False Saviors

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From Kelly: 

On Sunday, I saw a savior.

On a lazy weekend afternoon, I decided to sit by the swimming pool to finish reading What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert. The book is about the many misconceptions about what the “good news” actually is. Ultimately, the book concludes that a message that centers around anything outside of putting one’s hope of salvation through Jesus’ death on the cross is not the true gospel.

But this post isn’t about the book…this post is about the events that unfolded while I read.

After basking long enough to have sweat beads start to form beneath my sun hat, I peered over my open pages to see a father and his two sons, about ages four and six, enter through the pool gate. My eyes returned to the chapter, but I found them darting back up several minutes later when I heard the clamor of feet breaking the water’s surface over and over. You’ve got it—tons of splashing!

Naturally, you would assume that the source of the noise was the two young boys, but in fact it was their father attempting to practice his freestyle stroke. Over in the shallow end, his boys bobbed in three-foot water: the six-year-old in a life jacket, and the four-year old in an inner-tube with a built-in middle pouch for him to sit in. I made a mental note to ignore the splashing as the father’s projectile water droplets weren’t making it all the way to my lounger (thank goodness!). As I gazed back down at my pages however, that’s when the events began.

The four-year-old’s tube flipped over, and because his legs were in the tube’s seat, he was stuck facedown. The six-year-old yelled, “Papa! Papa!” but “Papa” was too busy focusing on his swimming to hear his child. The teenage lifeguard, while surprisingly not glued to a cell phone, was staring off into space, as if imagining herself on vacation rather than at work. The boy’s cries for help were no match against her imaginative trance.

I peeked up after the second cry to Papa and witnessed deliverance. A woman in a red beaded cover-up had entered the pool area while I had been critiquing Papa’s freestyle and started laying down her towel. Hearing the cries for help and seeing a toddler’s legs flailing just above the water’s surface, she rushed over to the water and jumped in while still clad in that red beaded cover-up. One moment, she was in the water, and the next moment, the toddler was raised from the depths of the shallow end onto the secure, concrete poolside.

At this time, the off-duty lifeguard, who was going to be the relief for the supposedly on-duty one, sprang from the pool’s sign-in to help the boy. The boy had retained consciousness now and was able to stand after a few sputters and coughs. It was at this time that Papa finally noticed that something was amiss, and helped his boy over to their chairs. The off-duty lifeguard then walked over to the on-duty lifeguard and informed her of the situation, which she missed entirely. Picture the mortification that fell over her face as her imagination changed from whatever fantasy to what could have been a reality under her watch.

Certainly no longer relaxed, I departed from my lounger to return home, but not before thanking the woman for saving the young boy (something Papa neglected to do, which astounded me!). As I made my way back to my apartment, I reflected on the salvation I had just witnessed. That four-year-old boy had done everything right, according to pool rules. He stayed in the shallow end. He used a flotation device. He had a parent supervising him. A lifeguard was on duty. Yet, all of these things he relied upon were unable to save him when the threat of drowning approached suddenly that Sunday. His preparation in having the inner-tube did not save him. The people he had relationships with could not provide salvation, as his older brother had good intentions but couldn’t assist, and Papa was oblivious to the need for salvation. And finally, the lifeguard, who lead all at the pool to believe in her for deliverance from any drowning, ultimately failed to save when the time came.

Just as the prep work didn’t save the boy, so too our “prep work” to get to heaven won’t work. Even if we do things “right,” doing good things won’t save us from drowning in our own sinful nature. Our relationships might seem satisfying, but relationships at their best won’t provide the love of God, and at their worst will disappoint—but regardless, they fail to save. And lastly, our plans may seem like they are able to save, but when you need rescue from sins, the lifeguard of our “ten-year-plan” is no more able to save than our works or our relationships. No, your salvation and mine comes from our own version of the lady in the red beaded cover-up: Jesus in the blood-stained linen, who died on the cross to pay the consequences for our sins and save us from the eternal death that we deserve.

