Showing posts with label missions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label missions. Show all posts


Life Isn't Meant to be Lived All in One Place

Several years ago when I first met my friend Danielle, God began preparing my heart for the trip of a lifetime and relationships that would forever change the way I see and define love. He planted a seed in my heart that could only be watered and grown in a tiny little country called Swaziland, Africa.

I wrote about it some and desperately attempted to convey my feelings about the trip in a few published posts but really struggled to share the things I so intensely wanted to. So I kept them in the drafts folder and continued to write...but more importantly? Continued to pray. About what God wanted me to share and what He wanted to keep between Him and I along with that tiny little country I fell head over heels in love with.

Before committing to the team and trip, I scoured the Children's Hopechest website for a child to sponsor. There were several children in need of sponsorship, but no matter how much I prayed about it, I felt God saying, "just wait."

Hearing those words frustrated me beyond belief. "Just wait?" I want one now. I want to have a sponsor child to meet when I arrive! Looking back, I cannot believe how selfishly ignorant I was being. Oh, how I wish I had realized that this part of the story -- this chapter -- was not about me. Oh, I wish I had realized that it is never about me.

After travel delays, switched flights, and layovers in places I never expected to be (Amsterdam and Ghana, HOLLA!), we arrived in South Africa. I got to shower for the first time in days and eat something other than airplane food (which would make any American giddy). As I was getting out of the shower, I'd realized I hadn't even shampooed my hair because I was in such a hurry to get out. I wanted to get on the road so we could get to the guest house we'd be staying at for the remainder of the trip. I wanted to be one step closer to meeting the children I'd been praying for and about for so many months. "Just wait," He kept whispering to my spirit.

The first day was a whirlwind as our team got to know one another better, crossed the boarder to Swaziland, and got settled into the guest house where we would be staying. I spent a lot of time praying that night before sleeping like a rock and waking up to what I remember being the best day of my life thus far. Finally, our first day at the carepoint had arrived.

I vividly remembering pulling up to the carepoint and watching the children run to the fence to wave -- so full of joy and anticipation at the thought of meeting us, holding our hands, and sitting on our laps. It was so evident that these children loved without restriction. They were not choosy or stingy about whose hand they were holding or whose hair they were stroking. Though I'd never been to Swaziland before, there was something oddly familiar about the immense love, unexplainable peace, and overwhelming joy I felt being there.

That's when it hit me. Interacting with the children and watching the children interact with each other reminded me so much of the elaborate love of our Father in Heaven. Their innocence reminded me of the perfect, sinless sacrifice that Jesus was. My heart was broken, changed, mended, and filled over and over again that day and in the days to come. God was evident in each and every moment.

It was that day that I met my sweet Nontsikelelo -- a petite 10 year old with the most beautiful smile, sweetest laugh, and passion for school. She clung to my hand and side for majority of the day and shared her story with me. We talked about family, school, her dreams, and everything in between right down to discovering that we both shared a love for the color yellow. "It is so bright," she said. Oh, sweet girl, how bright you are.

The next day, we spent more time with one another and continued to enjoy each other's company and encouragement. Around dinnertime, we said our "see you tomorrow's" and went our separate ways. Just as our team was about to leave, Nontsikelelo came up behind me, tapped me on the arm, and handed me a piece of paper. "I have almost forgotten to give you your letter!" she said.

As she ran off and started down the path to go home (wherever home might be) I unfolded the piece of paper she had given me as tears began to stream down my face. Her words. Her handwriting. Her drawings. Her thoughtfulness. How worth it being obedient to "just wait," felt. How present God had been and continues to be.

In the days following, Nontsikelelo and I continued to laugh and sing and pray together. She brought some of her schoolwork to show me, I got to show her pictures of my family and friends here in America. As our time together came to a close, saying goodbye made me weep as I have never wept before. As we hugged one last time, she whispered, "I have been praying for a special friend for so long. You are my special friend and I love you!" Though the two of us are from what seems like two entirely different worlds -- and though those two "worlds" are so incredibly far apart, God's care and perfect will brought us together in a way that has forever changed and deepened the way I breathe, live, think, and pray.

