Wednesday, November 14, 2012

“I Knew God Had a Plan” : Part 2

“I Knew God Had a Plan” 
(Part 2: continued from yesterday’s post)

Later that day... 
That part of my day was pretty awesome, but the best part of the day was spent with my new best friend Oliver.  He is 12 and has no siblings and has been at the orphanage his whole life.  We immediately connected the first day I came to Noel, and by the end of the day he was calling me mom .....which crushed me. 
I was given a Bible in their language (kinyarwanda) by my team leader and was told to be in prayer as to who God wanted us to leave this Bible with.  I knew immediately that God was prompting me to give Oliver mine, but I didn't want to just hand it to him--that being the end of that awesome opportunity to share God’s word with Him.  So I told him I had a Bible for Him and we would read it together when I came back Sunday (today).  He was so excited that when we pulled up, he was standing outside the bus waiting for me to get off!  When there was a moment we could actually sneak away from everyone, I grabbed the Bible I brought him and my Bible in English.  We went off to a corner and opened them up and began reading Hebrews 13:5-6 "I will never leave you or forsake you.  Therefore, we may boldly say 'The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?” 
As we were reading this and I was explaining it to him, another boy named Oliver who was 16 came over, along with 5 or 6 other kids, and noticed we were reading the Bible.  I explained that God was their Father.  That sometimes they may feel alone, even though they have tons of friends there, but that they were never alone because God was their heavenly Father and would NEVER leave them.  This gave them comfort.  They wanted to hear more.  

These kids go to Mass every Sunday and they know who God and Jesus are and that there is something called heaven ........but that seemed to be about it.  I talked to them about having a relationship with Christ and how it is more than just believing in Him. 
They asked me, “How do we get to heaven?”  
… So we turned to Romans 10:9 “if you confess with your mouth that 'Jesus is Lord' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved........Everyone that calls on the name of The Lord will be saved.”  I explained to them that they not only had to believe in Jesus with all of their heart but they had to proclaim His name, to tell others about Jesus.  I explained that their life had to reflect that and that we should always ask ourself "What Would Jesus Do?” 
They asked what happens if they were bad ........If it was an "accident." I told them about grace, and repentance.  That when you have a relationship with Christ, He forgives us of our sins.  That we will always be sinful people but we have choices everyday to either obey God or turn the other way.  

I asked if they prayed.  They said "yes, at church.”  I then asked again, "do YOU pray?”   
They they said they didn't know they were suppose to. 
I told them that when they have a relationship with Jesus, that he is their Father, their best friend they should pray continuously to Him, the good and the bad.  I explained that throughout my day I ask Him to guide my steps, and I come to Him with my sadness and my hurt, and my happiness and praise as well.  I told them that as I am walk, I will say to God, “Thank you for this sunset, it is so beautiful." "God, thank you for this food because I was so hungry." I explained that when missionaries come and we bring them food and toys, that it is because of God that we come and are able to bless them.  So when they receive those things they should not only thank the person handing it to them, but thank God, their Father, for providing it.  They said, “Oh, I did not know I could talk to him like that.  I like prayer.  I tell him everything.”   
I told them that we should always pray for the lost, the ones that do not know Him.  They asked, “What happens to them?  They don't go to heaven?”  And I explained to them about hell and Satan and that is why they needed to proclaim the name of Jesus to everyone so that no one would spend eternity in hell.  They were really soaking up every word and had no idea that everyone wouldn't go to heaven. 

The bus was about to leave, so I told them we would study one more verse, and I would take the Bible with me and bring it back tomorrow so we could read and study some more.  We read Colossians 1:16 "All things were created BY HIM and FOR HIM.”  I explained how God created everything and they asked, “The good and the bad?”  I responded, “Yes, everything!”  … and they responded with "did God make Satan?".......... 
I just love how they are connecting everything we are talking about.  But the bus was about to pull out and I had to go and since there wasn't a short answer to that I told them we would talk about that tomorrow and we would study some more.  They were so happy.  

all photos courtesy of Billy Pope Photography

I am so blessed to have been part of that moment!  That was one of those moments where I said “So that's why you brought me here, God.”  :) 

I plan on writing more when I get back from Rwanda.  I just didn't want to be spending a lot of time on the Internet.  I just wanted to share some moments of why God brought me to Rwanda and encourage everyone to go on a short-term or even long-term international mission trip.  It really will change your life.  You can read about it on blogs, read every book ever written about missions, watch movies or documentaries about them...… but you will never fully grasp it until you GO yourself. 

I know you may be thinking, “It's so expensive for us to go.  We could give so much more to the kids if we weren't spending money on flights and hotels etc.”  But the truth is, moments like I just told you about are priceless and it is more than just bringing them food and supplies and filling that physical need.  They need people to love on them and show them compassion and tell them that they are beautiful and they are not alone.  They need the Gospel. 

