A Day of Remembering

Memorial Day is a pretty special day for me for several reasons.

First, it’s a dedicated day of remembering the courage of our military, those that have given their lives by dying for our country, and those that are actively giving their lives for our benefit.

The reality of the sacrifice of our military is especially close to me and my family. There are six kids in my family and three of them are actively in the military.

Come to think of it, if you ever come into our home when all our family gets together, it may be rather intimidating: 1 former Marine, 2 active Army guys, 1 Navy specialist, 1 kickboxing trainer, 2 biology med students, and mom that can make a casserole that’ll knock your socks off.

I pity the fool that intrudes our house when we’re all there. In the words of Antoine Dodson, “You are so dumb.” After 5 of us beat the living daylights out of him, we’ll send him to the med brothers who’ll resuscitate his life and replace his limbs. My mom will then make him a meal fit for kings, and then we’ll tell him about Jesus and send him on his merry way.

Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but it paints a picture nonetheless.

But mostly I want to paint a picture of sacrifice. I want to say thank you. Thank you for serving our country. Yes, all of us that work jobs are still serving our country and economy by being faithful and productive, but last time I checked our slogan where I work at 9Round is, “Get fit, Never hit.”

When you join the military, however, you get fit because you prepare for that moment when you willingly go into a battle where you very well may be hit. That’s the kind of service that makes our military vastly different from every other career in our country. Would you second-guess accepting your job offer if that were written on the job description? Yet every day hundreds of normal everyday citizens volunteer for this job. How amazing is that? Every person protecting your country today, the greatest country on earth, is a volunteer. Pretty awesome.

Thank you for the sacrifices: missing your youngest brother’s graduation party, missing the birth of your first daughter, moving all across the country and world, being separated from your wife or fiance for extended months at a time, for your faithfulness and commitment.

Thank you for our benefits: that I can work for a small, local business, that your dad can be a Christian pastor and speak with freedom, that I can write and post on a free blogging platform without interference, that I can be an entrepreneur and creator in my free time, that I can go to sleep tonight without fear of bomb threats and invasion.

For all the endless sacrifices and benefits for our sake, we say thank you. We’ll never know the beauty of these freedoms unless one day they are gone. So we enjoy them and honor you for all that you do, seen and unseen.

Charity Jackson, Navy

Charity Jackson, Navy

Jon and Kristin with baby Elanie, arriving home from Iraq; Army

Jon and Kristin with baby Elanie, arriving home from Iraq; Army

Nate and Jeanie; Army

Nate and Jeanie; Army

Memorial Day is also a special day to me because, well, I was born on Memorial Day. And apparently I’m a pretty memorable person, according to my mom (well-played, Mom).

So I’ve been remembering my recent birthdays, and honestly my last 2 birthdays haven’t exactly been stellar.

2 years ago: I was in Philadelphia with a whole bunch of people I didn’t know and spent most of the day by myself. After a quick trip to Starbucks to celebrate with a coconut mocha frappe, I retreated back to my room. So sad. (Granted, the next day I would be leaving for Europe, but I still want a pity party)

Last year: After several attempts to find somebody, anybody,  to go with me to watch Colbie Caillat at the Memorial Day celebration in Simpsonville, I resigned to spend the evening house-sitting for my friend. just me and the dogs. eating chips and salsa. and Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips. and watching The Vow. alone.

that’s one very depressing birthday.

Thankfully, every year we get a chance to make up for the mistakes we made in the past, and now I’m with my family in Indiana, having a duo-celebration with my youngest brother as he graduates from high school. and we all breath a sigh of relief.

That was a really unnecessary introduction. But it does remind me of how thankful I am for the changes that have come about this past year and all the craziness that has happened. So I just wanted to share a quick little photo journal of some highlights this past year. It really has been unbelievably wild. If I were really cool, I’d make an Infographic, complete with diagrams, timelines and neat swirly arrows.

but I’m not cool. so pitch that thought.

and enjoy.


These guys attended my birthday party last year. Obviously, they were about as thrilled about watching The Vow as I was.



First time Broadway experience. And it was WICKED AWESOME!

I was flown out to LA area for a job interview. The drive through the mountain pass to get there was phenomenal!

I was flown out to LA area for a job interview. The drive through the mountain pass to get there was phenomenal!

That same week I got to drive down to San Diego for my first time. All in one day I was in the desert, mountains, and beach. That is why Cali is legit.

That same week I got to drive down to San Diego for my first time. All in one day I was in the desert, mountains, and beach. That is why Cali is legit.