As I think about where I find my security, I look back on this past Sunday. Having an “inner-tube” of good works, maintaining great relationships, and formulating some awesome plan are not bad things, but I pray that you and I can find rest in the hands of the one who can (and did!) raise us from the depths of our sin to new life through him.

Kelly is the other “little berdie” — my sister who lives in Washington D.C. She loves Jesus, Duck Donuts and solving math problems. She recently went on a mission trip to El Salvador where she wrote about her experience (here, here and here). 

Back to the Basics: Part Two

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In part one, I wrote about how this year I am focusing on getting back to the basics of life in terms of my health, decluttering and time. In part two, though, I want to focus more specifically on getting back to the basics of faith. What does it mean to be a Christian? What causes us to lose sight of what our faith is about?

First and foremost, being a Christian at its most basic level means being a follower of Christ. You believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross paid the penalty for your sins completely. So nothing you do can “get” you into Heaven.

God’s gift of salvation is just that — it’s a gift. You cannot earn it. But you can accept this gift completely and sufficiently as a payment for your sins. 

OK, I need to pause because WOW! Praise God for this wonderful gift. Praise God that we do NOT earn our salvation. Praise God that he accepts me as a sinner and washes me completely from my sin because of His Son’s blood.

..He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit… (Titus 3:5)

So having received this gift of salvation, we live to worship God out of gratitude, humility and love.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)

It’s as simple as that right? Just be a living sacrifice. No explanation needed. Well, wait. What does it mean to be a living sacrifice? What does it mean to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27)?

I think it can be summarized well with this verse:

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Overall, this looks like getting in the Word and in prayer every day in order to spend time with God (John 15:5). This looks like loving your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39) and serving others well (Mark 10:45). This looks like fleeing from sins that entangle you and pursuing righteous (Hebrews 12:1-2). This is the big picture.

But sometimes we can get into the nitty gritty details about specifically what Christian living looks like in various areas and disagree.

Person A thinks reading a lot Christian books is necessary (I may or may not be in this camp…haha). Person B thinks listening to secular music is wrong. Person C thinks only holding hands is appropriate while dating. Person D thinks and so on and so on.

I fear that when we get into these conversations, when we disagree and can’t find common ground on things that are so minimal, we are missing the common ground we do have. We are missing the Gospel. We are missing what this whole thing is about. We need to back “home” (or paragraph 2 of this post). We need to be reminded of the grace God has extended to us and look at the bigger picture. If we don’t, the enemy has us right where he wants us: distracted, divided and disheartened.

So this year, let’s all make it our mission to remember the Gospel in every conversation. Remember it when we agree, disagree, correct, love, rebuke and spur one another on. With the hope that these disagreements will be minimal because we remember that we are all playing on the same team.

My 2016 New Year’s Resolutions

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Happy New Year y’all!

This year’s resolutions are all about getting back to the basics. This will be the last time I say this (I promise!), but last year was hard. There were a number of reasons and factors that contributed to that, but excuses aside I did not do a good job of getting in the Word and in prayer as consistently and fervently as I had in years past. This year, I am determined to get back to the basics in order to grow in grace and truth.

In particular, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the spiritual disciplines book I read last year. There were so many nuggets of truth that I gleaned from it that I wanted to think through how to put it all into practice. But in order to not overwhelm myself with twelve resolutions as I have done in the past, I decided to focus on the four “Inward Disciplines” (as Richard Foster calls them in the book). They are meditation, prayer, study and fasting.

Foster says, “God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving his grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us” (7).

I love this. God wants to transform us to be more like himself and one way he can do this is by us focusing on our spiritual disciplines. It’s like disciplining yourself for a marathon. Sure, you don’t have to do it. But your stamina, running abilities and body will suffer if you don’t train and discipline yourself for the actual race. This is the same with our walk with God. We need to discipline and train ourselves so that we will be able to run fervently no matter what is thrown our way.

