Wednesday, April 27, 2011

5. Africa

I'm amending my list for this blog entry. I had originally written 'travel' and planned to write about my journey to Africa within that blog post; however, I think I have enough to say about that place to merit it's own day so here goes...

For me, Africa has always been one of those places that we talked about in church or school. You see stories on the news about AIDS outbreaks, wars, and disease but that's all that it was for me...until 2 years ago. This poor, dirty, foreign part of our world was a distant place I never thought I'd see with my own eyes until January 2009 when I stepped off of a plane into Niamey, the capital city of Niger, and discovered I was wrong - there is so much beauty and wealth in Africa. It's all a matter of perspective and I was desperately needing to change the way I viewed the world around me.

As we walked from the plane to a shuttle bus to drive us to the airport - the drive took maybe 2 seconds as we were merely feet way from the airport, thoughts resembling "I can't believe I'm actually here." "I can't believe there are so many people just hanging out at the airport." "I can't believe how big the guns are that those men are holding." and again "I can't believe I'm actually here." To say it was a surreal feeling would be an incredible understatement - I was excited and ready to get to work. I guess I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that this trip would be life-changing for me, but little did I know that God was getting ready to absolutely rock my world and blow my mind. 

I'm not going to give you a day-to-day play-by-play of this trip, all of those details are tucked away in my journal, but there are a couple of stories I'd like to share along with quite a few pictures that sum up the trip for me. Experiences that even now, two years later, have stayed with me and I can recall as if I returned yesterday. 

From the mountains...

To the desert...

Our plane after we landed in Africa

The village where we worked

Our Bush Taxi

Waiting on the ferry to take us across the Niger River
(We did this every morning and afternoon)
Because they cram as many people inside as they can, all of their cargo goes on top, even animals

Beauty in the middle of very dirty water

My favorite part - the kids!
One thing I realized very quickly is that kids are kids. They desire love and attention. They love to laugh and play games. These kids have nothing but you'd never know it looking at the huge smiles on their faces.

Walking through the village

Beautiful girl in a beautiful dress on market day


Let me tell you a little bit about storying. This is what we did on most of the days were were there. We would walk through the village looking for groups of people gathered to share with them the story of Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection. The notebook you see in the picture above contained pictures for each part of the "story" we told them. We did this with the help of our translator, Lawali...

Lawali is a follower of Christ from Niger who went out to the village with us each day. He is a precious man who became a dear friend of ours while we were there. And he LOVES beef jerky! It was truly remarkable to see the eyes of the men, women, and children light up as we told them about this man named Jesus. I always knew that there were people in our world who had never heard about Jesus but, never living outside of the Bible belt, that was really hard for me to imagine. Well, they are all over countries like Africa and what a joy and privilege it was to be the one to tell them. To our knowledge, in the village we traveled to each day, there were no believers. Zero. Not one person in the entire village of hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people had a personal relationship with Jesus. Mind blowing! And this is where God showed up, showed off, and revealed to us just what He is capable of...

The picture above is of Lawali, Brad (the missionary we served with while we were there), and Moumouni. I first saw Moumouni the second day we arrived in the village. The men were not really eager to hear what we had to say so they pretty much stayed away from what we were doing. They would watch and observe from afar but rarely engaged in our work. This was not the case with Moumouni - he was everywhere we were, always listening to us story, and I knew pretty early on that he might be the one God sent us there to reach. On the very last day that we were in the village, as we were saying our goodbyes and fighting back tears as we looked into the eyes of the kids we had fallen in love with and wanted to stuff into our luggage to bring home with us, I took the picture posted above. Lawali, Brad, and Moumouni moments after Moumouni prayed to receive Christ. Powerful!

In a village where we had witnessed demon possession ceremonies (I'd love to tell you this story), sickness, suffering, hopelessness - God painted a picture for us of how much bigger He is than all of those things. How He is moving and at work in villages in Africa, even when you think He might not be. He's there. He sees. Just like us, they are His creation, His handiwork and He desires a personal relationship with each one of the men, women, and children there. It's hard to put into words the feeling we had knowing, as we drove away, that there is now a believer in that village. Someone who chose to go against the "religions" of his people and begin his faith journey with Jesus. I think we all felt a little bit better leaving knowing that village now has it's own missionary. Life-changing! We serve an amazing God!

If you ever get the opportunity to travel to Africa, GO! I pray every day that God will give me the opportunity to go back. Whether it's West Africa or South Africa, it doesn't matter to me.

If you can't go, there are so many ways to get involved in what He is doing in places like Africa. Below are some organizations that I'd encourage you to look into. Pray about how God would lead you to help. Let God blow your mind, it's the most incredible feeling in the world!

(Also doing a free concert at ETBU tonight at 7pm)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

4. Baseball

I've decided to take a break from the serious family posts and skip down on my list of 'The 50 Things I Love Most' to something that is almost as near and dear to my heart as the most important people in my life...