It's funny, isn't it? How difficult the waiting is. How overbearing it can feel and how weary we can become when God asks us to do something while our flesh so desperately wants to do another. How much the journey matters. How one day things fall into place and the purpose of the process is revealed to us in such a marvelous way that leaves us breathless and saying, "only God," if we can manage to say anything at all.

Nontsikelelo is now my special sponsor child! I receive a stack of letters and coloring pages from her occasionally and everyday I look at her photo hanging on my bulletin board, I am reminded of God's faithfulness to and patience with us when we are, what seems, utterly impossible. On tough days when the world is so clearly baring its ugly teeth of stress and unfairness and tragedy, I am reminded of the ways that His goodness CAN be seen in this world if only we choose to fix our eyes on the eternal perspective He calls us to have.

I need to be reminded of that goodness. I need photos of this beautiful little spirit covering my walls. I need verses and quotes hung on my bathroom mirror, above my bed, and on my room door. When my heart longs to be back with the people I met in Swaziland, when it hurts to see how unfair this world can be, and when it aches to do something more...I need to be reminded.

{map art c/oHip Little Squares}

Those reminders come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They come in forms of people, places, memories, and words. This vintage map by my new friend Denise and her precious Etsy shop Hip Little Squares is one of those reminders. A reminder I need

I need to be reminded that loving and living and all comes at a cost. A beautiful, beautiful cost already paid in full by a wonderful Savior who will one day, in the renewal of ALL things, beckon us home to be with Him in a much happier and pain free place. But until then, until the day we reach the gates of Heaven, life isn't meant to be lived all in one place.


Next Stop: Jamaica

About a month ago, I found out that I got placed on a spring break missions trip team here at Bethel. Originally I hadn't planned on applying at all, but I woke up one morning and really felt the nudge to do so. I initially applied for the Belize team and was pretty certain I had it all figured out...but, as always, God showed me a way that was so much better and more beautiful than I could have ever conjured up on my own.

I woke up at home one Monday morning in November...groggy and crabby and afraid. I was missing class and meeting with one of the orthopedic surgeons doing my upcoming surgery. I was feeling discouraged, but when I clicked into my Gmail app and read these words, I was reminded why the journey is always worth it:
We have completed the interview and selection process for Spring Break Missions 2015. Team Leaders met yesterday and formed what we believe to be incredibly strong teams for ministry over Spring Break. We are happy to announce that you have been placed onto the Spring Break Missions team to Jamaica!
Though I hadn't been expecting to be placed on the Jamaica team, I did not react with any less excitement than I would have had I been placed on any other team. I was filled with a lot of peace and excitement, yet I recognized I was also feeling a bit beside myself.

"I don't know if I want to do it again," I thought, remembering the feelings of brokenness and heartache I felt when I returned from my first missions trip to Swaziland, Africa this past August.

My mind flashed back to a night in Swaziland. Our team had just returned from a long day at the carepoint and I was exhausted. My ankles were swollen, my spine was in a massive amount of pain, and while my spirit was so full, I was struggling. I sat down on the edge of my bed, looked at my dirt stained feet, and began to cry. Oh, how useless and broken I felt. There I was, in the midst of all this poverty and struggle, and there was nothing - absolutely nothing - tangible I could do to change it. I began to pray, and as I was there dwelling in those feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness, God said to me: "Kenzie, I did not call you here to fix the world problems...I called you here to LOVE."

To LOVE. He said it loudly, clearly, and so very certainly...and that is why, despite any fear or anxiety of feeling so fully broken again, I will listen to that call from the God who knows me and what is best for me so much better than I ever will on my own. Whether doing so leads me to Swaziland or Jamaica or my own backyard, I will remember those words I heard so conspicuously and I will follow the call to love in whatever capacity I can in whatever season I am in. And if I happen to find myself blessed with a season that has me feeling so fully and sweetly broken again, I will embrace it and allow God to work through it + grow my faith JUST as He did upon my return 'home' from Swaziland.

I so often forget that having our hearts broken for the things that break His is precisely what draws us closer to Him. I may not be able to change the living situations of my friends in Swaziland, I may not have answers for all the world's suffering, and I may not have the resources to make a tangible difference 100% of the time, but I have faith in a God whose definition of love wildly and recklessly exceeds all of those things...and that love is all we need to change the world.

