God’s Provision and a Pendleton Blanket

pendleton-blanketIt was a cool, fall-like day and I had the nagging itch to go for a run.  It was a weekend, so I decided to jog the trail on the opposite side of the river….a typical weekend thing that I like to do.  It’s pretty scenic and quiet…a good time to reflect on life and hang out with God.  So I laced up and hit the road.

As I was jogging down the path, breathing in the crisp air, my eyes and heart were drawn to a gal walking towards me.  She was pushing a grocery cart full of cans, clothes, food….basically her whole life stuffed in a basket being pushed with feeble, weather-worn hands.  As I passed her, I smiled and said hello, but I don’t think she noticed me….she was probably used to folks turning the other way or becoming conveniently preoccupied with their phones or whatever.

I continued down the path towards the end, where I usually turn around and head back the way I came.  My steps had a nice rhythm going and my body was warm, my blood pumping pretty good.  Through the rush of exercise came a gentle whisper in my soul….this whisper basically told me that if I happen to see the gal on my route back, that I need to stop and talk to her.  It was like one of those butterflies in the stomach feelings.  Almost like my whole being was on alert with the anticipation of seeing her, wondering what God had planned.

Guess what?!  As I followed the bend of the path, there she was, patiently pushing her cart, heading to who knows where.  So I listened to the whisper, or the Holy Spirit as I like to call Him and I stopped to talk.  I said something like “for some reason, I feel like I need to talk to you.  You mind if I tag along for a bit?”  She didn’t seem to mind at all, so I just walked with her for a bit.  I found out that her name was Karen and we talked about her life, faith and what it was like to be homeless, surviving off of the land and trash cans and shelters and hand outs and whatever she could get her hands on.  She gave me some tips on what trees were best to sleep under and other interesting stuff.  She was pretty street smart and really nice.

I didn’t have much to give her since I was out running and all.  The only thing that I had was the sweatshirt that I was wearing, so I gave it to her.  She seemed happy with it, but I wasn’t….I wanted to give her more.  So, after we parted ways, I sprinted back to my house (about 1 mile away) hoping that I could grab some food and clothes really fast and meet her at the end of the path in time.  So when I got home, I made an announcement to my wife and 2 boys that we were to quickly grab a bunch of food, some clothes, blankets, toiletries and whatever else was available so we could complete the mission of finding Karen.  After everything was gathered, we hopped in the truck and drove back to the river, where the path ended….guess what?!  We found her!

We basically just pulled up next to her and I reminded her of who I was and that my family wanted to give her a few more things.  We all participated in loading up her grocery cart with items that seemed pretty basic to us, but probably were necessities for her.  Along with the stuff that we brought from our house, I also noticed a couple of blankets in the back of our truck, so I gave those to her as well.  She seemed pleased, we said our goodbyes and that was it.  It was great.

Well, later I found out that one of the blankets that I gave her on impulse was a nice Pendleton blanket given to us as a wedding gift.  OOPS!!!  My wife wasn’t mad or anything, just bummed that I chose that blanket to give away and I can understand that.  My bad.

Here’s the cool part of this whole story….a couple of weeks ago, a family friend dropped by the house to deliver some Christmas gifts.  Really nice of her.  Guess what one of the gifts was?!  A BRAND NEW PENDLETON BLANKET!  My wife had told her this story in passing a while ago and our friend felt led to replace the blanket that we gave away.  Isn’t that awesome?!

I was so blessed not only by our friend’s generosity, but that God used her to remind me of His provision.  That blanket meant a lot to my wife and He replaced it.  What a practical, yet powerful thing.

God’s pretty creative and He never ceases to amaze me.  I had no idea that this story would blossom from a simple run on a fall day.  I hope Karen got some good use out of the stuff we gave her.  One thing’s for sure; we both scored some new blankets out of the deal!  Wink wink.

