Friday, January 25

I've Got a River of Life Flowing Out of Me

I've got a river of life flowing out of me;Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see. Opens prison doors & sets the captives free I've got a river of life flowing out of ME.Spring up oh well (goosh, goosh goosh, goosh) inside my soul.

Spring up oh well (splish splash) and make me whole.
Spring up oh well (yeehaw!) and give to me
that life eternally.

I grew up singing this fun praise song during youth group and I think it captivates the hope, growth, beauty, strength, and praise which filled my trip down the Rio Coco which follows the eastern border between Honduras & Nicaragua. Although, severe poverty is apparent in this remote area of the country, the projects, residents, fellow NGO partners, boat drivers, prayers, AMC, natural beauty and God's presence bring so much hope for this area. The group consisted of people representing partner & donor organizations to AMC, as well as, 2 AMC project directors, and AMC "Tecnicos" who work on the Coco River. We spent hours upon hours traveling to different AMC centers or Model Farms in order to observe, interview, and experience the ways in which the communities, thanks to AMC's support, are providing food and growth for their families and communities.

Take a journey down the Coco river with me!

tinki dawan!

Gracias a Dios!

Thank God!

Sunday, January 13

I'm going on a great adventure this morning from which I hope to share detailed stories of my journey down the Coco River! My beautiful friend Bethany, who has been living and working/volunteering in Nicaragua for the past two years, wrote a little something about our trip...

"In six days we will travel some 400km down the largest river in Central America in a dugout canoe with a group of 15 Nicaraguan and North Americans who work for organizations connected with Acción Médica Cristiana (AMC).  AMC is the NGO I write about often and that World Renew partners with here in Nicaragua . The trip, of course, is not just to see the beautiful river and surrounding rainforest, though!  Along the way, we will stay the night in four of the agricultural training centers that are part of AMC’s sustainable agriculture project on the East Coast.  These are the model farms where farmers come to learn new techniques like soil conservation, planting new crop varieties, seed storage, and caring for livestock.  We will hike to many of the farmers’ land parcels deep in the forest, hear feedback from the agricultural trainers at each center, and hold meetings to discuss program evaluation.  I am looking forward to the adventure and having two good friends (other volunteers here) join our troupe this year.  :)"

Thanks for the AMC shoutout, Bethany!

I can't wait to learn more about this part of Nicaragua!

You can check out Bethany's blog here.

Wednesday, January 9

Missio Dei

 Mission Dei: ¨the mission of God¨ or ¨the sending of God¨

Recently, many friends have asked me about mission service and have mentioned they want to learn more. Therefore, I wrote this post...

So, you feel called or have an interest in exploring mission work?

Well, as someone who spent a good chunk of time praying, contemplating, researching, asking, networking, etc. in regards to my calling to do service work in another is my advice for you...

Remember that one scripture that goes something like "Pray without ceasing". Well, you should do just that. If you have an interest or calling on your heart, talk to God about it, and more, LISTEN.

2. Reflect
What does "MISSION" mean to you? Before starting my wonderful journey, I don't think I totally knew exactly my theology of mission. However; through reading scriptures, reading theologians' take on mission, and reflecting on my own theology, my search for a program through which I felt God calling me to live out "mission" became so much easier.
Here is what my fellow Mission Interns think about mission.

3. Ask
I can't even remember the number of people with whom I had conversations and asked a million questions when it came time to search for available programs. I asked pastors, friends, relatives, and many strangers. One thing I found is that many people themselves had not participated in a program, but knew of a cousin or friend with whom they connected me. Also, after following the best advice ever #5, ask a bunch of questions to the organization itself. Often times, there are also alumni who you can talk to with less pressure of possibly communicating directly with someone who will later conduct your interview. Tell everyone what you are interested in doing- you will be surprised with the connections you can make!

4. Research
Now that you have some recommendations, including mine at the end of this post, start researching. There are many different mission and service opportunities but now you need to start the search for the ones which actually fit your view of mission. Keep track of what you find. Write down the differences between each program and go ahead and save the contact information. Even after all my recommended programs, I didn't find my current mission opportunity, the United Methodist's YAMS: Young Adult Mission Service, until I literally googled "young adult mission service".  Make sure the ministries are real and safe.

5. Pray
Yep, it's not possible to pray too much.

6. Decide
Start narrowing down the available programs. Also, consider which type of program you want to participate. Are you comfortable with spending 2 years outside of your country? Or would you prefer a one year program?  Or are you called to work as a missionary in your home country? If the organization is asking it's participants to stand on the street corner preaching everyday, maybe you might consider another program.

Yes, I am encouraging you to think of self care when discerning which ministries fit who you are, yet, at the same time, I encourage you to listen for the Holy Spirit and keep an open mind. When I first read my program is 3 years long, I initially thought "I can't do that" and now, here I am. At another point during this process, I became somewhat frustrated that some of these programs did not have exactly what I wanted. I caught myself and realized how I was allowing small details to get in the way of my calling. Mission work will continually push you out of your comfort zone and preferences- you just have to keep in mind God is with you all along the way.

BE ECUMENICAL. We need more people to stretch outside of their comfortable denominations and faith communities. I am not a United Methodist. I am a Disciple of Christ working for another church. 

Another part of what you "prefer", may have to do with your certain abilities. For example, I have a lot of student debt; therefore, I did not feel comfortable participating in a program where I needed to raise a whole bunch of money on my own. On that note,  I have a friend who knew he felt lead to service work so he worked, saved and paid off his student loans before volunteering.

7. Apply
Start applying, ASAP. As soon as you decide on which programs you want to apply, start right away. Applications often have several short answers and an essay. Also, remember you will most likely need to factor in time to complete the reference letters as well. Most deadlines fall around Feb 1-15. Don't procrastinate on these applications especially because they require so much intentional reflection and prayer.