Since the season has started and that is pretty much how I spend all of my free time, I couldn't resist posting this one any longer. Don't worry remaining family members, I'll be writing about you soon enough! :)

Baseball. Texas Rangers. Josh, Ian, Michael, David, CJ, Elvis, Nellie, Mitch, Chris. My Boys of Summer.

Some might say that this game is boring, too slow, not action packed enough for them. I would argue that there is something magical about baseball. Young boys awaiting a foul ball or home run to be hit directly into the glove they refuse to take off their hand for 9 innings. Dads explaining the game to their son or daughter as they ask question after question. Squeeze plays. Defensive dives and catches. Home runs. Triples. Doubles. Singles. Strikeouts. Stolen bases. Home run robbing catches. Claws. Antlers. Dot Race (Go Blue!). Cheering. Booing. Singing Deep in the Heart of Texas. Fireworks. Being with your summer "family" in the most beautiful place in the world. Magical.

For those of you who still aren't convinced, here are a few clips from some of my favorite baseball movies...

The Sandlot

A League of Their Own

For Love of the Game

The Natural

Field of Dreams

And some quotes that I've come across and love...

People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball.  I'll tell you what I do.  I stare out the window and wait for spring. --Rogers Hornsby

Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer. --Ted Williams

No matter how good you are, you're going to lose one-third of your games.  No matter how bad you are you're going to win one-third of your games.  It's the other third that makes the difference. --Tommy Lasorda

During my 18 years I came to bat almost 10,000 times.  I struck out about 1,700 times and walked maybe 1,800 times.  You figure a ballplayer will average about 500 at bats a season.  That means I played seven years without ever hitting the ball. --Mickey Mantle

Baseball is not necessarily an obsessive-compulsive disorder, like washing your hands 100 times a day, but it's beginning to seem that way.  We're reaching the point where you can be a truly dedicated, state-of-the-art fan or you can have a life.  Take your pick. --Thomas Boswell

And finally some of my favorite pictures...

Win or lose.
Rain or shine.
My boys.
My team.
My Rangers.
I love this game!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

3. My Dad

(I'm failing miserably on this blog, but here is entry #3, two months later...)

I'll be honest, I've struggled a little bit with writing this one. The main reason is because my dad is a very quiet man, never wants to be in the spotlight in any situation, so it's sometimes difficult to point out what I love most about him. However, I think for a lot of people you can tell so much about their character even in their silence.

One of my favorite things about my dad has always been his extremely protective nature. While this might have been frustrating in high school and even into college, he made it very clear that no one hurts his girls. I love that about him! An example of this came out in a conversation I was having with 2 college girls about relationships they were in/considering beginning last summer. I told them I have a question I like to ask guys - whether friends or potentially something more...

If you and I are leaving the same place headed to the same location and we both know where we are going, do you drive ahead of me or behind me? Why?

We discussed the pros and cons of both and then I told them which I prefer. (I'm not going to post it on here just in case...haha). Like the security blanket that most children carry around from place to place, dragging it across the dirt and dust on the ground, I've always thought of my dad as my security blanket. If I get into a situation and need someone to be on my side, I always call my dad. He is my biggest fan because, even when I know I'm the one in the wrong, he always takes my side.

Here are some of my favorite pictures representing some of my favorite things about my dad:

He is one of the hardest working people I know. I'm serious, he never takes a day off! He loves his job and is extremely loyal to those he works for and with.

He LOVES his grand babies! You will never see my dad smile more or get giddy about anything else other than Kaycin and Madi. Recently he took them out to Eastman to show them where he works. It was such a joy watching him hoist them up into the firetrucks and ambulance. They adore their "Pops" and they have him completely wrapped around their little fingers and don't even know it.

If you ever want to get him talking, mention 4 things : Kaycin, Madi, baseball, or football. He will talk for hours about any of these. I love talking baseball with my dad! I know I get my love for the game from him and I love him for it! He's been a baseball player all of his life so he knows everything there is to know about the game. He spends most of his weekends calling football for high school and semi-pro league games. Below is a picture of him with his crew before a game. He loves to be on the field! 

Things haven't always been easy for our family - we've definitely been through our share of trials and tribulations, but there are a few things I know have never changed about my dad : He loves the Lord. He loves his family. He would do anything for anybody. 

As much as I love watching baseball, talking football, playing with Kaycin and Madi, going to dinner, etc. with my dad - what I absolutely love more than any of these is getting up on a Sunday morning to go to church with him. There's just something about having him stand next to me during worship and then read his Bible along with me during the preaching that fills my heart with joy and pride that he is my dad.


For the numerous oil changes, times you've filled my car up with gas, rescuing me on the side of the road when I have a flat tire, listening to me yell and cry when my world is seemingly falling apart, moving me from East Texas to Fort Worth to New Orleans to Hurst and back to East Texas, being there for every game from little dribblers to high school (giving the refs more than an earful too many times to count), supporting me in my decisions (even when you didn't agree), encouraging me in all aspects of my life, and loving me no matter how many stupid mistakes I've made - Thank you! 

I love you!!

Always and forever, 
Your Little Girl