 

God Bless,

Paul

 

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My #1 Goal For Next Year

img_5988Lately, I’ve been reflecting on this last year.  It’s been full of awesomeness, it really has!  I’ve met some great people, I’ve grown closer to others, I’ve been stretched, I’ve traveled, I’ve overcome obstacles, I’ve failed, I’ve succeeded, I’ve grown, I’ve battled dark clouds and rejoiced when those clouds have retreated.  Overall, it’s been a pretty darn good year.

In a couple of days, the slate will be wiped clean and another year will be upon us.  More opportunities lie ahead around every corner….ordained opportunities that are waiting to welcome us like an anxious puppy patiently anticipating their owner’s arrival home.  Exciting!

As I’ve grown older and wiser (hehe!), I’ll typically set a goal to pursue for the upcoming year.  Not a new years resolution or anything, just a vision to follow.  So here’s mine….drum roll please….MY #1 GOAL FOR THIS NEXT YEAR IS TO LOVE BETTER.  There you go.

So what in the world does this “love better” stuff mean?  Well, I’m glad you asked!  For me, it means being open to God’s invitations.  To love people, even though I may not receive anything in return.  So often, I hesitate when I feel God’s nudging to love on somebody or offer kind words.  Ok, I admit it…most of it stems from fear and lack of trust.  For some reason, I forget that God is bigger than me.  I forget that I’m just a limited human, influenced by culture and sin.  I forget that it’s not about me, it’s about Him.  God wants HIS love in MY heart to spew or spray (ok, weird words) or add flavor to those around me.  Not that I’m exceptional or worthy or anything, it’s that He’s exceptional!

So, when I feel led to give the shirt off my back to someone in need, I want to do it.  When I feel led to talk to that lonely looking guy on the bench, I want to do it.  When I feel led to feed that homeless person, I want to do it.  When I feel led to pray for somebody, I want to do it.  When I feel led to send that text, email or make that phone call, I want to do it.  When I see God working in ways that don’t necessarily make sense to me, I want to follow Him…NO MATTER WHAT!  There’s something powerful and beautiful that happens when we are walking in-step with our Creator.  Life is full and complete and purposeful…almost normal feeling…like we were meant to love with boldness, following God’s lead, serving others, not ourselves…hmmmm.

So that’s it.  Pretty simple goal, but so hard to follow through with sometimes!  I’m gonna try though, so watch out world!

WARNING:  You may be hugged next time I see you.  Don’t be afraid, God probably told me to do it.  😉

Happy New Year friends and family.  I believe that God has some amazing powerful things in store for all of us, I really do!

What goals do you have for next year?  What is God challenging you to pursue or change?

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

 

Ecuador – Day 8 (Final Day)

ecuador-344Well, the amazing week was coming to a close.  This was the final day of an incredible journey.  My emotions were so mixed….I was super excited to see my family back at home, yet I felt like my heart had planted roots in Ecuador.  I had new family there and saying goodbye to them bummed me out.  Another full day was ahead of us though and I couldn’t wait to get moving.

We had the opportunity of checking out project 542, ALC’s 2nd funded project.  Construction had not begun yet, but the plot of land was acquired (after some drama – see day 5 for details).  We had a small church service and hugged a lot of great folks….notice the hugging theme?  🙂  It was cool to envision what the new project would look like and what memories would be shared there.

ecuador-514These projects are placed in great locations, right in the middle of impoverished communities, which is ideal.  They serve as great hubs and resources for those in need.  I love the way God works and I love the way He uses His people!

Speaking of God using His people, I have a cool story for you.  After we said our goodbyes at 542, we broke up into groups and visited a few more homes.  My group had a special mission.  There was a little boy named Freddie who just had a birthday about 1 week before.  A little before Freddie’s birthday, his dad started a new job working in the mines.  The job wasn’t close to home, so he had to travel.  Although it’s great that his dad found a job, the family hadn’t heard from him in about 2 weeks.  They didn’t know if he was just unable to make a phone call, in trouble or dead.  Freddie’s birthday came around and he was really hoping to see his dad…..well, the day came and went and the family still had not heard from him.  Understandably, Freddie was very bummed about this and he missed his dad very much.  This story laid heavy on the hearts of the staff of 542, so they decided to do something so special…..they threw him a surprise belated birthday party and we got to be a part of it!!!!  They went to a bakery and purchased a cake made just for him.  They also brought some drinks and decorated the walls of the house with cool kid stuff.  To top it off, they had this awesome sparkler candle to place on the cake and those pull-string little firework confetti things.  Although the folks from 542 had limited resources and funds, they still gave what they could in order to pour out God’s love on this little boy.  Inspiring.