8. Wait
I've found with NGO's or service organizations it usually takes a while to hear back about your application, but go ahead and send a follow up email or make a phone call. Spend time praying instead of constantly checking your inbox. 

9. Interview
Most service orientated organizations to not have financial means to host an interview in person, so expect a phone interview. GBGM, my organization, did actually fly those of us who they wanted to interview on site. This allowed me the opportunity to really understand the program better and I got to meet the people I would be working with for the next 3 years. Since, many interviews are through the phone, I suggest trying to ask as many questions as possible about the program, as well. You are applying for a job in ANOTHER country so you want to make sure you feel comfortable with your final decision. On one of my phone interviews, I think even the interviewee encouraged me to ask more questions. 

10. Pray
Whatever happens, depend on God through it all. My roommate during my interviews for YAMS ended up with a job offered but after reflecting more after the interviews she decided it was not the job for her. 

I hope my advice is helpful. As much time as I spent going through this process, I felt like I HAD to share my experience. 

Here are programs that were recommended to me and I either applied for or considered applying.

Yet, first I highly, highly encourage you to consider YAMS: Young Adult Mission Service. I applied in Feb 2012, interviewed in March, received my job offer in April, discovered my placement in Nicaragua in May, attend 3 weeks of training in June-July and moved to Nicaragua in August. From training to my four months here in Nicaragua, I am truly blessed by this program and the goal of working towards social justice in the name of God.

YAMS: Young Adult Mission Service
Affiliation: United Methodist Church
Length: Mission Intern Program: 2 years (with the option of adding 2 years of home service)
My association:  I am currently a Mission Intern with the UMC and I absolutely love what I do. The three week training really allows participants to reflect and prepare for the time of mission service. You have the opportunity to request which countries interest you, as well as what type of work. I love that my organization honors that mission is from "everywhere to everywhere" which is why we have participants from outside the U.S. participate as well. The US-2 program also acknowledges mission is not only working outside of the country. You can check out the blogs of my fellow missionaries on the side bar.

SALT: Service and Learning Together
Affiliation: Mennonite Christian Committee (MCC)- a worldwide ministry of Anabaptist churches
Length: 1 year (Aug- July)
My association:  I have several friends here in Nicaragua who work with MCC and two of them are SALT volunteers. My friend Erich is placed in a city outside of Managua and lives with a local family. Both the volunteers took Spanish classes before heading out to their placement sites. They have a supervisor in country and are really active in their projects. I am impressed by what my friends have experienced and shared with me.

YAV: Young Adult Volunteers
Affiliation: Presbyterian Church
Length: 1 year (Aug- July)

My association:  This program, well at least the PCA program, was recommended to me by some of my Presbyterian friends. I do not know much about it other than it was a wonderful program for some wonderful people

YAGM: Young Adults in Global Mission
Affiliation: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Length: 1 year (Aug- July)

My association:  I actually applied to this program, had a phone interview and talked to an alum about the program. I definitely would have participated in the program. They are more focused on building relationships, demonstrating Christ's love through presence and working towards social justice, as well. The ministry has set project sites, so I suggest you look at the website to see what each country offers.

Global Ministries
Affiliation: Disciples of Christ (DOC) & United Church of Christ (UCC)
Length: Varied assignments

My association:  I grew up in a Disciples of Christ church and am a proud DOC member. I applied to this program as I was graduating from college. The program actually matched me with two different job assignments; however, with other life circumstances in the way I could not follow through with the process. Also, the communication with Global Ministries is a little slower due to the smaller staff, but my friend Kristine works in South Africa through this program and I¨ve met many other Disciples who truly enjoy their experiences. 

Catholic Volunteer Network
Affiliation: Catholic church

Length: Varied assignments

My association:  When my friend was leaving for his assignment as the Head of Maintenance at an orphanage in Honduras, he recommended I search for a job here. He is totally immersed in his job in Honduras and loves what he is doing now.

You can also email me if you have any questions:

 I pray for your journey as you aim to discover more about this ministry to which God is calling you!!

Also, here is an awesome article about faith-based service job opportunities.

Sunday, January 6

Light within darkness is a constant biblical theme and discussed analogy within Christianity, and as I sit in my room I can still hear fireworks exploding outside. I am reminded of this constant actual physical light which has been present during my entire holiday season in Nicaragua. For Christmas Eve, I sat with new friends and a mom and daughter I had just met. We sat on the 2nd story front porch and listened and watched as these great balls of fire light up the night sky. 

On New Years Eve, my friend Ryan and Sara hosted a small get together with fantastic comida (food).  Alex and I were hosting Harlon and Edwin, two Communication for Change volunteers, and my friend Erich also needed something fun to do, so we had a get together where I was the only one who knew everyone. Yet, we all connected and all stood in awe together that night as we watched a few fireworks.

For the rest of the break, I spent 4 days in San Juan Sur, a popular beach destination on the west coast of Nicaragua where I got to witness a natural form of light; the breathtaking sunset. Also, at night, the giant Jesus statue is the light within the darkness as the statue brightly glows and is seen from any part in town. 

Before leaving for Nicaragua, a dear friend of mine, Keith, reminded me when I look up at the moon no matter how far away I may be; he, too, can see the same big ball of light. I thought of each of my supporters, family, and friends during this holiday season.

And finally, today is the day we celebrate Epiphany. We celebrate and remember when the three men of great knowledge followed the bright star leading them to the Christ child. I celebrated the holidays within another country, with new friends, with almost strangers, without my family and close friends and with many different lights. Warmth and joy overcome me, as I know each of us is guided by the star of wonder. We are traveling together in each moment.