So with all that said, here are my resolutions for each of the four inward disciplines this year:

Meditation

Thomas á Kempis called meditation “a familiar friendship with Jesus.” Unlike Eastern meditation that attempts to empty the mind, Christian meditation is an attempt to fill the mind, “to create and inner wholeness necessary to give ourselves to God freely” (21). There are not necessarily particular steps to “practice” meditation, rather it is a way of life.

In order for me to be successful in keeping my resolution though, I need to take an actionable step in order to incorporate meditation into my daily quiet time. Each day, I am going to find a verse that I feel like the LORD wants me to focus on. I might need to marinate on this verse for weeks or maybe only a couple days — I’m not going to set a specific time limit. It should a verse that the LORD has been using to tug at my heart.

I saw evidence of this happening with Joel 2:13 at various points throughout 2015. Because the LORD kept placing that verse in my life, it allowed me to think about it a lot and soak in its truth. I’m hoping that mediating before prayer will help me to get more out of my quiet time because I have prepared my heart for communicating with God and have spent time thinking about his Word.

Thomas Watson says, “The reason we come away so cold from reading the word is, because we do not warm ourselves at the fires of meditation.” Oh, how I can relate to that.

Prayer

I’ve thought of so many ways I could improve upon my prayer life this year, especially after reading so many books on prayer the past couple of years.

First and foremost though, I want to get back to the basics of being prayerful everyday. This means carving out the time necessary in the mornings to pray for an extended period of time. Jesus prayed for extended periods of time all throughout the New Testament (Luke 6:12), so how much more should I be spending ample amounts of time in prayer before beginning my day?

I still find journaling my prayers to be effective because it helps me to focus on what I’m saying and not babble. But I need to spend more time journaling and make sure I am well-rested enough in the mornings to have a fruitful quiet time (a.k.a. not falling asleep). I will keep the journaling in place.

Also, I want my life to be more prayerful and not just something I do every morning. Tim Keller in his book on prayer found that praying in the morning and evening with maybe a brief midday prayer was most helpful for him. I’m going to try to incorporate at least an evening and morning prayer in my own life.

Overall, I want to make sure I am praying no matter what. We have been given such an amazing gift to be able to communicate with the Creator of the heavens and earth, and a lot of times I take that gift for granted. I hope that by the end of the year, I can see growth in my prayer life and therefore growth in my love and affection for God because of the time I was able to spend with him each day.

Study

I’ve always thought of myself as “good” at this spiritual discipline, but unfortunately I think I’ve been selling myself short of what God intended “study” to look like. Instead of fully meditating on Scriptures that I’m reading, I have a tendency to get through as many studies and as much material as possible. Very seldom do I allow myself to marinate on a verse or go through any application steps/questions regarding a particular passage.

John Piper’s Desiring God team has recently put out a series of wonderful articles on this subject (here and here) that really convicted my heart for why this discipline is so important to apply rightly. If we don’t, we become Christians who are just checking a box and getting through our quiet times.

Imagine how frustrating it would be if whenever you talked to a loved one on the phone and shared your thoughts and feelings with them, but they didn’t respond? Were they even listening? Did they hear what you said? Think about this next time you are reading God’s Word. We are to move from reading to meditation to prayer. We need to have the proper response to God’s Word and treat it for how valuable it is. This is something I greatly need to work on this year.

I also want to make sure I am being as consistent as possible in my quiet times. Last year I made a lot more “exceptions” for myself than in years past for why I was “okay” to skip my quiet time for the day. Though there may be times an exception has to be made in the future, it should be an infrequent occurrence.

Fasting

I knew very little about fasting before reading this book let alone putting it into practice. To be clear, fasting is not for vanity or a desire for power. It is not to be used to get God to do what we want. Instead fasting must be centered on God and must be God-ordained and God-initiated.