ecuador-549I’ll never forget walking down the dirt streets to his house, cake and supplies in-hand.  Then entering his house and seeing his smiling face light up.  He was surrounded by people who loved him, family and strangers alike.  I couldn’t believe that we were standing in a house in Ecuador, eating cake with beautiful people, witnessing God’s love in action….I was standing on holy ground…truly.

After our little party came to a close, we took the last bites of cake and it was time to head out.  We visited a couple more staff houses to meet their families and pray with them.  I was reminded once again of how dedicated these folks were to serving and pouring out every resource that they had.  They hold on loosely to their lives, knowing that God will provide.  I want to be like that.

After some great visits, the trip was officially coming to a close.  We were saying goodbye to our friends and driving to the city.  The plan was to head to the market to buy some souvenirs for our friends and family.  It was a great time and fun to negotiate prices with the vendors!  I wish we could wheel and deal like that more in the states!

The next stop was back to the hotel…the same one that we stayed in at the very beginning of the trip.  We organized our luggage there and ate some dinner.  For me, this was a sad time.  We were heading directly to the airport from the hotel and I couldn’t believe that the journey was over.  After months of preparation and prayer, God’s agenda had been accomplished and we had the divine opportunity of being a part of it.

ecuador-564Well, it was about time for our team to pack up and head to the airport.  The anticipation of going through customs and security became our new focus.  Eventually, we all made our way through the ticket line and it was time to say goodbye to our leader, Liz and the translators.  They became family to us and saying goodbye was harder than expected.  They were amazing people and we couldn’t have made it through each day without them.  They wished us well and we made our way through customs, through security, to Miami, to Dallas and finally, to Portland.  The trip was smooth coming home (thank goodness!!!) and we were ready to see our families.  When the plane landed in Portland, we all knew that it was time to apply all that we had learned in Ecuador to our daily lives.  There was so much to share with our loved ones!

After tons of hugs from our families, we gathered one last time with our group to pray.  We thanked God for an unbelievable experience and our strong team.  We thanked God for His protection and for the opportunity to be loved and to love in a whole new, powerful way.  I’m grateful for my amazing team and the memories that we shared together.

ecuador-572Looking back to about a year ago, I never would have pictured myself traveling to Ecuador.  I’m just a normal guy who goes through the daily grind like everyone else.  Being interested and responding to God’s call to go abroad never seemed like an option or a possibility.  Boy did that change!  It just goes to prove that God can use any of us to make an impact around the world.  There are folks struggling out there, doing their best to make it through another day.  They need hope and joy and comfort and food and care and love just like we do.  Getting to that point of thinking outside of our little boxes is hard, but it’s necessary if we want God to make an impact through us.  It takes intention and it often takes God slapping us across the head to get there.

So how do I conclude such an awesome trip?  How do I sufficiently portray what’s on my heart?  I guess I’ll just leave you with some great words behind why I went: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” -Matthew 28:19-20

As a Christian, the Great Commission lays heavy on my heart and truthfully, it scares the crap out of me sometimes.  God calls all of us to “go.”  It’s not always pretty or organized or perfectly planned, but neither is life.  God uses normal people to accomplish miraculous things, He just needs folks who are willing to take steps in faith and trust Him.  So I ask you this: Are you brave enough to go?  Are you willing to stretch yourself and risk being uncomfortable?  I encourage you to let these questions sink in.  God’s inviting you to join Him in transforming lives…in transforming your life.  Take the invitation.  Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Thanks so much for following me along this incredible journey!  It’s been fun!

ecuador-585God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ecuador – Day 5

ecuador-229Day 5 presented a really cool opportunity.  Our team was invited to a ground-breaking ceremony for another church.  Basically, the church owned the plot of land and they were close to starting the building phase.  The ceremony consisted of some prayer, worship and a great faith-filled message.  A small hole was dug and a rock hung from a string directly above the hole.  Towards the end of the ceremony, the string was cut and the rock dropped into the hole, signifying the first stone being laid as part of the construction process.  We were a part of history….God’s history!  What an honor.

