We completed a week long training session but no amount of training could have prepared us for the adventure God had in store! I led a team of four. Two other Mercy Girl Midwives, myself and a Filipina translator. The Journey to the mountain (bukid) began at 3am with an 8 hour bus ride. The bus took us to a small city at the base of the mountains where we bought a few more supplies, squeezed into an over crowded jeepney (pictured) and headed up the mountain for another two hours of bumpy, mountain roads!
Along the way the Jeepney stopped to unload passengers and the other Mercy Girl teams as they arrived at their assigned villages. We arrived at our stop, the end of the line, at 5:30pm. The evening sky was beginning to darken, we were hot, tired, and a little apprehensive. We knew some one was to meet us but we really had no idea where we were. We unloaded our supplies (including two 5 gal water jugs (84lbs)) and waited. As darkness fell a motorbike pulled up and we recognized a man from the organization that provided our training. “You won’t be able to stay here after all. We are trying to work out other arrangements”. We began to pray. He was on the phone, and a last minute invitation was given. We would be hosted by a mountain village (I thought we were already in the mountains!) a 4 kilometer hike up (Ugh!) "Lord I don't know how we are going to carry our supplies 4 kilometers, in the dark, to an unknown destination". We sat by the side of the mountain trail we were supposed to begin trekking and prayed. The Lord sends angels in all shapes and sizes! Out of the blue two motorbikes with wooden plank side seats show up and they know the village we need to reach! We hired them to take us and all our supplies up the mountain. The ride was terrifying!, The driver white knuckled the bike the entire ride, saying "Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh My God!"
Our destination was worth every "bump" in the road! God couldn’t have planned it any better! We ended up staying our whole next 3 weeks in an extremely open and receptive village of 26 houses. We had many ministry opportunities like sharing testimonies, sharing the Jesus film (after having 2 showings of the Jesus film, Tatay asked if we would leave the DVD for him, so he could show it to nearby villages), taking BP’s, doing health surveys, and hosting nightly Bible studies.
We were able to run 3 weeks of Vacation Bible School for kids and start a young girls small group. We taught the girls about Jesus, taught them memory verses, taught them how to share the Gospel, and then taught them how to grow as a Christian and carry on their own Bible study. The last night we were there our girls small group came over for a sleepover!
We even had the blessing and honor of hosting a house church almost every night and having two baptisms for the members of the new church. I had the privilege of baptizing "Tatay"(dad/father), the medicine man and founding member of the community. At 82 years old, he lead his community as the first to publicly follow Jesus and be baptized. (*Blog post all about Tatay and his story to come)
The chairman of the village and his entire family were baptized, as well as some of the girls from our small group. 16 in all! We have even received word that the people are still meeting together to study the Bible after we left.
We were extremely blessed and well taken care of. We packed in food for one week and never needed to return to town to buy more supplies. Each day people would bless us with gifts of fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, and even dishes that they had cooked for us. We even had the privilege of being invited for meals into several homes and even hosted a few meals ourselves. The Lord miraculously provided more than we needed. No matter how much we ate, the food never ran out!
This outreach was incredibly challenging both physically and spiritually. The Lord asked me to step out of my comfort zone in so many ways and He challenged my thoughts on what missions, evangelism, and “rolling with the punches” really means. He stretched my faith and I believe my capacity to trust Him to sustain me has increased so much!
Thank you, Thank you to my prayer and support team! I feel so blessed to have been a part of the incredible work that was started. Your partnership impacted 26 homes in the Bukid for eternity!
Please partner with Gracie by prayerfully and financially supporting her!
It’s that time of the year again... "Back to school!" On Saturday, August 29th, Reaching the Hungry brought together a group of 65 willing people, piled into vans and headed down
to Tijuana, Mexico to help children and families prepare for the new school year! The
group consisted of a worship team from Iglesia Jerusalem, Reaching the Hungry
volunteers, Worldwide Transformation Ministries, and a youth group from Saddleback Church.
Trevor Berges (green shirt) took his 11-year-old son, Tanner, on his
first mission trip with Reaching the Hungry.
“First mission trip with Tanner and me. Good day in Mexico
with Reaching The Hungry ministry. Amazing time!”
Tijuana is a very poor community
with a great need of support. How beautiful it is when communities come
together to help another community in need. About 300 hundred backpacks filled
with school supplies, were collected and distributed to children. Each family also
had check-ups from the medical team from Project Compassion and glasses were
prescribed and given when needed. At noon, volunteers made and handed out
around 500 meals for children and families.