"I am blown away that God, who could do this all by Himself, would choose to let me be a little part of it. I have learned that I will not change the world, Jesus will do that. I can however, change the world for one person. And if one person sees the love of Christ in me, it is worth every minute. In fact, it is worth spending my life for.” -Katie Davis


A Pretty Good Place to Start

Ever since the day I returned from my time in Swaziland, Africa, my heart seemed to be missing a piece that (to this very day) I have not been able to locate. Ever since resuming my life here, I've felt a bit if though losing that piece of my heart was a bad thing. As if, for lack of a better word, my time spent there had wrecked me.

And then I went to college where I knew no one and no one knew me. I struggled through surface conversations and small talk while my soul desperately begged for a deep connection again. My best friend was suddenly +10 hours away. The boy I was crazy about went to another school. I spent my first few weeks counting down the time until I could go home again, thinking about sweet summer memories, and trying to preserve every last high school friendship I'd ever had...and it drained me completely.

For awhile, I tossed around the idea of applying to a spring break missions trip to Belize with a team at Bethel. "No," I thought, "I still haven't gotten that piece of my heart back from Swaziland. I can't give away another piece."

When I first started forming new friendships with people here at Bethel, my thought process was quite similar. "No," I thought, "I still haven't gotten the pieces of my heart back from the people who meant the world to me throughout my high school career. I can't give away another piece."

You see, I'm not a letter-goer. Never have been, never will be. I'm a hoarder of feelings and memories and I don't think I'm alone in being that way. So many of us crave new beginnings, the chance to be adventurous, and spontanetiy in its rawest form but struggle to fully enjoy those things or be intimately present in those moments because we are too concerned with clinging onto the past. Don't get me wrong. Remembering and reflecting are good and excellent things...but when those things get in the way of reality and renewal, we stop growing and our lives become plaqued with redundancy rather than opportunity.

One day not too long ago, I rolled out of bed and made some hefty executive decisions. I decided to apply to that missions trip. I decided to let new people in, I decided to let go of the friendships that were no longer valuable to me...and I realized something quite profound in the process. I realized that the beauty of giving little pieces of our hearts away to the things we are crazy about lies in the contingency that we will never the same again and neither will others. I realized that the beauty of never truly getting those little pieces back lies in the lasting impact and influence we leave by living our lives, sharing our struggles, and owning our stories.

I got accepted to that missions trip. I've formed some incredible connections and relationships with people I've known for just over two months. I've grown closer in the few high school relationships I chose to sustain and make a priority. I'm in the midst of praying about a return trip to the carepoint in Swaziland that sealed the deal on my heart for international missions work...and I am happy.

Am I exactly where I want to be? No. I still have to be intentional about being intentional in controlling my thoughts, giving what I cannot control over to God, and very simply being present in the moment. Is it easy? No. It's not. But, since doing the easy thing is almost never the right thing...I'll continue to deliberately make those executive decisions and trust that in doing so, the right opportunities - whether they be missions trips, relationships, or something in between - will present themselves.

I don't know exactly what I want out of life...where I want to be or what I want to do...but I do know that wherever I am, I want to love people with a wild, conspicuous, enormous kinda love that just doesn't make sense...and that seems like a pretty good place to start if you ask me.


I Wish Someone Would've Told Me

Reverse culture shock, they call it. Google defines it as an emotional and psychological stage of re-adjustment marked by feelings of loneliness and desolation. If you ask me, most days it feels pretty similar to my autoimmune disease (minus the physical pain). It's unpredictable, it's consuming, and it's absolutely, utterly exhausting.

So, yes, I'd heard about it. I heard it was a "thing" but I didn't believe it was a "thing," per se.

The first Sunday I'd been back home from my time in Swaziland, Africa, I went to church. I hugged the people I had missed so much. I had great conversation with those I hadn't seen all summer. I sat in my favorite spot. I prayed harder than I usually prayed. I closed my eyes and worshipped with the same reckless abandonment that I always have. But as far away as Cold Spring, Minnesota is from Manzini, Swaziland... I could not shake the feeling that I, sitting there in my home church, was not home. In fact, I felt the furthest thing from it.

