A Saturday Story {Debbie in East Asia}

***Happy Saturday to youuu.  Enjoy this interview with Debbie who is currently serving with Cru in East Asia.***

1.    What has been the most challenging part of living overseas for a year? What has been the most rewarding part?

         Probably the most challenging aspect for me personally has been the difference in community size from here in East Asia compared to college life at CNU. During college, you interact with dozens of people at Cru weekly meetings, get deep in small groups with girls going through all kinds of struggles and joys, stay up late into the night laughing with friends in the library or adventuring around campus, etc. etc. But here in East Asia, my main new community is my team of ten people (seven Americans, three East Asians). They are God’s provision for me during my time here, and I am so grateful for the bonds we’ve formed and how the Lord has taught me so much through each of my teammates. Being an extrovert however, it has been a fight to be content in such a small community, and has pushed me to depend on the Lord and find fellowship with Him, as well as dig deeper in my relationships with the university students I’m reaching out to here on campus.

            – The most rewarding part of living overseas for a year has been getting to grow roots in this culture. Being in East Asia in 2012 for summer project felt like just a speedy, six-week visit, but getting to invest a year (or more ;)) and commit to living life here has been so joy giving. I’ve loved observing and partaking in so many details of East Asian culture, and God has used these past eight months since arriving in August 2013 to reveal to me His creativity and beauty in the people of East Asia.

2. What have you learned about yourself and your home culture through this experience?

– I’ve learned that I have a lot of pride in thinking the East Asian way of doing certain things is wrong, and American culture is right. When it comes to using the “squatty potty” toilets, biking down busy streets where people commonly step out in front of your bike, hearing about the long list of food women are forbidden to eat on their “special days” (ladies, you know what days I’m talking about!), observing men “hock a loogie” and spit on the floor of the bus, etc, it’s so easy for me to stick my nose in the air and condemn the East Asian culture for how they do things. I’ve had to wrestle through these feelings and remind myself that I am not here to change a culture but to preach the gospel. Both America and East Asia are passing away (along with the rest of the world), and what people of both my home culture and Asian culture most need to hear is that Jesus Christ died for their sins so that we may have eternal life with Him. Cultural differences might be challenging, confusing, fascinating, or exciting but no matter my feelings towards them, my first priority is to show and share Christ’s love. I’m so grateful for God’s patience in teaching me this and how He continually humbles my pride!

 3. Is there an attribute of God that has been particularly sweet to you during this season of life?            – His never-ending presence through the Holy Spirit with me. He will never leave me nor forsake me. He is always with me, at every appointment with a student, during every bike ride to campus, in the midst of every embarrassing moment in language class… He is with me! It has been such a comfort as of late to mediate on the eternal, empowering, sustaining, indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit within me.

 4. What one piece of advice would you give to graduating seniors? How about freshman?
            – Seniors: two things! First, when it comes to making a decision about life after college, spend more time in prayer and in the Word than talking to other people. People can be wonderful encouragements and voices of truth, but ultimately it’s your life and your relationship with God, and it’s YOU who is going to step out in faith and head to that job/internship/grad school/etc, not your roommate or Mom or boyfriend stepping out in faith for you. So really seek the Lord and spend time just being still before Him. And second, once you’ve made your decision, really. make. your. decision. Step out in faith. Don’t wavier from what you’ve decided. Trust the Lord in what you are walking forward in. Be confident when people ask you about post-graduation plans. Trust that you’ve made the right choice and that God would make things 110% clear if He wants you doing something other than the step you’ve chosen to take.
            – Freshman: seek older women! Whether they’re three months older or thirty years older, seek the counsel and friendship of godly women who have walked before you. Is your Mom a woman of God? Cherish her. Figure out how to pursue, learn from, and befriend her if you haven’t already! Ask God to bring women of all ages into your life so that you may learn wisdom beyond yourself and your 18 year old girlfriends.
5. What’s your favorite food there? What snack do you miss the most?
            – Favorite food: a vegetable dish called “chu liu bai cai” – cabbage stirfried in vinegar with some other random spices, peanuts, and small veggies. So delicious.
            – Snack I miss the most: if fresh fruit smoothies count then that’s my answer. If not, it’s a toss up between Emerald Cocoa Roast Almonds and peanut butter cracker packs.
6. How is life after college different than you expected?
            – When you’re in college, you’re the student. College is for you. Faculty focuses on you. Organizations plan fun events for you. Ministry staff workers, such as Cru staff, pour into you. There’s so much focus on your development, you being fed, you experiencing new things, you having fun, etc. Whether I realized it or not in college, so many things were simply handed to me during my four years as a student. But being out of college, I now have to take the initiative in many of the above listed areas. I can’t just walk out of my dorm room and immediately find dozens of people to hangout with – it’s up to me to stay in touch with people and be intentional in keeping up with my friends’ lives. Being overseas, I have to seek out women (other than my discipler here) via email and Skype to pour into me if I want to continue learning from more mature women. Especially in regards to the ministry I’m doing here in East Asia in reaching out to university students, I am no longer the student in focus but rather am the one chasing after the students. I hadn’t anticipated these changes and it’s been an adjustment for me learning to make a choice to go after things that previously had been handed me on a silver platter!
7. What made you decide to spend a year overseas?
            – In 2012 right before my senior year, I went on a summer project to East Asia with Cru. During my time there, the Lord moved in my heart to show me the great need there is in East Asia for people to hear the gospel. It broke my heart that so many students I interacted with during my six week summer project had never heard the name of Jesus before. The Lord continued to grow my desire for sharing the gospel and desire to experience East Asian culture at a deeper level, so I applied to Stint during my senior year… And here I am!
8. Can you share a story of how God is working in your location?
            – Last semester, roughly 20 students prayed asking the Lord to come into their life! I’ve gotten to watch a few of those girls in particular go from having no interest in knowing God to wanting to repent and believe and now burning with desire to tell their roommates and friends about Jesus Christ. One girl in particular, “Susie,” went from being a shy freshman who had never seen a Bible before to now a faithful witness who boldly initiates with strangers in the cafeteria so they too might know about Jesus. It’s been so sweet to see God work in girls like Susie, and rejoice in the power of the Holy Spirit to use sinners like me and Susie to bring more worshipers into His kingdom.
9. How can we be praying for you?