So my fasting resolution for this year is to try it once, since I’ve never tried it before. I’m not going to force it to happen, but to prayerfully consider what prayer request or decision I need to make this year that would benefit from spending time in fasting and prayer. I’m not even sure what fasting would look like for me yet — whether it’s food, social media, TV, etc. I’ll wait and see how the LORD uses it this year.

I recently purchased a journal that I hope will be helpful in organizing my thoughts for my quiet times. I love this woman’s Instagram feed and had purchased the memory verse card booklet a couple months ago (and love it!). I’m hoping the structure of her journal will help me to meditate, study (take notes) and pray through the Scripture I read this year. I’ll let you know how I like it!

Other resolutions:

  • Read 40 books this year. Setting 52 as the goal last year was a little too ambitious considering I only ended up reading 35. But I have been able to increase my book count by five for the past few years, so I should be on track to meet this goal.
  • Keep my #SomethingNew resolution from last year. I had so much fun doing this last year that I want to keep it going this year. Here’s to trying many more new things and stretching myself to get out of my comfort zone even more.
  • Practice thankfulness. My “word of the year” is thankful, something that I am not good at expressing in the midst of my busyness and selfishness (or focus on my self and my own issues/concerns). So I created a Thankful Jar for the year to write out and keep track of one person, moment or thing I am thankful for each day. The LORD has blessed me with so much to be thankful for. I’m hoping that this small act will give me an attitude of thankfulness throughout the day and all year.

Two Thousand Fifteen

By nature, I am a very self-reflective person (I’m sure this comes as no surprise to those of you that have been following my blog). So every December, I find myself even more introspective than usual as I look back on the year and how quickly it went, yet how much has changed.

C.S. Lewis has a quote that I just love: “Isn’t it funny how day-by-day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different?” Oh man, how true is that? This year has been full of all sorts of changes in my life. There were really hard moments and really sweet moments. There were friendships and relationships lost and friendships and relationships gained. There were moments of uncertainty (all of my health issues in the Spring) and moments of clarity (when I saw pieces of my life come together). It was a really hard year — a challenging and refining year —but a year that I will always be able to look back on and see God’s hand in each moment.

He brought me out of several “slimy pits” and gave me a firm places to stand (Psalm 40:2). I’m so grateful for his abounding love and graciousness even when I was less than grateful for the circumstances I was in. He saw me through to the end and never once left my side.

After a year of ups and downs, I foresee 2016 being a year of steadiness and growth. The circumstances in my life are a lot more stable than a year prior, and I can only hope and pray that it continues throughout the year. But if it doesn’t, I know that the LORD places me in particular places and particular circumstances for a reason (Ecclesiastes 3:1-14, Acts 17:26, Psalm 16:5).

So no matter what 2016 holds…

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.
                                           Habakkuk 3:17-18

There is so much to be thankful for! Here are just a few of the memories I will cherish from 2015:

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Texas State Fair
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An afternoon ballet
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Bastille Day
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Celebrating my 25th birthday and a new apartment!
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Disney World
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An event at Cowboy Stadium with my parents
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A TCU victory over Baylor!
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Friendsgiving
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My first photoshoot!
All ready to go!
Biking in Chicago
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Fredericksburg
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My Vegevarsary
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Segway Tour in DC
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An afternoon at Katy Trail Ice House
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Wine tasting in Virginia

Happy New Year, everyone! Cheers to 2016 being the best one yet!

A Very Merry Christmas!

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Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. (Joel 2:13)

This is the verse I chose to put in all my Christmas cards this year, which may seem like an odd choice to some. After all, this is not the stereotypical Christmas card verse — there is no mention of Jesus, a baby in a manger or the “Prince of Peace.” But this was the verse the LORD seemed to lay on my heart time and time again throughout the year. So much so in fact that it would have been wrong for me not to have used it in my Christmas card to share with my friends and family.

This verse is beautiful for so many reasons. It comes at a point in the book of Joel where the prophet wrote of all the destruction that would come when the Day of the LORD was here (Jesus’ second coming). He wrote “return to the LORD” because the people had forgotten their God. Their hearts were hardened (Hebrews 3:13) and Joel encouraged them to turn from their sin and grieve before God.