At one point during the service, some of the kids played a game where they had to unroll a roll of toilet paper the fastest. Feelings built up FAST for me and I just about got up to leave because I couldn't control the tears that were forming. All I could think about was the carepoint I'd just spent 12 days in and all I could picture was the stack of notebook paper next to the "toilet" (if you want to call it that) in the makeshift "outhouse" (again, if you want to call it that). Yes, you read that right. I started crying about toilet paper. Or lack of thereof, I should say.

I felt crazy walking out of church that day and in the days to follow. EVERYTHING I did felt selfish. Even something as simple as unpacking or having one of my favorite snacks frustrated me to the point of tears because it was so self-serving. I felt useless because anything I was doing couldn't compare to what I could and would be doing if I was back in Swaziland.

I'm doing better now, you could say. I'm praying through it and attempting to write it out instead of internalizing it and letting it all turn to tears. Hence the blog post. Everyday does seem to get a little easier, but then there's a tough one thrown in. Some days I'm speechless... Some days I start drafting 6 blog posts. It's just hard not to wish someone would've told me.

I wish someone would've told me that I would wake up in the wee hours of the morning thinking about the kids I got to know in Swaziland. Wondering where they are and what they're doing 7 hours ahead of the time zone I lay awake in.

I wish someone would've told me about the nights I'd move from my bed to the floor just because it feels too comfortable. Because I need to be closer to to the same earth those kids are walking on in some remote villiage in Africa.

I wish someone would've told me that every time I now go to my closet, all I really want to do is throw everything out. That my style will never be the same again because the maxi skirts and t-shirts I lived in during my time there now hold a whole new meaning.

I wish someone would've told me that every time people ask how my trip was, I would daze off for a solid five minutes and still struggle to utter the words: "It...was...uh...perfect. It was perfect." Only to be disappointed with my response because HOW? How do I even begin to explain the way Jesus shattered my heart during my time there?

I wish someone would've told me I'd want to punch a wall when the response is, "Oh Kenzie, you are such a good person!" or "You have such a big heart!" or "You are a brave soul!" Because I'm not. I'm not any better than Abraham and Sarah's doubts or Rahab's lifestyle. My heart is the size of everyone else's and I am anything but brave. What I am is real. I'm afraid. Of being where God wants me to be. Of not being where He wants me to be.

Truth be told, I didn't go to Africa because I have a heart bigger than anyone else's. I didn't go because I'm the next David defeating Goliath or a giant of any kind, really. I didn't go to Africa because I have an answer to the world's problems or because I have the resources to fix those problems. I went to love. That's it. Because God first loved us and it is the most valuable thing you and I have to offer everyone and anyone we come in contact with.

Is there a need to be met? Yes. There are so many needs. But caring for and tending to those needs should come out of a genuine love for people and Christ, not out of pity or a sense of obligation to this world. When our actions align with the desires of His heart, things change...people change.

So, yes. I wish someone would've told me. I wish I would've been warned. I wish I had known that the tears were beginning the healing process, not making me crazy...but I wouldn't change where my heart is right now for the world.

“It may take place in a foreign land or it may take place in your backyard, but I believe that we were each created to change the world for someone. To serve someone. To love someone the way Christ first loved us and to spread His light. This is the dream...and it is possible.”  - Katie Davis


Africa Reminded Me

When I first started to finalize details for my trip to Swaziland, Africa this summer, I must admit that I looked at everything a bit naively. I wasn't anticipating perfection by any means, but there were just a few details that didn't cross my mind until either: a.) the moment we were headed there b.) a random day well into the trip or c.) we were on our way home.

For lack of a better word...there were just a few things that Africa reminded me.

1.) BATTERIES DON'T CHARGE THEMSELVES. You would think after a long day of playing with the kids at the carepoint and spending all your free time snapping photos of them that charging your camera and phone batteries would... LEAST cross your mind. You would think. 

2.) IF YOU'RE NOT GOOD AT SPORTS IN AMERICA, YOU WON'T BE GOOD AT SPORTS IN ANOTHER COUNTRY. HA. HA. HA. I sounds like I'm being a serious Debbie Downer. One day afterschool some of the older girls were playing a game that they call tennis. (There were no rackets, FYI). They were basically bouncing a tennis ball back and forth between about 8 of them. They claimed the only trick was that you had to jump over the ball before catching it. But actually, they lied...because the other trick was the fact that I was wearing a long skirt...and I'm just gonna leave it at that. Kenzie, meet dirt. Dirt, meet Kenzie. Kenzie, praise Jesus that you are wearing leggings under said skirt.