This year I got to be very involved with the homeless in Greenville and had a lot of unique experiences that have changed my life.

This year I got to be very involved with the homeless in Greenville and had a lot of unique experiences that have changed my life.

Snowboarding in West Virginia, baby!

Snowboarding in West Virginia, baby!

This was my last day at my former job. We donated windows to the Ronald McDonald House in Greenville. It was a great way to end a season and enter a new one.

This was my last day at my former job. We donated windows to the Ronald McDonald House in Greenville. It was a great way to end a season and enter a new one.

This is Lilly. 6 months after the 5K, she was connected with a specialist in New York, and after an intense surgery, she was declared cancer-free! Praise Jesus!

This is 3 year old Lilly. 6 months after my first 5K which raised money for her fight against brain cancer, she was connected with a specialist in New York. After an intense surgery, she was declared cancer-free! Praise Jesus!

Enter 9Round into my life. In March I started training to become manager and head trainer at the 9Round location on Wade Hampton. Amazing job, amazing organization! I love every minute there.

Enter 9Round into my life. In March I started training to become manager and head trainer at the 9Round location on Wade Hampton. Amazing job, amazing organization! I love every minute there.

During my first week we had our annual national 9Round convention downtown at the Westin Poinsett. Yeah, we were running around the Gold Room in boxing gloves. Be jealous.

During my first week we had our annual national 9Round convention downtown at the Westin Poinsett. Yeah, we were running around the Gold Room in boxing gloves. Be jealous.


My youngest brother Jared had his high school graduation party the same day as my birthday this year. Now I call that good timing.

Well folks, there’s the overview of year 25. Now onward to 26. Do I have plans, dreams, goals?

eh, ish. Here’s what I’ve learned: pray, plan, dream … and then go. One day you have to make the decision to actually do something, to walk forward, even if you have no idea what step to take after the first one. But that’s ok, because you’re never, ever alone, no matter how dark it may seem or how fearful you feel. Are you a child of God? Then be aware that before the words ever cross your lips that you need His presence, God’s presence has always been there and has never, and will never, leave.

25 years.


It’s a pretty good number. It’s the cost of obtaining a treasure from the gum ball machine. It’s the year your car insurance goes down (supposedly). 1925 was the year Scotch tape was invented!

It’s also a great time for everyone to remind you that you have crossed the quarter-century threshold.

thanks friends.

It’s been a great time to think. remember. I clearly remember the day I turned 24. If my calculations are correct, that would be 1 year ago.

1 year ago. I had just graduated from grad school.

The next day I was leaving for a 2 month missions trip to Spain, England and Italy. My life was very simple. and condensed. like Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. And I had about 5 banana boxes and 3 suitcases to my name packed away in Greenville.

All I knew at that moment was that I was going to Europe to live with broken people and serve where needed.  After that there were no plans, no job, no income, no “direct revelation” about next steps.

I would not in a million years dreamed up what has happened in 1 year. 1 single, solitary year. Can I even begin to describe…? A couple thoughts come to mind about this past year.


The 5 months after graduation were a little out-of-hand, borderline ridiculous: 14 homes, 9 churches, 4 countries, 6 cultures, 15 couches/beds/mattresses, 7 ministry offers, thousands of dollars. And when it was all said and done I was still broke, jobless, homeless, and directionless, without a clue of where in the world I was supposed to be.

Even when I got a job (check that: when God gave me a job) and came back to Greenville, I had a huge struggle with financial instability. I had to wait 3 weeks before getting paid, on top of being unemployed for 5 months. Back to my mathematical insight, when you add $0 + $0, you get a very stressful life transition.

It took a long time to recover from that, longer than I wanted to wait. Through tears and faith-straining, God taught me patience and trust. I was horrible at it, but He was teaching me none-the-less.

He taught me to practically boot strap.

He taught me to not feel guilty about saying “no” to certain activities or opportunities.

He taught me to pray, and to love Him more than money by thinking about Him more than money.

He showed me I’m actually a very fearful, controlling person that is in need of a Savior every single day.


This descriptive overlaps with the previous one, yet focuses more on my emotions. My emotions were up and down, and tended to stay down for long periods. Then I’d go through deep, soul-stirring moments of Jesus-love and be soaring, and then I’d be discouraged about a difficult situation or sin. I knew that I wanted Jesus more than anything, but this war kept raging in my heart more than I’ve ever noticed before in my life.

Identity Crisis

Actually, it was more of an identity loss. crushed. God piled up everything that I loved and was finding my identity in and called it “Idolatry” and that was really hard for me to take, so I fell flat on my face. He told me to burn my idols and turn from them before they turned on me.