And to encourage the people to repent, Joel reminded them of the beautiful attributes of God — that he is gracious (1 Peter 2:9-10, 2 Peter 3:9, 2 Timothy 1:9) and compassionate (Exodus 33:19, Hosea 1:7, Psalm 103:13-14, Lamentations 3:22), slow to anger (2 Peter 3:9), and abounding in love (John 3:16, Romans 8:31-39, Romans 5:8).

You see, this verse has everything to do with Christmas because God’s graciousness and love were displayed when he sent his only Son into the world to be despised and rejected (Isaiah 53:3), so that we could have a right relationship with God. He has great compassion toward you — he cares about you. He is not angry with you, in fact he is slow to get angry because he wants you to know him. He loves you more than anything.

So this Christmas, return to the LORD! Remember who he is, his amazing character. Turn from your sin and come before the LORD with a repentant heart. He wants to restore a right relationship with you, so that you may have abundant life (John 10:10)! What are you waiting for?

Resolutions: The Results

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Well here we are, at the end of another year — I can’t believe it! This year I made five New Year’s resolutions, which I think was a little ambitious (something I’ll talk about with my 2016 resolutions coming in January), but nonetheless helpful and life-changing.

Here’s a little bit about how I did:

Resolution #1: Take a modern-day Sabbath.

I knew the hardest time of the year for this one was going to be in the fall, and I was definitely spot on. Overall, I definitely think I made strides to have more restful Sundays, considering Sundays were a time for every errand under the sun, laundry and cleaning my apartment prior to my resolution. When I made this resolution though I wanted to be more mindful of how I was spending my Sundays, so that I would not be rushing around trying to get everything done before the work week started. And although, I wouldn’t say I completely rested and did nothing on Sundays (I did a much better job in the beginning of the year), I did make more of an effort to get my major errands and cleaning done on a different day in order to make my Sunday a little more relaxing. I think making this resolution will help me to make a conscious effort to rest more (on Sundays especially) in future years. I have even noticed just in completing my daily to-do list that I have trusted that the LORD would help me to complete everything in His timing each day. It is good to see my anxiety-prone heart have a little less anxiety every day at least partially because of this resolution.

Resolution #2: Rest in God’s sovereignty and abide with him daily.

Speaking of rest, this resolution was really hard for me this year. There were a number of hard moments that I had throughout the year that made me cry out to God in frustration and not want to rest in his sovereignty. There were many times where the last thing I wanted to do each day was spend time with him in his Word and prayer. But I think remembering His sovereignty and fighting through my feelings allowed me to get through those tough moments. There was a lot of transition and change that happened in 2015, so not looking too far ahead and focusing on the day ahead was vital for my own sanity. Not to mention as I said above, my anxiety about the future was a lot less this year than previous years (PRAISE GOD!). So hopefully I will continue to get better and better at trusting in His timing and not jumping too far ahead of myself. Part of the resolution really comes into play with my resolution for next year (post coming at you in early January!).

Resolution #3: Using words and having a tone of voice that is beneficial to others. 

This was the one thing I really wanted to improve upon in 2015. I had seen my tone and words hurt so many people close to me that I wanted to make every effort to control what I was saying and how I was saying it. And overall, I would chalk this one up as a success. Though there were many moments where I really failed (I can even think of one or two last week), there were so many other moments where I was able to stop hurtful words and my harsh tone before both came out of my mouth. This year, there were so many more fruitful and beneficial conversations that occurred because I was able to better control my tone with people and remain calm in high-stress situations. I still have plenty more to work on in this category, but I like where things are headed and will continue to keep this on my radar.

Resolution #4: Drink more water. 

FAIL. I tried and tried and tried some more. I drank more LaCroix and set goals for myself each day at work, but for some reason I was not especially motivated to drink water even though it was a resolution. I will continue to work on this because it is vital for my health, but I’m glad that this failure of a resolution is over.

