Sunday, June 24, 2012

Kings, Aliens, and the Beast

       The past two weeks have been two of the most intense of this school. Last week we studied Revelation, which is a super overwhelming book because there are so many ways to interpret the prophecies and strange events that John sees in his visions. Although at the end of the week I had more questions than answers, I still learned a lot. Something that has been really helping me in this school is just observing the text - seeing what the verses are actually saying in context. During Revelation week, I realized that so many people take a tiny passage of the Bible and form an entire view of how the world will end based on that, without reading the rest of the book. Two good examples of this are the commonly held views of the Rapture and Armageddon. After studying many of the symbols in the visions of Revelation, I still don't know how the world will end. And I'm okay with that. The important thing is that we know that Christ overcame and will return in victory.

       We hadn't really studied many books in the Old Testament yet, so this week with Kings and Esther had a very different feel. I had always thought of Kings as boring with lots of lists, so all the action packed into these two books really surprised me. One of the assignments we had to do for class was making a table of all the kings, listing whether they were good or bad and the significant things they did during their reign. Of all the kings, only about 3 (out of 40) remained totally faithful to the Lord. Another project I enjoyed was doing a character study comparing one good king with one bad king. Both of the kings I chose spent a significant amount of time during their reign destroying idols and false gods that people worshiped. However, their motivations were totally different: Jehu, the bad king, did it for selfish reasons, while Josiah, the good king, did it to honor the Lord. In response to this study, I made a video (with the help of a friend) demonstrating how we all need to destroy idols in our lives. For me, the expectations of others or society is often a struggle and can get in the way of my relationship with God.

video 

       To finish off the week, we studied the book of Esther. Although God is never mentioned in the book, the main message of Esther is God's provision. He used Esther to save her people, the Jews, from a fate of death. In response to what we learned through this book, our entire school had to perform a drama of the story of Esther. We put on a creative interpretation with a theme of Cowboys vs. Aliens. It was so much fun! Here are some pictures of the drama. 

In King Xerxes' palace
Queen Vashti (Katie) and one of the applicants for queen (me)
Presenting myself to the king
Galactic lightsaber battle between King Xerxes and Haman
The Jews win! Time for a hoedown!
The amazing cast of Cowboys (Jews) vs. Aliens (Persians)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A New and Unexpected Path

For the past few months I have been thinking and praying about what to do after this school. While home in the U.S. for several months I researched many programs and applied for several jobs. The more I investigated, the more I realized that God had been answering the question I had had since doing my DTS last year: Am I ready to commit to longer-term missions? And his answer to me was YES. I have never in my life felt so excited for a job – because I know that missions is what I was made to do. The next step might be new and scary, but it will be so good! Often we have to step out in boldness and faith to see the opportunities that otherwise would be hidden from our view.

About two weeks ago, I made the decision to serve as a missionary with the United Methodist Church for the next three years. The program is unique in that half of the time is spent abroad and the other half stateside. One of the aspects about this program that I am most excited about is its focus on social justice issues and the role of the church around the world. For the next year and a half, I will be serving at an Evangelical Methodist Church in an indigenous community in Ecuador, working with Women and Children’s Ministries there. I am very excited to be involved in this community and get to know the culture there. It’s going to be different than anything I’ve ever experienced, but I am confident that God will use me there, and teach me lots as well.

A friend shared with me this poem a few days ago, which made me think about how God gives us choices, but at the same time guides us to the right decisions.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

There will always be the other option that we did not choose, but we have to learn to be happy with the choices we make, and take joy in the unexpected twists and turns life brings us. If you had asked me a month ago, I would have said I was leaning toward not doing this 3-year program. But I chose the less certain, perhaps more challenging path, and I hope that it will make all the difference. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Renewal

       These past few weeks have been super busy, thus I haven’t had time to write an update until now. We had a bit of a change in pace two weeks ago when the whole school went to a YWAM Central America Conference in Nicaragua. Instead of having class like normal, we took part in various events over the four days we were there. As well as having lots of free time to relax, there was worship, speakers, and hearing about what the ministries that other YWAM bases are doing. It was a great time to refresh after so many weeks of intensive study. The retreat center where we stayed was gorgeous!
The retreat center - paradise :)
BCC (Bible Core Course) crew
Chilling outside our room
Love these girls!

I really enjoyed meeting people from other bases and experiencing another culture for a few days. Sometimes I can get so caught up with life here at the base in San Jose that I don’t even realize I’m in another country. Going to Nicaragua was a nice splash of cold water that I am here, in Central America and there are so many needs here. It’s easy to become comfortable with people I know in YWAM, but I need to step out and interact with others who are not Christians as well. Equally as important as learning God’s Word is having the opportunity to share it.
      After returning to Costa Rica, we had an intensive few days of learning how to proclaim the message of truth that we’ve been studying. I chose the book of Colossians to study, and throughout the week I did a 45-minute teaching, 15-minute preaching, and a small group Bible study of different sections of this book. For the first one, I started out really nervous and unprepared, but it turned out really well. I realized that I am competent to teach God’s Word! When I have researched and studied the book for so many hours, I have so much knowledge that I want to share with others. And discussing the book helped me go deeper – people brought up questions I had never even thought about. The main themes I talked about in these three presentations were renewal in Christ, living with conduct that honors God, and accepting Jesus as the authority of our life. So good! This was a great experience for me as I learned that I am definitely most comfortable in the small group setting. I feel confident that I could lead a small Bible study in the future. 
       Last weekend, we stayed overnight in a small camp in the mountains for a Reading Away Weekend. During these few days, we spent the majority of our time reading through several large books of the Bible in one sitting. (This is something we normally do every Saturday in order to get through the entire Bible in 3 months.) Honestly, I was kind of dreading all the reading because after a few hours it can get pretty tiring. But even one day, having read for 7 hours, I came away from it so amazed. So many things are in the Bible that I never realized before! For example, I thought 1 & 2 Samuel were boring books with lots of genealogy listings, but there is SO MUCH action and crazy stories. In between reading, we had time to play games and enjoy the nice weather. I loved getting to know my fellow classmates better. And our staff cooked us homemade meals. Mhmm! 


Mountain view from our camp

I got up to see the 5:30 AM sunrise!

      What a wonderful few weeks this has been. Again, thank you for your prayers. It’s wonderful to see how much everyone here (including me) is growing. Only 1 month left of the school. It’s gone by so fast! After this, I will be coming home, and then starting my next adventure, which I will share about in my next blog post. Stay tuned!