But, everything? Even my mind? My thoughts, my dreams, my passions?

God: “Yes, they have become idols. Your heart is an idol factory. You sacrifice them and I’ll give them back when and where I decide, if I ever do. You say you’re ‘Complete in Thee’, but you’re not. So let go and cling to Christ. Do you love me more than these?”

That was a very dark time for me because I had for the first time truly come face-to-face with my wicked heart of idolatry. And it was not fun. And then I wasn’t sure whether I had ever truly loved Him, or wanted Him for the gifts He gives. Yes, Jesus became more precious to me that anything during that time, but it took months to “recover” and fully understand the hope, promise and victory of the Gospel. It’s still a struggle.

By the way, yesterday (after I wrote the first draft of this post) a friend sent me this sermon from T4G to listen to about God’s plan in disappointments and dashed hopes. HIGHLY recommend it. Disappointments are purposeful!


Always remember that it’s not about the quality or quantity of faith, but WHO IT’S IN! My faith was often with fear and trepidation and cold sweats, but thank God it never was or is about me! How relieving!

This past year I was more often that not in situations where I had no other alternatives but to pray for God’s protection, guidance, and provision.

Obstacles included traveling alone, finding correct buses and trains in foreign places, language, money for travel, money for bills, money for moving, money for gas, a job, place to live, a table to eat at, a bed to sleep on, a friend to encourage me…the list is endless.

Yet here I am. Still sane. ish. And full of praise to Him because HE DID IT! Don’t forget that. Don’t praise me. Just stop. I mean go. Go praise Him.


Yes, I just said the bad 6-letter S-word. Let’s face it– it often awkward and/or inferior, and not only in our culture, but also in the church. I mean, have you ever seen a movie where this awesome person is going about life, trying to find this missing piece that will make their world complete, looking for that true love and affirmation…and then they find it! They get to be single for the rest of their life!!

Highly unlikely.

Yet– watch this– isn’t it awesome that no one has to “wait” for fulfillment and completeness and purpose?? Please read the Gospel! Jesus fills that empty hole and missing piece in our hearts! every. single. time.

So…. anyway, on this earth, I am experiencing challenges that naturally come as a result of living alone and being single, not married or dating. The main one has been the need and desire to talk about something discouraging or exciting or even mundane, and there’s simply no one around to share that with in the moment. In particular I have had many discouraging times coming home from work, and I often just wished I had someone to talk to. I found myself keeping things to myself and mulling over it in my mind.

But I soon found that to be unhealthy and, actually, ungodly. That’s why the Body of Christ is so important. I now make it a practice to immediately text or call a very close friend if something happens that I need to release and be open about.

It’s also been challenging not having another person closely peering into my life and challenging me. Not many people challenge me, question my intentions, point out inconsistencies, reveal my laziness. I’m always unsure if I have gone as far as I could’ve, because I’m the only standard to my standards.

Again, I’m finding that I shouldn’t just “accept” these things, but need to do the extra leg-work to seek out others in the Body to meet those needs of mine. And it’s ok to admit need, weakness, insecurity. Christ DIED for His Church, so it’s pretty important that I work hard to involve them in my life. And practically, if I practice keeping to myself while I’m single, then that is how I’ll eventually live out marriage.

So that just about sums it up. I’d like to think that this time next year will be full of stability and normality…but, eh, that is pretty unlikely.  Actually this past week right before my birthday God has been specifically guiding my prayers about a next step and/or phase in my life. Scary, exciting, fearful, invigorating, challenging…

I can’t wait to see what next year’s post “26” will be. Praising Him for 25.

The day of my birthday. 25 years ago.

A Bitter (refreshing) Taste of Humility

The Italy saga continued…

I had made it. I was in one piece, I had all my luggage, and I still had (some) money left.

Like the previous weeks of the trip, I entered into this new county, new culture, and new people with no previous experiences or expectations to guide me. Everything was completely fresh and I was pretty naïve. Such a good place to be. It really makes one be a student of every person, experience, and group I saw. I had learned to be nobody of any importance and to enter into conversations and settings with an open mind, placing my perceptions and opinions lower than those I was coming in contact with. Part of that is well attributed to the language barrier. Even if I disagreed, I usually couldn’t express it in an understanding way; I was forced to constantly listen and observe. Being a foreigner gives one a responsibility to be respectful, not a right to lord one’s personal, cultural opinions over the native people. Americans, and specifically American Christians, are so domineering and harsh about our beliefs. I saw it in myself, and I felt it when I returned to the States. It made me cringe and slightly uncomfortable whenever I sensed it, because quite frankly it is normal and expected. By God’s grace may we become humble people, because in such a state as we are we may never be able to effectively spread the Gospel to His kingdom; our insistence to be “right” may very well paralyze any effort to extend the arms of the Body to place the Truth into the hands of the unreached people groups.