3.) THERE IS ALWAYS TIME FOR LAUGHTER. So often here at home, I notice myself turning into this "no foolin" kinda girl. I get into my rigid schedule and everything I do almost seems to become an appointment. God reminds me of this one pretty often, but in Africa, it was like a whole 12 days of being reminded. I have never laughed more. I have never made so many silly faces. I have never laughed more about the silly faces I was making. See exhibit A below... ;)

4.) BUILDING WALLS DOESN'T KEEP OTHER PEOPLE OUT, IT FENCES YOU IN. This is DEEP and it hit me like a ton of bricks while I was there. The kids loved looking at photos of and hearing about my family. When the question, "do you have a grandpa?" arose from time to time, I was taken a bit aback before I could find the words to explain that I have two in Heaven. Here at home, the same question would result in an almost awkward response of... "Uh, let's not talk about it." Being honest and open with the kids, even when it was bittersweet for me, split my heart right open. God did a lot of healing through little conversations with little ladies who now mean the absolute world to me.

It may have a thing or two to do with being caught up in the moment...but, regardless...hindsight is 20/20, right? :)


Hope For What's Next

As many of my faithful friends + readers know, I have returned from my more than blessed time and trip to Swaziland, Africa. Physically, my feet are 100% back home here in Minnesota... But, friends, I left my heart thousands of miles away back in that carepoint with the sweet children I got to know, love, and care for.

WHAT I'M WEARING ::  HEADBAND // Brady Bands :: SUNGLASSES // Vanity :: T-SHIRT // c/o Our Anthem is Hope ::  BRACELET / Swazi market  ::: SKIRT // Vanity ::  SANDALS // Old Navy

My time in Swaziland completely changed my heart, perspective, and ultimately my life. I know that's a broad statement. And as much as this type A personality, detail-oriented girl HATES broad... But I'm trying my best to embrace it.

Because I don't need to know every detail. I don't need to comprehend every feeling. I don't need to understand just why God has called me to a place so far away... I just need to say yes to His call.

When I was in Swaziland, I didn't spend an hour picking out my outfit for the day. I didn't worry about the petty things in my life. I didn't waste time and energy worrying about things I cannot control. I simply woke up each morning and said, "Yes, God. I'm up for whatever you have for me today."

My adjustment to being back here in the states has been an incredibly slow process thus far. I'm writing, I'm praying, and I'm trying to process everything before sharing because I want to get it right... And I don't want to miss a single step in doing so.

I move to college in 21 days and am already rapidly researching ways to get back to Africa as soon as possible. During my time in Swaziland, one of the missionaries I had the opportunity to chat with told me about an incredible organization called the Abide Family Center in Uganda and their internship program. Needless to say, much of my 20 hour flight home was spent praying about my future plans to pursue social work and missional ministries, my desire to move someplace in Africa, and my emotions about the place I have so desperately fallen in love with.

Amidst it all, I am so thankful for sweet friends like Natalie who give me hope in the future that is to come and hope in the only God who can change this world. Her business, Our Anthem is Hope, is creating hope all around the world and I am so thankful that she helped give me the opportunity to bring that hope to Swaziland. I can't wait to see where God takes it next. :)

Linking up with The Pleated PoppyStyle ElixirBecause Shanna Said SoGet Your Pretty On, & Tucker Up!


Fit For His Service

When the idea of traveling to Swaziland, Africa to serve in a carepoint this summer first came about, my biggest concern was my health. I'd been struggling with bronchitis, mono, sinus infections, and ear infections all winter long. The medication I was on to treat my arthritis severely compromised my already overactive immune system and made my body a lot more susceptible to these infections. Not long after that, I came down with strep throat and battled a bladder + kidney infection. It was a long winter to say the least, and I began to worry that my health would simply not allow me to go on a trip I was so passionate about.