Pastor Alejandro planted this church and is also responsible for training others to branch out and start churches.  A good example would be Pastor Jonhny from Project 534, where we spent most of our time serving on the trip.  It was a pretty powerful thing to witness and I’m grateful that they invited us along.  Although we had no affiliation with that particular church, they considered us family…being brothers and sisters in Christ was the glue that bonded us.  The bible in action…awesome.

After the ceremony, we headed back to 534 to finish up some of the lesson plan stuff from day 4, go to some more home visits and prepare for another fun day of VBS with the kiddos!  Shortly after we arrived, we received some bad news….

Project 542 is the newest project for our church.  This is the 2nd project that our church has funded, along with 534.  Project 542 hasn’t started the building phase yet, they’ve only acquired the land…or so they thought.  In a nutshell, Kerly, Pastor Jonhny’s wife (from 534) was the main negotiator for the land.  From what I understand, it is pretty difficult to find good land and close good deals in Ecuador.  Negotiations are primarily sealed with a handshake agreement until things are made official via a notary signature.  Apparently, the seller of the land changed his mind and backed out of the deal.  This happened just before they were to meet with a notary to make things official.  Understandably, Kerly was pretty upset and frustrated because of this.  The first thing we all did together was pray…..we prayed for the guy selling the land, we prayed for peace and we prayed for God’s will to be done.  I love how prayer was the life-line in all of this.  Our Ecuadorian family didn’t have much, but they had God and that’s all they needed.  Inspiring.

ecuador-340Later in the afternoon, we received some great news!  Kerly decided to meet with the seller one more time.  I’m not sure of the exact details of the conversation, but she explained that her church family from North America was visiting and that she would really like him to rethink the whole deal.  He seemed pretty shocked that we were actually there in Ecuador as all of this happened.  I’m not sure what his main motivation was to change, but he decided to stick with the original deal and go through with the sale of the land….just like that.  It was one of many examples during the trip of God intervening when obstacles presented themselves.  So cool!

After some good news, it was time to start VBS with the kids again.  For some reason, I remember this day being pretty hot and humid.  Amidst the basketball and soccer games, I was a sweaty mess….like super sweaty….like really sweaty….like, ok you get the point :).  Even amidst the “steaminess” of the day, it was such a joy to see the kids again and make new friends.  I was also able to hang out with our sponsored kids, Alan and Nicole again and I could tell that they were getting more comfortable with me.  There were more high-fives, hugs and I even scored a couple of kisses on the cheek from Nicole….talk about melting a dude’s heart!  Have I mentioned that I love these kids?!

ecuador-273After another great day of VBS had ended, we had the opportunity of going on more home visits.  It was time to visit Alan’s house and I was so excited.  Because we went right from the project to their house, Alan, his brother and mom got to ride with us on the bus while his dad was waiting at the house.  As we approached their home, Alan’s eyes lit up with anticipation and he gave me a “here’s my house!” look as we began to exit the bus.

I wasn’t sure what to expect in regards to conversation because Alan’s family was pretty quiet.  To my surprise, as we entered their home, I was greeted with a thoughtful “welcome to my little house” sign on their wall and smiles flashing everywhere.  I felt so loved.  On top of this warm greeting, Alan’s mom gave me a bouquet of flowers entirely handmade of paper and other various materials.  It was for my wife, Pam.  I was floored and humbled by such thoughtful gifts.  We made small talk and I talked some trash with Alan about beating him in soccer…pretty funny.  As we talked some more, I discovered that his dad walks about 1-2 hours to work everyday and once he’s at work, we walks some more….he’s a street sweeper.  I developed so much respect for him and all of the hardworking folks in Ecuador who are struggling to put food on the table.  I couldn’t help but feel convicted regarding my attitude towards work sometimes….I added it to my list of things to work on.