Personal practical lessons and applications of humility:

  • Approach each conversation and interaction with the thought: What can I learn from this person? Can I be the one that has the wrong or weak view/understanding?
  • Become a person of unending questions. Asking questions help reveal why that person believes what they believe. Dozens of factors come into play here: background, culture, family, tragedies, experiences, relationships, etc…
  • NEVER assume. Each person, place and experience must be a blank slate. Assuming can ruin things and you can be looking for something to happen while all the while you are missing the new, unique aspects transpiring right now.
  • Be wise. To balance off the previous point, allow a blank slate to be present, but allow it to add on to and complement your previous knowledge and experience. For instance, I had been living with those that had extreme pasts of drugs and violence. When I entered into a more “normal” life in Italy, I actually got to meet others in the church that had been saved from a similar life style. In wisdom, I could speak and listen knowledgably and walk in love towards that person, knowing past temptations may still be strongly present with them. And then I also had a choice: take over the conversation with “I know what your saying and this is everything I have to say about it!…” or I could store up what I was hearing, ask questions, and be blessed to build on to the mountain of amazing stories of real lives radically altered by the grace of God. More often than not we just need to shut up.
  • Shut up. But seriously, shut up. Quit talking about everything you know, that church planting article you read on twitter, recent revelation, what you read in your Bible, saw in your church, all your blessings, all your sins, awesome Piper book, God’s working in your life, blah blah blah. Sometimes we talk so much about what we “know” about God and all our spiritual stuff and insights that we totally miss out on the real soul in front of us that is dying for lack of real ministry of mercy. If only we would listen. and keep listening. and keep listening. Until we reach the core of the Jesus-need that resides in their pain-seared heart. Oh man I need this lesson—so convicting. Because haven’t I myself been that very person?
  • Do not be afraid to fail. While in Spain, I especially had a major back-lash of culture and language immersion in which I skyrocketed initially, and then fell straight rock-bottom. It was a very humiliating experience because it all was a lot more difficult that I expected. Instead of humbling and rising up, I humbled myself and stayed there, too afraid for a time to venture out in the language because I couldn’t effectively communicate; not trying and withdrawing was a whole lot easier than trying and imminent failure. I regretted that, and if I could go back and change anything, I would persevere in communication and language despite set-backs and humiliation. Some things are just more important that my perception before others. This even wore into my time in Italy; I constantly struggled to express myself and felt a huge disconnect of who I was as a person and how I fit in. I struggled to participate and invest myself while feeling like I was failing at it.

I look back and see a life-lesson: go hard after failure, because you just might happen to succeed. Because even succeeding at failure is still success, right?

A Taste of Italy: Enter the Country


That is precisely how I arrived in Venice, Italy on June 24, 2011. The past month had been a whirlwind of language immersion, culture shock, long work days, and a challenged life system as I knew it. Because of some scheduling conflicts, I ended up arriving via train at Stansted Airport in London on Thursday at 11:00am and leaving the next morning at 8:00am. I had never slept in an airport, much less by myself, much less in a foreign country.

Yes, I was obviously well-prepared.

Having just watched The Italian Job a day earlier, my imagination kicked in overtime and everyone was a potential stalker and/or stealer. My sleeping defense strategy was to have a limb protecting each of my possessions: head on my purse, arm draped over my carry-on, leg hugging my 50lb suitcase. At any moment I felt I could explode into a total round-house kick to the face. And you thought I didn’t know a thing or two about security. Thank you TSA and Walker Texas Ranger.

Barely 2 hours of sleep and a massive body cramp later (yet with all my possessions still intact), I finally got to head to my flight. Even after being in some of the darkest, most crime-infested parts of Madrid, this was ironically the scariest moment of the trip. I had to get from Stansted, to Cologne Germany, find my connecting flight to Verona Italy, find a bus to the train, buy a train ticket to Mestre, and somehow get in contact with the Carls to let them know when and where I’d arrive.

No phone connection, no 3G network, no translator, no experience, no friends.

I could’ve been lost. forever.