When I shared my plans of traveling to Africa, I struggled BIG TIME to convince my parents that it was truly something I needed to do. You see, I have this God-given, indomitable spirit that likes to travel the road less taken. My parents recognize this spirit and (unfortunately) have found ways to combat my insanity... Sometimes, anyway. This time, though, they knew they weren't getting away with it. Although it took time, prayer, and countless discussions that turned into arguments, I truly believe that they are my two biggest fans and supporters when it comes to going on this trip and fulfilling one of my biggest dreams. My sisters, my brother, my best friends, their families, and my blog readers have been equally encouraging. There is truly nothing greater than being surrounded by people who want nothing less than God's best for you.

As I have continued on with preparation and prayer for my trip, I have continually had to explain to others (family, doctors, friends, coworkers) WHY I would put my already weakened immune system at risk when I could "easily and safely" help people right here. After lots of thought, here's the best answer I can give them:

I don't want to just exist in life nor do I want to simply endure it; I want to LIVE a life worthy of the calling I have received in Christ.

I remember lying awake in bed this past Easter as I was attempting to rest and endure the pain of the bladder + kidney infections I was dealing with. I was in the most pain I had ever been in since my diagnosis. Our team was in the heart of fundraising for our trips and we were just about to begin t-shirt selling. The hugest part of me wanted to give up right then. Not on life, but on making my dreams for this trip to become a reality. I was crying, praying, and ultimately attempting to give God an ultimatum. I remember saying out loud, "God, if you do not heal me from this disease and its complications, I will not follow your call to go on this trip." Though (at the time) I fully expected Him to heal me right then... In hindsight, I can't say I'm surprised that He didn't. Instead, I heard the gentlest voice say, "Have faith child, I am taking you to Africa." That assurance and those nine words were what kept me holding on.

When I wake up in the morning all the way til the moment I close my eyes to sleep at night... I have no clue why God has put Africa on my heartI just know that He has and I am positive that He protects those who listen to His call no matter what the cost. That is why I am not afraid of this trip. Of foreign disease. Of wearing a mask to prevent infection. Of holding, hugging, and kissing children from entirely different backgrounds. Rather, I am whole. Not because my earthly body has been healed, but because I have Him and He is all I need.

In 3 days, I will board a plane to a place and people that I love so radically, passionately, and recklessly though I have never been there or met them. In doing so, I am choosing to believe that the wounds I've so desperately pleaded with God to heal and the burdens I've begged Him to lift are the very things that make me fit for His service.

I can't wait to watch God fulfill the promise He gave me during one of the darkest times of my life. I can't wait to learn how to love the way He has loved me. I can't wait to have my heart broken for the things that break His. And I can't wait to share it all with you.


I'm More Than Okay With It

"I want to move to Africa one day!"

They roll their eyes.

"I want to adopt at least 3 children!"

They laugh.

They don't laugh because they're unsupportive, because they wish to mock me, or because they don't believe in me. They laugh because I'm Kenzie... And Kenzie gets a little crazy sometimes. But you know, I'm okay with that... Clearly.

The hardest thing for me to explain to people is what I want out of life. Before graduation, my classmates and I had to fill out a piece of paper that asked where we we pictured ourselves in 10 years. I wrote... "Happy. In love. In Africa... With a pile of kids!".

Apparently, that's crazy. But why?

What my family (and most all the people who surround me) do not understand is that if I never have a beautiful, elaborate home, an expensive car, the typical all-American family, or what the world sees as a "real job," one day... I will be okay with it. If I don't spend 4 years at my dream school experiencing the total college life, I will be okay with it. If I am dirty, hungry, exhausted, and sharing God's love with children who might not otherwise know it, I will be okay with it.

As long as I am chasing His call with reckless abandon, I promise you with every inch of my being that I will be MORE than okay with it.

How? The Bible tells us to do two very important things: love God and love others the way we want to be loved. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be starving or lonely or homeless or parent-less or naked. I don't want to drink dirty water, sleep on the floor each night, be denied an education, or sell my body to pay the bills.

And THAT is why I am okay with giving up my dreams in order for God to make His dreams my own. That is why I'm okay with God's call. With surrendering. With investing into His kingdom, both literally and figuratively. With giving up everything I am to be everything He wants me to be.

Yes, maybe this looks crazy from the outside. Maybe I'm not like everyone else. In fact, I KNOW I am not.