Resolution #5: Try something new every month. 

This was by far my most successful resolution (not to mention my most fun)! So much so in fact that I think I’m going to continue it into 2016 because there are still so many activities and things I want to try. Making this resolution pushed me every month to get out of my comfort zone and try things I hadn’t done or wasn’t good at. It gave me the opportunity to make the most of the fun things Dallas has to offer. I even heard from so many of you who would wonder what I was going to do next! Anyone looking for a fun resolution, I would highly recommend this one!

Here were all my #SomethingNews from this year:
January: Ballet Class
February: Knife-Skills Class
March: Juicing
April: Biking White Rock Lake
May: Watercolor and Brush-Lettering Class
June: Trip to Fredericksburg  
July: Barre, Spin and Yoga
August: Perot Museum’s Social Science
September: LAUNCH Retreat
October: State Fair of Texas
November: Pie, Custard and Macaroons
December: Six Flags

I’m working through and gathering my thoughts for my 2016 resolutions. Stay tuned for a post in early January!

Share the Story

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My sister, Kelly, is back for one last post on her mission trip to El Salvador! You can read more about her trip here and here

My biggest takeaway from El Salvador was the repeated practice of evangelism. “Evangelism” comes from the Greek word euaggelion, and in the verb form means to bring good news. What it does not mean is to condemn or force conversion. Rather, to evangelize is to bring God’s story of salvation to his created people. Below are my steps to evangelize:

  • Prepare: In order to bring the Gospel to people, we first have to know the Gospel. Practice a two-minute and ten-minute gospel presentation. Memorize a few key verses (such as John 3:16, the Romans Road, or Titus 3:4-7) and be ready to share them at a moment’s notice.
  • Don’t Prepare: Often, we feel like we have to know everything about the Bible before we can share anything about the Bible. But look what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:17: “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” How reassuring that it is the finished work of Jesus that saves, not our perfectly phrased presentation! God will give you the words to say when he wants you to say them.
  • Be Bold: This is far easier said than done! Most of us don’t evangelize because we are afraid of how others will react. However, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (2 Timothy 1:7-8). If you are a believer, God has already given you the spirit of boldness — so use it! He wants our spirit of power, love, and self-control to be used to proudly proclaim the gospel.
  • Be Weak: One of the greatest tools I learned to use in El Salvador was my testimony. People are able to relate more easily to a changed life than to babble about how they should change theirs. When Paul was weak, God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The grace of God in our lives is powerful when showing others what it means to have a relationship with him.
  • Let the Holy Spirit Work: It is often frustrating to try to evangelize and see no immediate results. Jesus told his disciples, “I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor” (John 4:38). It is important to remember that we are not the ones doing the saving. The Holy Spirit will change hearts. All we are to do is be ready to reap what he has sown.

These tips are not exhaustive, but they will help you get on your way to sharing the joy of our salvation with those around you, whether they are children in El Salvador or coworkers at the office.
–Kelly

For more on evangelism, click here.

Planning for Prostitutes

My sister, Kelly is back to share more about her mission trip to El Salvador! You can read more about her trip here

Iglesia Central

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)

Where do you see yourself in five years? I think most of us have been asked this question before. Between 401(k)s, mortgages, career tracks, and even Facebook posts, we are constantly reminded to consider the future and plan ahead in order to set ourselves up for success down the road.

Going to El Salvador, my team only knew one activity for certain: we would be assisting Iglesia Central with a crêpe-making class for prostituted women. For the five ladies on our team, it was the one activity we could prepare for. And prepare we did! We prepped our minds: many people prayed for us. We prepped our words: two of us (myself included) composed sermons. We prepped our hospitality: ladies from our church in Virginia put together gift bags complete with wooden spoons, dish towels, cookies and bible verses.