Thankfully, at that time I didn’t think that far head. I realize now that every part of this experience from beginning to end was moment-by-moment steps, having often to choose to move even when I had no idea how to accomplish the next step. Not that this is the way I think I should approach every life circumstance, but that is how God led me those few months. And boy was it adventurously scary!

The flight from London to Germany to Italy was the most beautiful scenic experience in my life. Crossing the English Channel at sunrise, entering into mainland Europe and France barely minutes later, seeing winding rivers in Cologne, and the ultimate: the Swiss Alps. Any words and pictures cannot do justice. For the first time I saw jagged mountains that towered into the sky, the snow caps shooting through the clouds, and then to watch their steep inclines collide into these tiny green summer villages that were snug between the mountains. It was incredible. A masterpiece. This one huge mountain-side plunged from it’s white-capped summit straight down into a huge lake that we were flying parallel to, and where the water met the beach there was only enough room for a single row of houses that stretched for several miles. I admit—I was gaping. I became aware that my mouth of hanging open, and I was about to adjust myself until I realized that this was indeed a gape-worthy moment. It was my rightful duty to leave my mouth open. Perhaps even my expression of worship.

We passed the mountains and the plane began it’s decent. This was it. The moment I was so excited for and one that many people dreamed of getting to do and I actually had the opportunity… stepping out into Italy.

When I finally did step through the rotating doors to enter the country, I was greeted with a blast of humid air, and there were definitely not any vineyards, fresh bread stands, or olive oil fountains around. My secret stereotype dream was dashed.

But now I had a real problem. I didn’t really know what to do next. Oh yes, get to the train station. Once I got to the train station, I could figure out the next step. One step at a time. Hm, no signs for a train, at least ones I recognized. You’d think with all the centuries of art in Italy that they’d have more visuals for public transportation.

So I tried wandering. You know, the prideful wandering. Pretending like you’re just browsing around when in reality you’re lost as all get-out and am feverishly looking for some sign or help. Thankfully an Italian lady that knew English approached me and asked if I needed help. She showed me where to get a bus that would take me to the train station. Thank God for sweet old ladies.

There was only one other person on the bus and she looked about my age, so I asked if she spoke English. I found out she was German and yet was fluent in English. And amazingly she was heading to Venice in a few days to study Italian for 2 weeks! How providential! She was very kind and we exchanged emails so that we could connect as soon as she arrived in Venice.

The train station. I thought, I can handle this. How hard can a train station be?


Basically from here on out everything was this sick form of a guessing game: I wonder if this is the right line to buy a ticket. Is this ticket actually going to take me to Mestre? I need to contact the Carls…That looks like a payphone—I hope these buttons work. Nope. Guess I need to buy a prepaid card. Maybe they sell them here. Ok she doesn’t understand the word “phone” “prepaid card” or “help” for that matter. I hope this 5 Euro card works. Nope. Ate my money. Multiple tries. Sweating in the heat. Forget this. One more try with the credit card– it worked! And Lewis answered the phone! Quickly told Lewis when I’d arrive. Whew.

Where are the platforms? Seems like everybody is going this way. I’ll just go up this way…and that was wrong. Opposite direction. Ok I think this is the right platform. Maybe. But… I can’t tell if my train number is showing up on the arrival list. A moment of hyper-ventilation in the possible event that I miss my train, and would be stuck in Verona forever, living on my short supply of Cadbury chocolate, tea biscuits, and olive oil…

Oh I think this is my train… I hope. On the train, barely juggling my luggage. And…there are no seats left. Not one. Uninhibited, I sank to the floor for the hour trip, desperately needing a nap and/or shoulder massage. But I couldn’t miss my stop. If I did I’d go all the way down the line and the Carls wouldn’t know and would be waiting for me in Mestre and I’d be lost and homeless in the back streets of Venice… Stressed. Breathe in and then out. Be strong and fake it. Oh I think the next stop is mine. Finally to the platform, down the millions of stairs, through the gates, and on to the streets of Mestre.

Now where were the Carls going to be? Hm, I’ll just act American and lost. At this point I could care less about patriotism. Oh there they are, with toddler Amelia in tow. Finally, safety and security. I was not lost forever.

(note: I am not exaggerating any of these details. In fact, I’ve left out several frustrating, scary, intimidating moments. Sometimes I look back and think, “What the fat world was I thinking?? Borderline insanity, sufficiently stupid.”) 

