndrome so I could give them gifts too!

Just when I was on my last leg, just when I thought I couldn't hold out anymore, when I was missing Peru so much I'd sit on my front porch crying about it, God gave me a way to help my little Peruvians! His timing is so perfect! He gave me what I wanted only when I needed it.

Be praying for little Carmensita. If her eyes and/or her leg require surgery to be fixed, I will start researching medical visas for orphans. But, as much as I want to see her, I hope that's not the case.

God is so good!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Running for God

I am not a runner. In fact, I am not an athletic person at all. I can run about twenty steps and then be completely winded. But, I need to run.

See, in the next year or two, there are a lot of mission trips I'd like to be able to go on, lots of precious kids I want to love. I want to go to Peru, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, and Uganda. That's approximately $16, 500 worth of mission trips. That's a lot of money. You can be sure that people will get tired of me asking for money for missions, so then what do I do?

How on earth do I get that much money?

My dad gave me a solution. He sure knows how to motivate his daughter. A 5K. I have to run a 5K. He says that if I can do it, he'll pay for one of my mission trips. A whole mission trip. That's a least $1, 500 off my plate.

At the beginning of this week, I could walk a mile in about 20 minutes. The past two days, I've cut that down to 18 minutes, alternating between jogging and walking. That's a big deal for me. I didn't think I could walk a mile, let alone jog parts of it.

I don't enjoy running, though. I don't enjoy it one speck. But, I see it as reaching a goal, as running toward something. Every mile I run is a mile closer to Peru or Africa.

God is showing me that the things I never thought I could do, He can do through me. I can share my testimony in front of a church full of people who don't speak my language. I can run a 5K.

We can run for God, just like we run for a mission, or for any cause. No, reading the Bible isn't always the funnest thing ever. No, we don't always want to go to church, but we do it because we have to keep running. Because if we stop, we may never start again.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Never-Ending Aftereffects

It's been exactly fifty days since I got back from Peru.

And, while the incurable restlessness isn't as bad as it was the first few weeks, it's still very present.

I work at preparing the Christmas Warrior Project 2010 with a burning passion as much as I can because it's the only time I feel like I'm doing something worthwhile. Sometimes I try and work on it even when there's nothing else I can do. It's the only way I can get a little taste of what I experienced serving God in Peru here in America. It's only a fraction of it, but it's more than normal.

While I am so incredibly blessed that I got to go to Peru, and it gave me a clear purpose for my life, sometimes I wish I could forget what I felt there. I loved it; it was amazing while I was there. But, the memories become heart-wrenching here, because I can't experience them here.

I almost had a breakdown today while doing algebra homework. I thought, What am I doing? God, why in the world do you want me sitting in an empty bedroom doing algebra that I'll never need and listening to classical music when I could be serving your children? I could be saving the orphans! I could be doing so much more than I am now.

He hasn't answered yet. Maybe I'm not ready for whatever God has planned. Maybe someday, I'll need algebra (as unlikely as that seems).

The memories have faded for those that weren't on the trip. They forget. They don't understand. But, for those who were there, those who experienced, it's impossible to move on in the same way as before. Absolutely impossible.  And, sometimes, we don't know what to do about it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rampant Cussing at a Christian School

I go to a very good Christian school. The people at the school are almost all very godly, very kind people. Except that nearly every single one of them has a fault. They cuss. They use one curse word, time after time after time. And no one cares. It goes completely unpunished. Some of the teachers even use it.

Can you guess what it is? It's the 'R' word. I'm reluctant to even type it, it's become so disgusting to me. I'll even do it in parentheses, so it's like I'm whispering it (retard or retarded).

Only no one realizes that it's a bad word. No one understands that when someone goes... "Oh my gosh, you're so retarded," that they're using a word used to describe the entire population of special needs people in a negative way. We use it as a bad thing. As something negative. As something ridiculous.

This is WRONG. It's a bad word. People always say that they didn't mean it that way. I don't care how you meant it, you still used it.

If I called a black person the 'n' word, and then said, "Oh, but I didn't mean it in an offensive way," that they would just brush it off and not take it in an offensive way? Of course not! The word, in and of itself, is offensive.

It's the same with the 'r' word. You think that just because the degraded people can't understand that you're using what they are in a negative way, that you can just get away with it? No. That's weak, cowardly, and ungodly. That's picking on the weakest of the weak, and using their disadvantage to your advantage.

Now, maybe you understand a little bit why every day, when I go to school, and I hear someone use the 'r' word, my fights clench and I clamp my mouth shut, trying not to angrily outburst at the speaker. Because many of the speakers are my friends. I have nothing against them. They don't mean it, they don't understand what they're saying.

But, if you read this, now you do. You know exactly what the word you're using means. And I challenge you not to use it anymore. But, at least if you do, you'll know what you're saying. And maybe the Spirit will nudge your conscience now that you know.

noun - offensive
a mentally handicapped person (often used as a general term of abuse)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Discipleship In a Christian Environment

Lately in youth church, we've been talking a lot about the Great Commission, and what it means to really make disciples.

Lots of people have opportunities for making disciples in their everyday lives. In public schools, and even private schools, there are people of all different religions. People you can show the light of God to just by setting an example with your life.