All these things are wonderful acts
and gifts of kindness and love. But all of it is completely meaningless if it
weren’t for the common denominator: the hope of the Gospel. The good news of
Jesus Christ is what ties it all together. Not only were the needs of the physically
hungry met, but also the spiritually hungry had an opportunity to “ taste and
see that the Lord is good,” Psalm 34:8
Briana Kwiatek recalls of her time in Mexico:
"I had been to Mexico twice before,
but this time was different. This time we went to a community of shanties
comprised of plastic and scraps of wood. I hadn't seen poverty like this before
in my entire life. The kids were so excited to see us and had been waiting
since the early morning for our arrival, anxious to receive the gifts we had brought. We got to work right away, making hundreds of lunches and putting together the school supplies and backpacks. My favorite part of the day was getting to meet the children and hand out stickers. As I walked down the line of children waiting for their gifts, I would ask "Cual color quieres? --Which color do you want?" They were so excited to receive a little smiley face sticker. I got to look each of them in the eyes and show them in a small way that they were special, and they had value. That's what these trips are all about, showing people that they are worth it. That God loves them more than anything and that they are valuable."
We are called to not only bring the good news of the Gospel, but to also live it out. To share the truth that there is rest for the weary, hope for the hopeless, food for the hungry, a home for the orphaned, and safety for the abandoned. That is what these trips are all about. Thank you to all the volunteers and the very generous donations of the communities that helped make this trip happen. See you on the bus next time!
"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings the good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns." Isaiah 52:7
(The Bukid is the local term for the mountain villages in the north of Mindanao island)
For the next whole month starting Sunday August 22nd 2015 I will be leading a team of 3 other puti langoy (white foreigner) girls and 2 filipina translators. Yes, I will be leading. I guess if they can trust me around the babies they think they can trust me to lead adults too. That will be an adventure in itself. They are sending us out each carrying 1 backpack packed with our sleeping mat, mosquito net, clothes, toiletries, some little girl’s dresses to give away(courtesy of Reaching the Hungry), some medical supplies in case we see a need, and I will carry one rice sack of pots, pans, and other cooking supplies. Just some bare essentials. For a girl who loved camping when I was young I am really excited, but for a girl with fibromyalgia I am also feeling a bit nervous. Please pray with me that His strength will be made perfect in my weaknesses and shortcomings and that I will be pain free.
To begin our month we will travel by ferry to another island where we will spend our first week in “boot camp.” There we will do some team building exercises, attend church planting seminars, and do some evangelism training. We also will be learning practical skills such as how to chop the head off a live chicken, showering fully clothed with buckets outdoors, cooking over a coal fire, etc. Hopefully there won’t be too many headless chickens let loose during this week!
Next, on Saturday, August 29th at around 4amwe will hop on a bus for several hours and travel far into a small village in the mountains of Mindanao island where we will spend our next week. We will travel to a new village each week. The adventure begins as we won’t know what our living conditions will be like until we get each place. We may or may not have electricity, which makes for sweaty mosquito filled nights or fun evenings by candlelight; running water, which can make for interesting showering and cooking or the developing of huge arm muscles from carrying buckets of water; or we may not have beds to sleep on; which can make for grumpy achy girls or the developing of a deeper understanding of how a lot of the rest of the world sleeps. Pray with me that we’d all go out with expectations of the Lord to work and the open mindedness to really experience the fun out of the adventure.
While we are out there our goal will be to seek the Lord’s direction in planting house church groups, evangelizing, doing health teachings, and building relationships with whomever we encounter. So you can see that we really have no agenda. We are going in the hopes that the Lord uses us and directs us, but honestly I cannot tell you exactly what my days there will look like. The people in these villages that we will be living with are predominantly Roman Catholic and some practice Islam. Please pray with me that my team will be relatable and able to build challenging relationships with the people we will meet over the course of the month and that above all else we would leave a lasting impression that brings glory to the name of Jesus.
Since we will be traveling pretty far away from the city I will be completely disconnected from all electronics and internet for the entire month that I will be gone,, until September 23rd. You can expect to hear from me when I get back, but until then please please keep my teammates and I in your prayers. We will need a lot of prayer and interceding while we are out as we will be spreading the name of Jesus and the enemy will try and distract, derail, and desensitize us from our goal.
Please partner with Gracie by prayerfully and financially supporting her!