            – I would love prayer for rich, consistent quiet times; for me to be filled with the Holy Spirit and daily walking in full dependence on Him; and for all the new believing students to fall more in love with their Savior, cherishing His Word and going to Him in prayer every day!

Thanks Debbie for sharing! Tidewater Cru loves youuuuuu!

Be Free Fridays: free to mess up (Meg)

I have this problem.
Sometimes I open my mouth and say things that I regret even before the words come out.
It’s like inside, in slow motion, I’m going… “nooooo” just as I’m saying something to someone that I love. Sometimes, words can just plain hurt… knives going into open wounds.
And the worst part – those words usually come out to the people I love the most.
Am I alone in this?
The very people I want to hurt the least are the very ones that my words puncture the most.
This week I did this. And this weekend, I’m learning what it looks like to be free in the gospel in a very practical way.
I’m learning how to be free to mess up. I’m learning to be free to fall down.
If you’ve ever watched a small child learn to walk, you know that with every few steps they fall. They occasionally look around to see if anyone saw, and usually their loving parents, or anyone around really, will encourage them that it’s okay and help them get back up.
God is my father.
And how often do I fall? In his loving kindness, he looks at me and says, “It’s okay, Meg, you only fell down! Let me help you learn to walk.”
The gospel shines through these times in my life. God isn’t a father who demands his young child to learn to perfectly run before she has even learned how to walk yet. He has a standard of holiness, yes, but in his grace he sees us fall, anticipates it even, and then he empowers us to not just fall and stay there, to not just mess up and sit in our mess, but to get back up and continue to walk with him. Because he loves us.
My tendency is to try and pick myself up, to try and act like I didn’t just fall. My tendency is to try and not need his grace and forgiveness. Sometimes it’s hard to accept. Even from the people we hurt, much less from God himself.
But the reality is that God’s grace is sufficient – his power is made perfect – in our weakness {2 Corinthians 12:9}. The reality is that he isn’t expecting us to run when we’re just learning to walk. In his tender care and grace, as our perfect father, he gives us freedom to be who we are and to come to him. And he loves us.
So, this weekend: join me in resting in God’s grace and in the freedom that we have to mess up. Not to take advantage of, not to shrug off our sin, but to come to him as we are – learning to walk – and to experience his love… to ask him for help, to acknowledge our sin to him in its entirety, and to see him reach out his hand to us.
What are areas of your life that you tend to try and fix on your own? In what ways do you find yourself hoping God didn’t see you fall so that you can try and come to him with your act together? In what ways can you experience his grace by going to him, and seeing the freedom he offers through the gospel – freedom to mess up and to still be loved?
I’d love to hear how God is showing you this tender grace in your lives. Add a comment below to share of his goodness through the freedom you are experiencing! Praying for you girls this morning that you know the true freedom that comes from God alone. Happy Friday!

Seven Questions (Brooke)

 Brian and I are huge Relevant magazine fans.  We count down the days between each issue and we are faithful listeners to their weekly podcast.  We love their take on life, music, and faith in today’s culture.

Anyway, in the latest issue there is an article by Jon Acuff called “7 Questions that will change your life”.  They are simple questions but I think if you actually take time out and sit, breathe, pray, think, and write out your answers these questions could bring out some things in you that you didn’t know was there. It’s extremely important to s l o w down and evaluate your life.  So, grab a pen—a good cup of coffee/tea–your journal and take a moment to pause. You won’t regret it.

Here are the questions:
1. What are some things you want to do with your life? {What do you want to be true of your life?}
2. Who really knows me? “Think about who knows the best and worst parts of you and still chooses to be in your life.” (Celebrate these people!)
3. What am I awesome at?  Maybe consider asking the person or people you put down for #2 this question about yourself— they may see things in you that you don’t see. (Oh, and btw it’s okay to be awesome at things-God put those things in you!)
4. Am I still learning?
5. Will social media come back to haunt me in my later years?
6. Am I a selfish jerk? 
7. If my life were a movie, would I cheer? “Sometimes we need to step outside ourselves and see what the story really looks like.”

I’m sitting down this weekend with these questions and I’m excited to see what happens. 
love to you! 
Happy Thursday.