We had our introductions and briefly caught up about my trip as we walked about 15 minutes to their apartment. By this time it was 4:00 on Friday afternoon and I had pretty much been awake since 11:00am the day before. I was looking forward to a cold refreshing shower, finally getting to let go of the 100 pounds of luggage, and then a blissful sleep. About half-way there, as I was dwelling on this plan, Lewis says, “Hey we have our Filipino youth Bible study tonight, and I was wondering if you would share a devotional with them.”

Ironic. There are a couple things that are ironic about this opportunity. First, obviously, I was being asked to give when I wasn’t sure if my thoughts and capabilities were logical or coherent. Yet I knew, as I often experienced in grad school, God always gives grace in order to give when physically I feel like there is nothing left to give. So I knew I could go forward in that strength.

Yet the other ironic part was the fact that spiritually and emotionally I was entering, and somewhat already in, the darkest time period of my life. Dark as in lost. Dark as in purposeless. Empty.  Void. Even now I feel it’s very hard to express, though 6 months later. In the past month, God had turned my world upside down, then took my identity, and crushed it. How am I supposed to “lead” a devotional?

In this present state, I showered, took a power nap, and went to the Bible study where I got to share a lesson that I had heard a week ago from Acts 3. Just like the beggar entreated Peter and John for money to buy to food to survive, we often go to God for things that to us are absolutely necessary and life sustaining, yet He wants us to leave that behind because He has better plans in mind. The beggar asked for money in order to have food to survive; Peter said that he had no money to give, but instead gave the ultimate Treasure and Meal, eternal life in the name of Jesus.

We are so narrow-minded and much too easily satisfied. It was a simple devotional, yet never in my life had I felt so unworthy and unclean, thinking, “I should not be doing this right now. I totally don’t feel complete in Christ. Everything’s a mess inside and I don’t really know why.” I couldn’t really express anything because I didn’t even know yet what exactly was wrong.

Yet again, often He tells us to give when we perceive we have nothing to give,

because once we are useless, maybe that is when he can actually use us.

And this was only Day 1.

June 5_ What is Betel?

After my first week in Betel of Madrid, I video-journaled my thoughts and understanding of Betel, which was already at that point awesomely overwhelming. Every day since then I found out more amazing details about how Betel functions and how they adapt to every culture and people group.

One thing stays the same, however, and that is the over-powering emphasis on the Gospel of Jesus. Only through the Gospel is there deliverance. Only in the Gospel are dependencies destroyed. The Gospel is the answer for every problem, in all ages, in every culture, for every addiction.

This is why I was able to be richly blessed and experience growth. The Gospel is for everybody and I have dependencies just like the Betelitos do. Actually, as I observed them, I was often convicted and shamed in my weak pursuit of destroying idols and lifting up the Cross in my life.

What makes Betelitos unique, in my view? They’re addicts, both past and present. Only the worst of the worst come to Betel. They have hit rock bottom. They’re extreme in their pursuit of drugs, alcohol, sex and money. They’re needy and they know that if something does not change, they will die soon (as several people personally told me this). They come to Betel to be free from addiction, yet they realize that the Cross demands more– they must completely give their lives. If they withhold anything, they will easily slip back into the former life, and they know that.

They literally know that it’s either Christ or death. Some cannot handle giving Christ everything, and they know they cannot just give a little, so they leave. Sin is too powerful to be half in, half out. But those that choose Christ find grace that is far exceeding greater and they live with just as much reckless abandon as they did before, except now they have a new Master, an ultimate King, a loving Savior.

They’re addicted to Jesus. And everyone knows it.

I realize now why these are the people that Jesus came to seek and the save. They know they’re sick. They see death. The decision may be intense, yet their passion is stunning because they know they’re needy and understand what they were saved from. Betel is literally a rescue shop within a few yards of hell.

If you want to know a little more about God’s work through Betel, read “They dance because they cannot fly”, which is a book I reference in the video.

So my suggestion: don’t run from the outcasts of society. They may act like they hate people, life and maybe even you, yet inside they’re dying for freedom, for love, for a Savior. They go to drugs to numb the pain, to be saved, to fill the empty hole in their heart, not realizing that they’re selling their souls to a fierce, controlling idol until it’s too late to turn back.

Thank God for Jesus. for the Gospel. Cause that’s they’re only hope. And that’s my only hope for release from the tailored idols of my heart.

June 5_ Betel Madrid, Video Journal

Here’s a video journal I recorded after I had been in Spain for just over a week. Jet lag and initial culture shock past, I basically just recounted some of my first impressions, though much had to be edited out because of time constraints. I mean, let’s all face it– nowadays it’s really hard to keep an attention span for a 30-sec deodorant commercial, which not only promises to protect you from sweat, thieves, and awkward conversations, but also gives you no-residue confidence to conquer the world as we know it.