If you have been around church for any length of time, you’ve probably heard this idea before. “Christians are not called to a life of comfort.”
Having grown up in a Christian family, Christian school, and various Christian churches, this statement is nothing new to me. In fact, it is one of the many mantras that has been so deeply engrained in my mind that I never thought to meditate on what it really means….Until today. While I was driving. And it totally hit me in the face. (As most epiphanies often do.)
Many Christians tend to walk around with this idea like it is a life sentence. “When I signed up for this deal, I contractually agreed to sacrifice my comfort. My security. My wants. My will. As a good Christian, that’s what I have to do. I have to sacrifice. It is a bummer, but it is my gift to God.”
But what if…..This is actually God’s gift to us?
Think about a situation in your life - past or present - that felt or feels completely safe and comfortable. Relationships? Finances? Work? School? Hobbies? Faith? ….Got that picture in your mind? Good. Now...How long have you maintained that comfy situation and remained happy? Or fulfilled? Or energized?
If you’re anything like me, your natural short-term go-to response is to seek comfort and hang out there. That’s human. But perhaps that is only a surface-level response. A knee-jerk reaction. As time goes on and I get lulled into complacency, however, I start to feel bored, restless, and even empty. As I realized in the car just this morning, my comfort and “security,” therefore, become scary.
So perhaps this is an indication that we as humans are not just called to step out of our comfort zones, but actually wired for it. On a deeper level, we crave stimulation, risk, and forward movement. Long-term comfort is not comfortable because we were made to live for more.
This has been a crazy week full of lots of changes. It should be terrifying. And though my mind is racing, strangely, I feel nothing but an overwhelming sense of peace, excitement, and appreciation.
As I process all of these new changes, I found that the person I look forward to talking to the most is my good friend and personal trainer. Why? Because though I truly appreciate the sentiment behind other loved ones’ “aww, poor thing; let me comfort you and give you a pat on the back” response, what I really love is the response that I know I will get from my trainer: “Yep. You’re right. That’s rough. Now give me 5 more burpees. It’ll make you feel better.”
That’s when I realized that I love to be pushed. I don’t desire a comfy hug as much as I desire to physically sweat it out. I don’t desire companions who will help me dwell in self-pity as much as I desire companions who will help me stay focused and keep moving. I don’t desire to look for an easier way out of these new changes as much as I desire to take on the challenge and tackle them head-on. I am invigorated by being pushed (or pulled) out of my comfort zone.
If this is the case, then challenges and sacrifices are actually a blessing. They are an opportunity to grow and to actually feel life, rather than just mindlessly drift through it.
I recently had the tremendous privilege of visiting Grace on her mission field in the Philippines (another “yes” to being called out of my comfort zone, as it was my very first international trip), and I saw this principle in action in a myriad of ways. I saw it in the local people. I saw it in the poverty. I saw it in the public transportation. I saw it in the sweet patients and incredible staff at the birthing clinic. I saw it in our late night sweat-sessions as we eagerly awaited the power or the water to come back on so that we could find relief from the tropical humidity.
Life in the Philippines is nothing like life here in San Diego... In my opinion, it’s better. This is not to say that it is easy. I am amazed and humbled by the sacrifices that Grace and her colleagues make constantly to build a life in Davao and continue to serve its people. They are truly living a selfless life far outside of their comfort zones. But the quality of their intangible life, their faith, their spirituality, their relationships, their hope, their gratefulness, and their fulfillment is infinitely greater than anything I have ever experienced in my safe, comfy first-world bubble. Though it has been great to be home and back with family and friends, my heart still yearns for Davao. Or perhaps, yearns for the “something greater” that I found in Davao.
This feeling is hard to describe in words. I wish that I could transfer this feeling to each and every one of you so that you could experience the exciting, invigorating, and yes, a little scary, passion for life that I feel burning in my spirit at this moment in time. But that is something that you will have to pursue for yourself. I encourage, or rather urge you to step outside of your comfort zone. Near or far, big or small, public or private...Just do something that scares you a little bit. Don’t take this as a call to be reckless. Approach it prayerfully and use your common sense. But push yourself just a little bit further than you would normally go. You just may be surprised to find that “scary” is the most fun, inspiring, fulfilling, and comfortable place to be!
On behalf of Grace, thank you so much for your continued support and prayers. The solid foundation that you have built for her back home is making all the difference as she builds her life and ministry in Davao. Her team is delivering and changing lives. What a powerful thing to be a part of!