ecuador-295Unfortunately, it was about time to leave.  Towards the end of every home visit, we always closed our time together with a group prayer.  During this time, we asked the family if there was anything in particular that they needed or maybe if they had specific prayer requests.  Almost every family either prayed for health and/or for their family to stay together.  Alan and Nicole’s families were no different.  Never once did I hear somebody ask for material things, handouts or pity….only the essential, tangible things that were lasting.  In North America, we have so much already and we have the habit of asking for even more.  These folks just wanted to survive and stay together.  How simple.  I appreciated these times of prayer together…..all of us in a circle, joining hands with one common thread: JESUS.  Chokes me up just thinking about the power in that.  It was beautiful.

ecuador-085It was now time to head back to the hotel.  Another great day was in the books!  Every day provided me with a new lesson about life and faith.  This day showed me that when folks gather together with God as the focus, powerful things can happen.  God is always present, but His powerful hand is even more evident when His people unite in love.  “For where two or three gather in My name, there am I with them.” -Matthew 18:20

Stay tuned for day 6!!!

God Bless,

Paul

Ecuador – Day 4

Ecuador 247After a good night’s rest, we had a challenging, faith-testing day before us.  Our team was being asked to “disciple” and “teach” the staff at project 534 on how to prepare and teach a Sunday school lesson.  The evening prior consisted of late night preparations, teamwork  and foggy brains.  We put together a structure of how things would go, but we all understood that God was ultimately the one calling the shots.  We were learning to be ok with this.

We arrived at 534, ready to be stretched.  The day began with a great devotional time together and we prayed for the day.  We then headed outside to play another team game.  We stood in a circle and passed a soccer ball to each other.  The person passing the ball expressed something that they appreciated about the other person….something encouraging and uplifting.  Once the ball was passed, the person had to sit down and on it went until everybody had a turn.  There were a lot of smiles and “ahhh, that was sweet” comments going around.  I felt the love man!  It was a great building block for what was ahead that day.

Ecuador 159Next, we headed into the church to begin a time of teaching and brainstorming.  In a nutshell, Sunday school lessons at the project mainly consisted of opening the bible and reading the story to the children.  Although this is totally fine, keeping the kids focused was a challenge.  There was a need to spice things up a little and pull some creativity and fun out of each lesson.  So, with the leadership of Erin, that was our focus!  It was a creatively messy time consisting of ideas being flung around, minds being challenged and confidence being developed.  It was beautiful.

The brainstorming led to structure, which led to the formation of a lesson plan.  Over the next couple of days, each group presented their lesson plan and I could sense the pride, excitement and optimism within each of the staff members sharing.  We were so dang proud of our Ecuadorian church family!  I’m confident that this was only the beginning of great things to come.

Ecuador 165God works in awesome ways doesn’t He?!  As a group, us North Americans felt unequipped for the task at hand….we aren’t anything special, only normal people learning right along with everybody else….but we were called to do something bigger than us, so we gave it a shot and had the opportunity of seeing super cool results.

After our productive time together, we were treated to an incredibly tasty lunch made by the staff at the project.  I think it was shrimp, chicken, beans, rice and other good stuff.  They worked so hard and it was so appreciated and enjoyed!

Ecuador 169At 3pm, the flood gates opened and the kiddos poured in for our first VBS of the trip!  What a riot!  I was seriously in heaven….crazy kids hanging onto our legs, jumping around, super excited to be there….shoot, I was super excited to be there too!  The parents assumed their positions on the sidelines, observing the semi-organized chaos with proud, content smiles.

We organized the VBS in a way that rotated the kids from a bible story, to crafts and then to games.  The kids dove right in, laughing at the great stories and using their creative brains to make cool crafts.  I was part of the game crew, so I got to be rowdy and goofy with the kids…it’s a spiritual gift of mine ;).  There was so much joy as we made up secret handshakes and played simple games like soccer, and bean bag toss.  You know what, I think they would have had just as much fun playing with rocks or sticks…because they were just happy to see us….we were present and available for interaction….we were there to love and love we did!