I'm not Amy who has been called to serve in Missouri.
I'm not Elissa who currently lives in Russia with her family.
I'm not Misty who set aside three months to spend time working in a church in Alaska.
I'm not Tiana who is volunteering in a Guatemalan orphanage for two months.

If I know I am not like everyone else, then why is it so hard, for Heaven's sake, to simply understand that God wants me - all of me - in Africa? Why is that such a foreign idea? Why is it shunned? Why is doing God's work not "as good" as doing man's? Why does this world have it all backward?

Truthfully, I don't know and I don't think we'll ever find out on this side of Heaven. But I do know that God has a history of using the ones who said "yes." The one's who appeared to crazy. When Mary was asked to mother the son of God, I have a hard time believing she was fearless. When Jesus told Peter to walk out onto the water, I don't believe he took a running start. The thing that set those two (and so many others) a part was the mere fact that they said "YES." They were people just like you and I, but because they were willing to follow Christ no matter the cost, He used them in ways they never would have known had they let the fear of what other people thought control them.

You see, God's call isn't complicated. It's clear... And YES, sometimes it's daunting. But it's never confusing. When we pray and ask, He shows and tells. His call is simple, we just make following that call complicated. We try to justify and simplify when God has already given us the means to do abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine. I've been guilty of it for a long, long time - but today, I want to be forgiven of that and I don't want to forget the freedom that comes along with saying, "Yes, Lord. YOUR way," ever again.

Maybe I'll be right here in 10 years. Maybe I'll be in a different state. I might even be happy. In love. In Africa... With a pile of kids! Whatever God has for my future, I want that. And I have never felt a call stronger than the one leading me to Africa.

So, I'm okay with it, God. I'm officially okay with you shattering this life to pieces and putting it back together so much more beautifully. I'm more than okay with it.



Back in February, I announced that Jesus is taking me to Swaziland! As stated there, I believe in this trip and the mission more than words can say. I am filled with the excitement of how it will grow my faith and change my heart. I know will never be the same after taking this step out of my comfort zone. Never. And that excites me more than anything in the world because THAT is precisely the way I want to serve Jesus.

Since that announcement and writing that post, I have received prayer, donations, words of encouragement, and an even deeper desire to go on this trip. I want to love the children of Swaziland until I literally can't anymore. I want to hold them and snuggle them and adore them in a way only my heart can. I want to experience their giggles in real life. I want to sing "Jesus Loves Me" in the hot sun. I want to do God's work... And I want to watch my heart burst at the seams as I do so.

While I am beyond gracious for the funds that have already come in, I haven't quite reached my goal of $3500. Originally, I had planned for this money to come in before the end of May - and while that isn't exactly looking to happen, I know Jesus has His own timing... And His promises never fail.

Sunday afternoon was my last shift at Starbucks and I worked with a girl I'd never met before. Right before I left, her and I somehow got on the topic of running and I mentioned that I was diagnosed with autoimmune arthritis at the age of 14. She responded, "WHAT?! Me too!" We went on to share our entire diagnosis stories and what medications we're currently on. When I told her how Enbrel has basically given me my life back and reignited my passion for running, she said, "Kenzie, one day I hope I can say the same." I left work that afternoon with so much compassion on my heart. Casey hasn't left my mind once this week.

Following that shift, I attended a worship service at my church on Sunday night. I was praying over the travel expenses I have yet to fund for my trip to Africa this summer. I was asking God HOW the money was going to come in and WHY He has called me to this trip... Every time I tried to argue, I heard the same thing over and over: "Have faith child, I will provide. I have called YOU and I shall sustain you."

Moments later, my pastor spoke over the microphone and asked if God had spoke to anyone in the moment of silence that we took. I had just about mustered enough courage to go to the altar and share what God had spoke to me, but I saw another young woman stand up and briskly walk down to the microphone first. It was then that this young woman spoke into the microphone... She said...

"God just told me that someone in this room is going to be a missionary."

Instantly, tears started streaming down my face. I couldn't contain my excitement or the blessed reassurance I felt in that moment. I knew - 110% - that God had just used her to speak to me in the most realistic way possible. I attempted to ignore what He was telling me - and He made me understand it even more clearly.