So I ask you, how much is a soul worth?  We should be willing to empty our bank accounts if that is what it took for one person to know Jesus.  I challenge you to go on an international mission trip in 2013.  You will not only change lives but you will be forever changed!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I Knew God Had a Plan

“I Won a Mission Trip”  
by Sarah Snell 

Part One
Sooooooo, I'm writing from Rwanda!! I am so humbled and grateful to have won the mission trip with Visiting Orphans. :) 
Long story short, God had been laying on my heart to go and serve in Africa, but I didn't know in what capacity or where.  I prayed that if God wanted me to go to Africa, that He would get me there...….. and the rest is history

I have been journaling since I started this journey, and I plan on blogging once I return to sweet home Alabama.  But until then, I wanted to share a few moments with you from today that really confirmed to me WHY I am here. 

I knew God had a plan in bringing me here to Rwanda, but I didn't really grasp how you could fall in love with a place and its people on a short-term mission trip.  Back home, I have been ministering in the inner city and have been building relationships with, and serving the homeless, for about a year.  God has really been breaking my heart for what breaks His over the past two years and constantly opening doors, putting people in my path that need not only their physical needs met, but also their spiritual needs.  I serve the poor and the orphans and the widows not because I think it earns salvation...…. I do it because it is overflowing out of me because of my love for my Heavenly Father.  

Many people question why I would go on an international mission trip since I am already so active in my community.  But I believe in reaching the lost and the hurting with the Gospel of Jesus Christ through acts of compassion in my hometown AND in other parts of the world.  In Acts 1:8, the last thing Jesus told His disciples before ascending to heaven was, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea And Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." 

Before I came to Rwanda, everyone told me I would never be the same again.  I knew seeing the orphanages would effect me, but I thought, "I see poverty everyday back home, surely I will be able to hold my emotions together while I am there.  I do not have blinders on like a lot of America.  I see the kids that don't have food in the inner city; the single moms that love their children but can't provide for them due to poverty; the young girls that struggle with addiction problems so they turn to the street to satisfy their cravings; the men and women who don't have the option of staying in a shelter and sleep under the bridge...….. I see all of this in my hometown and I try, through Christ, to help meet their physical needs so I can build up trust and a relationship, and then, along the way and more importantly, help meet those spiritual needs."  

… One of the orphanages here that we have been serving at is Noel.  It is a Catholic orphanage that has 150+ babies and toddlers, all the way up to 18 years old.  There are 600+ children total.  The first day we went to Noel was to get a tour.  When we took the tour of the babies' room, I immediately starting swelling up with tears and had to walk about and pull myself together.  For those of you that know Ryan and I, the doctors have told us that we won't be able to conceive a child of our own.  We plan on adopting, but of course, we still believe that God is bigger and He opens the womb, so we are not losing hope.  We know that God has a perfect plan already for us.  But seeing these babies with their cribs stacked back to back, crying because they are hungry and need someone to hold them...….. and Rwanda doesn't allow adoption from the U.S...…. I just felt helpless and hopeless and I honestly thought I would not be able to go back in those two rooms the rest of our time at Noel… 

Photo courtesy of Billy Pope Photography
But today I prayed all morning that God would lead my steps at Noel, and speak through me, and give me peace to be able to step up and love on these babies that need to be held, and He would take care of everything else.  When I came back to Noel this morning, the first thing I did was go to the baby room.  They immediately handed me a baby and a bottle…… 

"Feed," they said.   

As I was holding little Angelica in my arms, my heart melted and I don't think I stopped smiling the rest of the day.  God helped me overcome my fears.  The workers then tied her onto my back and I toted her around with me wherever I went.  To see her little feet sticking out beside my waist...…. I just can't even describe it.  

Photos courtesy of Billy Pope Photography

I didn’t think the trip would change me in the way it has...
I was wrong.  God broke me in Rwanda even more than I was already broken.  In the U.S., most have a fighting chance.  They have access to clean water and bathrooms and can walk to the downtown library and have access to free Internet.  There are many ministries that try to give them a bed to sleep in, give them a nice hot meal, access to showers and wash their clothes, and will try to help them find jobs.  Compared to the people I am seeing in Rwanda, they are rich!  I have never seen this level of poverty.  Kids are just piled up on a concrete floor sleeping because they don't have enough beds.  They wear ripped up clothing because they only have two outfits per child, and you can't give them any more clothing because they have no means to wash another outfit when some orphanages have 500+ kids.  They have no toys.  They make toys from our leftover water bottles and broken jump ropes.

There are no words to describe it......….. you just have to come.   It will change you.

(You can read my “Before I Went” testimony here!