Ecuador 178

Sadly, after many “see you tomorrow’s” and long hugs goodbye, it was time to leave the project and visit a few more of the sponsored children’s homes.  The day kept getting better!

I can’t explain how great of an opportunity it was to visit so many homes over the course of the trip.  Each family was so different, but there was one common thread…they all had grateful, hospitable hearts.  Us folks in the states hesitate to have guests over when we haven’t cleaned the windows or dusted a countertop in fear of being judged by others.  Our amazing Ecuadorian friends invited us into their poverty-stricken, difficult situations with open arms….their gratefulness for our presence trumped their concern about our judgment.  Can you imagine how different our communities would be if we had this level of transparency?  Pretty eye-opening and humbling.

Ecuador 488Although it was tough to put this day to rest, it was now time to grab some dinner and debrief with the team.  We had so much to talk about and so much to celebrate.  This was a day of victory…not only because of what we accomplished, but because of the fears that we overcame.  God knew what we could handle and I’m so glad that we all jumped at the chance to be challenged.

A big truth came out of this day for me: typically when God is calling us to do something, it’s not predictable….in fact, it can be pretty scary.  Not much growth happens when we are comfortable though.  Faith develops when we are bent, squeezed and faced with the possibility of failure.  These are the hardest times, but often, the most rewarding times in life.  I felt like some walls were broken down for me….like some chains were loosened….because I got a taste of God doing what he does best: using normal people to accomplish great things.  All this being done by His power and grace only.  This day was a fantastic day.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” -Romans 8:28

Ecuador 337More to come….stay tuned for day 5!!!

God Bless,

Paul

 

Ecuador – Day 1 and 2

imageAfter many meetings, tons of preparation and a lot of prayers, the day had finally arrived!  My team and I were heading to Ecuador!  I remember feeling both elated and anxious at the same time.  It was early, I wasn’t hungry and coffee didn’t even sound good.  Leaving the family was so hard…really hard, but I had to trust.  I came this far.  Only God knew what was in store.

We arrived to the airport at 4am to catch our 6am flight.  Our leaders, Bryce and Amy told us that the mission trip started when we set foot in the airport….boy were they right.

We were tested as a group immediately….our flight to Dallas was cancelled due to weather.  After about 30 mins. or so, they figured out a way to get us to Miami and eventually to Ecuador.  It was a plan that consisted of splitting our team up into small groups.  Some of us headed to San Francisco, others to Los Angeles, others to New York and I headed to Chicago with my home girl Kelly.  By a miracle, at the end of the day, most of us (the 3 New York folks didn’t make it) made it to Miami on time to catch our flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador.  The others made it the next day.

When we finally set foot on South American soil, it was roughly 4am or so the next morning (give or take…c’mon, my brain was a little foggy ;)….our original time for arrival was 9:30pm the night before.  We quickly found out that most of the team’s luggage didn’t make it to Ecuador.  Luckily, the luggage was found and delivered the next day.  Crazy man!

imageThrough it all, our group was a bunch of warriors.  No complaining, just focus and flexibility (like rubber bands).  God knew what He was doing…..priming us for a week of love, power, grace and awesomeness.

After a couple of hours rest, we met with the staff/volunteers from the different projects, 534, 535 and 542 (534 & 542 are the projects that ALC has funded, but ALC sponsors some kiddos from 535 as well).

Prior to this, our fearless leader “Mama Liz” told us that we would be shaking things up a bit this trip.  That our mission was not just to impact kids.  Our mission was to build the church, which meant supporting the staff and building relationships with these beautiful people.  This consisted of the amazing opportunity to serve them, converse with them, visit their homes, meet their families, teach them our ways of how to run a Sunday school lesson/VBS and just be a family.  Of course, we would spend a lot of time with the children as well, but this trip would be two-fold.  What a fantastic vision….one that we all embraced.