Even further, my pastor then looked over at me. He looked me in my tear-filled eyes and he said, "Is that for anyone tonight? Did that just entirely blow someone away?" Without thinking for a split second, I stood up. Before I knew it, I was standing at the altar speaking into the microphone. I shared how stressed I have been about  funds coming in for this trip. I shared my heart for missions. I publicly announced that I recently switched to a double major in missional ministries and social work. And, well, I cried. Because God had just spoken to me and I knew I was going forward even more confident in that calling.

Last night, as I was out for a run, I prayed the e.n.t.i.r.e. time for Casey and this missions trip - two things that have clearly been heavy on my heart for so long. As I was praying, I came up with an even greater challenge to put two of my biggest challenges to work... Together.

And THAT's where #RunningForSwazi was born!

Basically, for every $100 donated towards this trip (from this point forward) I will run one mile. The goal is to raise $2500 by May 31st - exactly 2 months from the date which I will be returning from my 2 week trip to Swaziland, Africa. Yes, you read that right. I could potentially be running 25 miles in less than 3 weeks. All donations will do directly towards my travel expenses.

This is a challenge I am more than willing to take on for the children of Swaziland. If you are interested in helping me get there, donate below + spread the word by tagging me () and also hashtagging #RunningForSwazi! 

Luke 4:18 - "...He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, and that the oppressed will be set free."


Jesus Is Taking Me To Swaziland!

For as long as I can remember, I've loved children. Caring for them, encouraging them, giggling with them, and simply being around them is all it takes for my little ole' heart to be so full it's leaking out pure joy. They're my passion, my calling, and who God has called me to reach.

When I met my friend Danielle, my heart was forever changed by how selfless she is in serving Christ. She works closely with an organization called Children's HopeChest which frequently visits a small country in Africa called Swaziland. The mission to bring Christ's love to the children living there has lit a fire deep down inside of me and it's gotten far past the point of control. And so...

I have prayed over and over again about this trip over the course of two years. While my heart would be overly content WHEREVER God would choose to take me, there is something special about this place and there is a calling for me to be there. Jesus, my friends, is taking me to Swaziland!

Now, I'd be lying big time if I said I haven't had doubts about this seemingly crazy decision...

"My doctor's may not clear me to go..." 
"HOW will I come up with the money?" 
"Where do I even begin?" 

But every single time one of those ridiculous thoughts from the devil pops into my head, there is a whispering from Jesus that says, "Have faith," and an encouragement that says, "YOU are going."

I believe in this trip and the mission more than words can say. I'm filled with the excitement of how it will grow my faith and change my heart. I know will never be the same after taking this step out of my comfort zone. Never. And that excites me more than anything in the world because THAT is precisely the way I want to serve Jesus.

I've put this trip in the back of my mind lately because I'm scared that it won't all pan out the way I desperately want it to. In church last Sunday, though, our worship team sang the song Oceans by Hillsong United. This song has over 500 plays on my iTunes and it still "hits me" in a different way every time and that morning was no different. I got teary eyed singing it word for word because it solidified my faith and calling in this trip. 

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without boarders...
Let me walk upon the waters...
Wherever You would call me...
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander...
And my faith will be made stronger...
In the presence of my Savior..."

The first step to making this trip a reality was prayer. After I received the "go ahead" from the big guy upstairs, I talked to my doctor's. There will definitely be some kinks to work out because of the medication I'm on and vaccinations I'll need, but I am leaving it all in the hands of my Savior and am moving onto the next step because I know HE is able - ALWAYS - and I know that it will all work out in a way that allows me to look back and say, "Wow, He provided just like He always does!"

While I prayerfully prepare for all that lies ahead, I'm starting to save and raise the money I'll need to cover the cost of my plane ticket. This, to me, is the scariest part. As I prepare to enter the college life at Bethel University this fall, I'm saving my pennies. Between the money I earn by working as a barista and nanny, there isn't much room for spending... But again, I KNOW God will provide, as He always does, to make this trip possible!

If you have been touched or feel so inclined to donate any amount of money towards my passion for this trip, you are safely able to do so using the Paypal widget below. In doing this, it's almost as if YOU are going on the trip with me! Above all else, though, I appreciate your prayers during the preparation for this amazing journey.

Oh, I cannot wait to see how He grows and changes my little ole' heart through the people of SWAZILAND!