I can offer you neither, so if you have the time, go ahead and listen to some of my first week experiences.

June 23_ First month reflections

NOTE: the following posts are, shall we say, post posts. I wrote the posts or recorded them in the past month, and now I’m posting them post post. Follow me? Good 🙂

June 23

Here I am, in the London-Stansted airport, and for the first time on this trip pretty much by myself with many long hours ahead of me to wait for the flight to Verona, and from there to Venice. So time to catch up on that blogging!

A couple descriptors of the past month:

The people: kind, welcoming, encouraging, restored, passionate

The church: humble, driven, Cross-centered, loving

The scenery: stunning, age-old, historic, enchanting, diverse

The weather: warm and perfect (Spain), chilly and moody (England)

The schedule: intense, busy, structured, unpredictable

That last point about the schedule is the reason I really haven’t been constantly blogging or updating other social media. I rarely have internet access, and the few times that I do, I’m usually with people or I’m kinda flying through and don’t have time to really think through anything or say it the way I’d like to. So forgive me for delayed or abrupt messages!

Now I must say, I have had a very unique experience with Betel in so many ways. Because of the nature of Betel and their daily jobs, I have seen parts of Madrid, Birmingham, and Nottingham that tourists would never see.

I’ll upload a few video journals where I’ll talk through my experience and perspectives from the time of recording, and then separate videos for the pictures where I’ll walk you through places I’ve been and people I’ve met and any other random experience in-between!

And just so that you have a quick overview of where in the world I’ve been for the past month, I’ll give you the run down:

May 22: Washington, DC- met up with Jonathan and Christy Matias (church planters of Grace Church of Alexandria) and stayed with them until the next morning. So good to see them again and catch up, hear about their adoption process, share our common affinity for Nacho Libre quotes, you know…

May 24: Fort Washington, PA- USA WEC headquarters, which is in a castle. Like a real castle built a long time ago (I forget how long, but if I remember, I’ll let you know). Our team Loretta, Mike, Chris and I went through preparation training.

May 25: my birthday. Just had to throw it in here. Celebrated with a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha frap. The real deal.

May 26: flew out of Phili on the red eye, arrived in London Heathrow, and then proceeded to Madrid. We arrived at Betel around noon and really didn’t have any sleep the night before. Despite our exhaustion, we drank some intense Spanish espresso and took a tour of the international facilities, went to their evening service at 8:30, and once we got home (10:30ish) we ate dinner. Let me repeat. We. Ate. Dinner. At. 10:30pm. Hello Spanish culture!!

June 1: I went with a small team from Betel to the drug camp of Madrid, known as the drug trafficking center of Europe. If people want drugs, namely heroin, they come to Madrid. It was surreal. Something that you only see in movies or documentaries. Yet so sad. The rich businessman and the poverty-stricken HIV-infected buyer alike come here. We set up the van and offered food, drink and a word of hope to those that are ensnared. I came to learn that most drug addicts hate their lives; they would actually prefer to die; they do want freedom. But until they love Jesus more than the drug they will never have victory. Betel goes there almost every day to love them and point them to Jesus. Some of the leaders actually used to live there before they came to Christ.

June 4: our team took a day trip to downtown Madrid and saw all the major Plazas, streets, shopping, centers, historic buildings… there really was just so much to see! The busyness of it all reminded me of New York City, yet Madrid is pretty hilly and everything in general is much older than cities in the US. All the windows, doors and porches had black wrought iron and the architecture was very intricate and ornate. If you want a big city feel coupled with rich history, go to Madrid.

June 8: Toledo. Oh you can just not beat Toledo. I could go back and spend weeks there! It’s like you stepped back into time 400 years.  Not commercialized like Madrid, and though there were still tourists, it felt so open and free for me to enjoy the stone roads, narrow buildings stacked next to each other, ancient structures, fortresses, art, cathedrals, towers, bridges, rolling hillsides… I could not get enough. I loved it! And there’s a path that circles Toledo (which is basically a fortress on a hill) and you could walk or bike around. Next time.

June 10: Flew to London where we were picked up and taken to the Betel Britain headquarters in Birmingham. This headquarters was actually practically given to them by Cadbury, like the real Cadbury! He is a Christian, and when he saw what Betel was doing and how they are making a difference in society, he gave them several buildings. And you know what this means—Cadbury Chocolate World was 5 minutes from our house!