I tell you what, we had such a powerful/fun time!  We played a hilarious name game…..we all stood in a circle and each of us had to give our name and a body part that itched (ie., my name is Paul and my nose itches).  The person next to you in the circle had to repeat your name and body part and then say their name and body part…..this continued until we were all the way around the circle….If we repeated something wrong, we had to get in the middle of the circle and dance!  I was towards the end and repeating 40 people’s names and body parts was not my strength….but they humored me and I danced a lot :).  So fun!

imageNext, we had a powerful time of conversation and prayer.  Thank the good Lord for our amazing translators (Pauli, Titi, Nicko, Fernando, Jonathan and Liz), they bridged the language gap so beautifully!  At my table, we prayed over our time together, the culture and for God’s hand to be on the different projects.  Man, was that powerful.  I cried like crazy because I was so overwhelmed with God’s presence.  My Ecuadorian family prays with passion, conviction and desperation.  It really touched me.  We don’t see that much emotion in the states and I certainly don’t pray like that on a day-to-day basis!  I felt like God was saying; “hey Paul, welcome to Ecuador. Get ready, I have some plans for you so hang on tight!”  Amen to that!

To end the day, we ended up going to a big store called Super Maxi….kinda like a Walmart.  We bought some last-minute supplies and stocked up on chocolate, coffee and other cool stuff to bring home!  It was a fun outing and it was a great introduction to the city.

We ended with dinner and anticipated going to 534 the next day.  So exciting!

Overall, those 1st couple of days taught us something…..when God is moving and people are following, there will always be obstacles.  Satan is always waiting to trip us up, but God has bigger muscles than he does, so we’re good to go.  Our team was given an extra dose of strength, patience and perseverance for this trip, I truly believe that.

imageWe also learned that God likes to shake things up.  We all expected things to go a certain way, but that wasn’t His plan…..so often we settle for “good” when he’s more interested in “best.”  We need to hang on loosely to our lives, we really do.  God always knows the path, we just need to be willing to step.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” -Jeremiah 29:11-13

image

Day 3 to follow…stay tuned!  🙂

God Bless,

Paul

Ecuador – Stepping Into The “Unknown”

Ecuador thumbs upAs many of you know, I’m heading to Ecuador in a matter of days.  It’s gonna be awesome loving on kids, being surrounded by a different culture and serving with a great team of folks.

In preparation for this trip, we’ve had various meetings outlining the basics of what we’re going to experience.  We’ve talked about things like our fears, our concerns and our hopes regarding this adventure.  We have itineraries and plans for how things should go.  We’ve prepared the best way that we know how.  Honestly, we could plan until our eyeballs fall out, but one truth still remains:  Whenever God is leading something, there’s always a certain amount of “unknowns” or “what if’s.”  That’s just the way it goes and I think He’s designed life that way.

Imagine if we could tell the future…..if all outcomes were made known to us before they happened….if we knew the pain we would experience tomorrow….why would we need faith?  Why would we need goals?  Why would we need God?

Here’s the thing, God’s agenda is totally different from ours most of the time and I’m grateful for that.  He is always preparing us, always strengthening us and always using us for purposes beyond anything that we can fathom.  Purposes that will ultimately glorify Himself.

The hard part is trusting that He’s got this, that He’s holding us in His hands…..that He’s leading.

The reality is that no matter what big thing we’re facing, there’s always going to be loose ends that need to be tied.  There’s always  going to be the anxious question of “what’s next.”  There’s always going to be risk.  There’s always that humbling realization that God is actually using ME….little ‘ol ME!  All of this can be exciting, scary and humbling at the same time!

The great thing is that sometimes, we have no choice but to lean on our God….you know, the God whom we put our faith in everyday….In this case, the God who is the root reason for this trip!

So, as we are only 5 days from our trip, I’m approaching the challenge of something new with open arms.  I’m trusting that God has already laid the path, I just need to walk down it.  The loose ends will tie themselves, the question marks will fade and the presence of Jesus will be there….I really believe that.

God is so good and I’m honored to be a part of His work…..”unknowns” and all!

God Bless,

Paul