This cooking class was the second of three at Iglesia Central. In 1899, Iglesia Central, literally “Central Church,” was established as the first Protestant church in El Salvador. Located in el Centro, the church is just one block away from Zona Roja, San Salvador’s equivalent of the “Red Light District.” For 116 years, the ladies of the church had not ventured into Zona Roja because it is known to be sketchy and dangerous. This summer, however, they reached out to the brothel owner to invite the prostitutes to a cooking class at the church. Sixty prostitutes came to the first class, and the church ladies were anticipating eighty to come to the second.

Crepes to go

The morning before the cooking class, the ladies of my team and our translators walked around to the brothels to remind the prostitutes of the class later that day. We were shocked by the conditions, barrack-style cinderblock buildings contained small cells for each prostitute. Each cell held a twin-size mattress, a small shelf for lingerie and a scantily clad woman “advertising” in the doorway. We thought it would be beneficial to see where the prostitutes were coming from in order to best prepare to serve them later.

Thirty minutes before the cooking class, no prostitutes had arrived. A few had been early the last time, so the church ladies thought that we might be able to mingle with some as they had before. But that wasn’t the case this time. We decided to go ahead and finish up the crêpes so that no time would be wasted putting them together once the women arrived.

Fifteen minutes before: no prostitutes.

Start time: no prostitutes.

Fifteen minutes late: one prostitute peeked her head in the entranceway, got scared and ran away. Our spitfire translator, Linda, chased her down and made her come to the class.

What a disappointment! We had done all of this prep for eighty prostitutes, only to have one come. The pastor, Mauricio, asked what we wanted to do with all of the crêpes and gifts — maybe we could serve the people of the church and save the gifts for the next cooking class?

But Linda spoke up and said, “The ladies of your church put together these gifts for the prostitutes for this day.” And Linda was right; we wanted to bless the prostitutes that day, not for some hypothetical future date. Together, the ladies on my team decided that we would deliver crêpes and gifts to the prostitutes while they were at work. We would go to Zona Roja.

The church ladies, once timid and always modest, gained a new sense of boldness. While my team was still wrapping up crêpes to go, each church lady grabbed a plate of crêpes, a gospel tract and a red gift bag, and together they stormed down to Zona Roja. They were like the Allies storming Normandy. It was Prostitute D-Day.

Normandy

By the time we made it to Zona Roja, there was one church lady sharing the Gospel to a prostitute at each cell. We looked over on the other side of the street and saw a few additional prostitutes, so Annie and I went to share the Gospel with two of them. The first one, Reina, was six months pregnant and became a prostitute five months ago after her boyfriend left her. The second one was Reina’s mother, the prostitute in the adjacent cell. Reina’s mother wasn’t interested in God’s love story, but by the grace of God, Reina was. Months ago, she had prayed that “God would bring rescue” to her baby, and Annie and I were messengers of that rescue! Reina invited us into her brothel cell (eek!) to pray with her. And inside her cell, in a small voice, she prayed that God would forgive her sins through the shed blood of his Son and that the Holy Spirit would enter her heart. PRAISE THE LORD!

Reina

In all, my team and the ladies of Iglesia Central talked to fifty-one prostitutes, and eleven accepted Jesus as their personal Savior. Did we plan for this? Absolutely not! Was our original purpose unbiblical? No way! But God had a different plan. It was his purpose that stood. Our purpose was simply to serve the prostitutes; to let them know that they are seen and loved by the Creator of the universe. But God’s plan surpassed our own. He gave us a spirit of boldness to meet the prostitutes where they were and proclaim his gospel. He gave the church ladies a new confidence to venture into Zona Roja for his sake and share his love with the socially outcasted. Prostitute D-Day made history in el Centro, and God allowed me to be a part of it.

When your plans don’t seem to work out, ask yourself: Does God have something bigger planned? God “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). Rather than feel discouraged when your five-year plan doesn’t turn out how you thought it would, look for God’s work within your circumstances. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). When you look for God in all situations, he will surpass your “good” plans and give you the best outcome.

–Kelly