June 14: Our team went to Nottingham to see the Betel there. No, I did not see Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, or any men in tights. Nottingham is lovely, though. While Birmingham is full of varying shades of green, rolling hills, Nottingham literally is a thick, dark green forest.

June 16: We went back to Birmingham and resumed working with the Betelitos. The system of Betel is so intriguing and the businesses are amazing. In Britain they have a furniture restoration shop, a gardening (landscaping) business and multiple consignment shops. Betel overall is 98% self-supported. Pretty good for a charity.

June 19: We left Birmingham and went to London where the UK WEC headquarters resides. And you guessed it—it’s in a castle. A massive castle. I don’t know what’s up with this organization and castles (Betel was just given a castle near Scotland), but I’m loving it! The next day our team toured London and it was simply enchanting. Buckingham Palace was exquisite and every historic building in general was massive and detailed. Trafalgar Square, Parliament, Westminster Chapel—it was all overwhelming with its texture and royalty.

June 21: I took a train down to Southampton right on the coastline and stayed with a mutual friend Demelza. It was lovely being right on the coast and I got to explore a bit and just take some time to reflect on the past month. Must say, I’m still processing.

So now I’m here, still at the airport, and wondering if it’s worth the money to buy a few hours to use the wireless. It may become necessary to make it through the night.

And thank you all so much for the prayers! It has been so encouraging to hear from many of you that you have prayed for this trip and me. There have been many highs and there have been many lows. Some things have solidified my faith, some things have thrown me into emotional turmoil, and yet many things have changed my life forever. And that’s a God thing for sure.


Well, I´m here. In Madrid. At the Betel Center with some unexpected web time!(by the way, Spanish coffee is reeeally strong)  And already just so excited and overwhelmed with what I have seen already, both in Phili and in Madrid. I can´t wait to share more in detail about things that are happening, but so much more important than any of the “doing” and “seeing” is the praying. It has been so encouraging and humbling to know the many people that have committed to praying for me and the gospel advance of this trip. Thank you from the bottom of my heart 🙂

And to give you a little more direction as to how you can pray, I´m going to attach a prayer list that my team leader Loretta Jackson (ironic name, right?) sent to us. We´ll be in Madrid for about 12 days and then will head up to Birmingham, England for about 10 days at the UK Betel center.

Recently God has been working in my heart through Colosians 1:9-12. Please pray these words above all other requests, as I also commit to praying this on your behalf. As awesome as this experience is, I already see my flesh and Satan working to distract me with petty things, and then I get caught up with how I could be distracted, … well, I need grace every day just as we all do. So pray I would love Jesus more than my sin.

“And so we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.”

Specifics you can pray for:

When traveling…

That we will pass through customs and immigration lines without incident

&   That our plane will not encounter mechanical problems or trouble from terrorists

&   That we’ll make all our connections

Health and Safety

Protection from accidents, crime, natural disasters, terrorists, and dangerous creatures.

&   Protection from all kinds of sickness

&   That we’ll find time for proper sleep, rest, and exercise

&   That our food and water needs will be met by the Lord

Spiritual Watchcare

Good times of intimacy with Jesus in Bible, prayer and worship

&   Protection from dark forces in spiritual realms

&   Protection from discouragement, fear, and doubt

&   That we’ll demonstrate purity, humility, boldness, wisdom, patience, love for people, teachable spirit and the power of the Holy Spirit


That we’ll experience and express unity, love, good communication, patience, and spiritual gifts with the missionary team.

& That we can resist temptation toward jealousy, envy, bitterness, and pride

& That we’ll be granted grace for cultural adjustments, dealing with jet lag, being away from family and friends and lack of privacy.

& That God will grant us wisdom to design and implement effective efforts that will make a long-term difference here

Verses to Read as you Pray

Exodus 4:12; 33:14

Psalms 4:8, 19:14, 121:1-8

Isaiah 40:29-31; 55:10-11

Zechariah 4:6

Video Journal 1 – April 22 “So, why are you going to Europe?”

Welcome to the first video journal! Hopefully, this is one of many to come. I plan on sending out video journals as often as I can throughout the trip, as well as variety of other information. I’d like you to see first hand what I am doing so that you can have a visual idea of what’s going on, who I meet, what I experience, what I’m learning, etc… Maybe I’m just a visual person, but I really feel that a picture is worth a thousand words. and you really don’t want me writing a thousand words. I struggle with basic vocabulary as it is.

So I’m hoping to keep these short and to the point. This first one summarizes how in the world I got to where I am right now and why I’m doing this– what my purpose is.

Questions? just ask. I probably have just as many!