But, I wasn't sure how to disciple where I'm at. I have one friend who's of a different religion than me, and that's it. I go to a small Christian school - everyone there is a Christian.

There's not really any opportunities for me to evangelize to those who've never accepted Jesus before.

But, last night, I realized that discipleship doesn't just mean turning people to Jesus, it means leading people who aren't as far along in their faith as you are.

I have a friend, younger than me, that said she looked up to me. When asked who her hero was, who she wanted to be like, it was me. That blew me away.

Just because I wasn't converting people left and right didn't mean I couldn't disciple people. When friends come to me for advice in situations, and I help them make a godly decision, that's discipleship.

When I hang out with girls that are younger than me, and try to set a godly example for them, that's discipleship.

When I talk to people with Down syndrome and autism just like they're normal people (which they are), that's discipleship.

Maybe I won't make many disciples this year who were of a different religion before. Maybe I don't have people in my lunchroom that are Muslim, Buddhist, or any other religion.

But, I do have those younger than me that are looking to me to how to live in a godly way. I do have the opportunity to teach those younger girls what God's Word says for them in their daily lives, and how they can live out their faith. I do have the opportunity to bring the younger disciples closer to God.

Making disciples does not equal converting someone of a different religion to Christianity. Making disciples can be as easy, or hard, as leading those younger in their faith.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

It's Only Visible When You Try To See It

For the longest time, I hated going to "big church" on Sunday. I hated it. It was always geared to the adults, and I never felt like any of the deep, elaborate studies they did applied to my life. I would go to youth church on Wednesday nights, but I would avoid "big church" whenever I could.

It was the same when I was reading my Bible. I never felt like I'd learn anything. Nothing in it applied to my life in 2010.

So, after a while, I just didn't bother. I didn't go to "big church". I didn't read my Bible. What was the point if I was going to get anything out of it?

I realized after a while, though, that the only thing that was hindering me from learning in these places was myself. I didn't learn anything at "big church" because I didn't come wanting to learn, eager to learn, ready to learn. It's all about your attitude.

If you come to church, knowing in your heart that God has brought you there for a reason, knowing that you could learn something that will change your life, you'd be surprised how ready you are to write down every word the pastor says, how eagerly you drink in his words.

It's the same with reading your Bible. If you open it up every day as simply a habit, or even simply as something you have to do because "that's what Christians do," then of course you're not going to get anything out of it! When you go to read God's word, you have to realize that you are reading what God has left us so that we can understand Him, and He can teach us. You have to go into it wanting to learn, eager to learn, ready to learn. Only then can we truly absorb what God's trying to say to us.

It's true that the language they use in the Bible is different than the language we use today. It's not easy to read and understand. But that's just it, isn't it? The Bible isn't supposed to be easy. Jesus even created the parables to confuse people who weren't true Christians. Because people who only said they were Christians wouldn't bother making the effort to understand the parable, but a true Christian would work their brain hard to understand what God was trying to say to them.

It hasn't changed today. Yes, the Bible's hard. No, it doesn't always seem relevant. But a true Christian will work and search for the deeper meaning of what God is trying to say. God's messages, whether you're just reading your Bible or you're listening to a sermon, are only visible when you try to see them.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Not For You To Know

I was doing a little bit of reading in Acts the other night (I'm trying to read the entire Bible for the first time. Decided I'd go at it in alphabetical order. OCD? Maybe a bit.), when I stumbled across a verse that I had (probably) never read before, but that really impacted me.

He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority."
- Acts 1:7

I like to know things. In all actuality, I would like to know everything. I'd like to know why selfish, spoiled rich people are given everything the world has to offer, while the smallest child in Africa is forced to be a soldier for a war he doesn't even understand.

I'd like to know the name of the man I will marry, or even if I will marry. It'd save a whole lot of future drama and heartache, I'm sure.

I'd like to know what God wants me to do after high school. Go to college? Go to Africa? Russia? Will I even live to complete high school?

We all want to know things. We always have. It started at the beginning of time. Why did Eve eat the fruit? To gain God's knowledge. She wanted to know what only God knew. Her desire is in the heart of every one of us, today. We all want to know the things that only God does.

Sometimes I get mad at God for withholding this information from me. I get frustrated, and I yell at Him. Why can't I know?! It's my life! I deserve to know what's going on in my life!

But, I have to check myself. He is God. I betrayed Him, and still He gave his Son to rescue me. I don't deserve anything. I have no right to know anything!

And, even more so, it is not my life. When I became a Christian, I gave my life to God. All of it. My anxiety, my entomophobia, all my faults. I'm so quick to release my fears and faults to God, but I'm less so to release my talents and gifts. When I gave my life to Him, I gave all of my life. My music, my love for special needs kids, my love for my family, everything. It's all His. I am dead. I am no longer my own. I have died, and my body now belongs to God. He brought me back, and now I serve Him, and only Him.

So who am I to ask for any knowledge? I've made so many mistakes with only the knowledge I have. Whose to say I wouldn't repeat the action? What if I tried to change what God's plan for my life was? Knowing would throw off God's perfect plan. It's not for me to know. God is my authority. If He says I don't need to know it, I don't need to know it.

And I trust Him. I've learned to trust Him to reveal what I need to know when I need to know it. Never sooner, never later. Right on time. Because He's God. And God has everything timed perfectly.