Lord I Want To Serve You With My Time, Will You Show Me How?

Tecate Mexico will always have a special place in my heart. Although I didn’t know this at the time, this trip would birth a deep love for mission work in me and would be the first of many mission trips to come.

I was almost finished with college and on my summer break. My plans consisted of spending the summer with my family in Florida but God was pressing on my heart that He had something more. I’ll never forget sitting on the beach praying “Lord, I want to serve you with my time. Will you show me how?”

Literally the next day, my brother told me that the mission trip to Mexico he was leaving for next week had an extra spot for a translator that had just opened up. I was minoring in Spanish at the time so his youth pastor, Joey Potter, thought I would be a good fit. This was the first time in my life that a prayer was answered so clearly and so quickly and although I was nervous about going, there was no denying God was talking.

On the way to the airport, I remember feeling really stretched. That’s the only word for it. The idea of staying in Florida was safe and comfortable and TEMPTING. But to hear from God in such an obvious way, I knew I couldn’t ignore Him. Looking out the window I began to pray for courage. On the radio came this song that said “I will walk through the valley if you want me to.” Peace overwhelmed me. Although the feeling of being out of my comfort zone was not gone, a quiet peace accompanied it and gave me the courage to get on the plane. I’ll never forget that feeling and often refer back to it now when making big decisions. When the Lord calls you to something, you often feel stretched and uncomfortable (so you will depend on Him!), but you also feel an incredible peace and strength you know is not your own.

Meeting up with the team and driving over that Mexican border I felt more alive than I had ever felt in my life. We built a home (I helped with the roof and drywall!) and put on a Vacation Bible School for some children in the village. The days were long and I had never been so tired or dirty but I’d also never been so happy. The relationships that were formed on that trip were cemented for a lifetime. To this day, I cannot help but smile thinking of the people I had the privilege of spending that week with. One of my favorite things was how each day, we were encouraged to have a quiet time with the Lord before going out. On one such morning, I had found a rock with the words “Dios es Bueno” spray painted on it. I took a picture to remind myself not only of the trip, but of this truth: God is good!

When I returned home, I realized I would forever look at things differently. My life would become one with a focus on missional living because Tecate showed me there is no greater joy than serving others in the name of Christ. My travels would take me to Europe, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Kibera and Pipleline slums in Kenya (twice), El Salvador and then a long term mission where I would work with my husband in Immokalee, Florida. We served a community that was made up of 90% immigrants and crop workers with food, clothing and English classes. On the way home one day how he told me he had never been happier. I knew the feeling well. He would die a year later suddenly of a heart defect. I was pregnant at the time. It was one of the most difficult times of my life but one of the things that got me through that tragedy was continuing to serve. I got involved with girls rescued out of human trafficking and continued trips to Immokalee with my young son where I met weekly with a youth group. Why? Because once you have experienced being the hands and feet of Jesus to love and serve others, you know there is no other way you can possibly spend your days. I’ll be forever grateful to God for using Joey to open my eyes to that truth. And as we speak, I look over on my wall and see the picture of that rock in a frame on my wall reminding me that Dios, is indeed, Bueno.

The Very Best Way to Love

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love." -John 15:11-12 The Message (MSG) 

His commandment. In most circumstances, "command" can sound ominous. But here, we are commanded to love. Love! How delightful, right? But, "love one another the way I loved you." What kind of love is this? 

He loved us so much that He died for us! I put that right at the tippy top of the most selfless, gracious, merciful acts that anyone has done for me. Bar none. But, what does this look like practically?

I was born into a Christian family, active in my church/community, and was even involved in missions from a young age. My grandparents were on the refugee committee at church, which meant by proximity, my entire family was on the committee. Through them—my mom, aunts, and uncles—I truly learned what this command meant. It was never discussed; I merely saw it in action. 

There was an open-door policy at our house and friends wandered in/out with ease. It also meant that if someone needed a place to stay or food to eat, I was accustomed to my mom inviting strangers over. It might be a church visitor or perhaps a relative called from another state asking if we could host someone passing through. We even had a homeless woman and her smelly, matted, mangy dog live with us for awhile (I still remember trying to give that dog a bath. Oh my!) It didn't matter who you were or even if our own finances were nearing depletion, if you needed a place to lay your weary head or fill your empty belly, you were more than welcome!

Fast-forward to March 2016 and allow me to paint a picture of an individual who was called to serve in Nakuru, Kenya. This during a time in her life when she didn't think she had the capacity to serve, much less find room in her heart to love another person. Surprise! That person was me. I was broken. God called me nonetheless. In fact, I believe this is where God can do his greatest work. God is looking for a people who have become nothing so that He can become everything! Thus, with tears in my eyes and sorrow in my heart, I boarded that 747 and traveled 8,915 miles to a place I never knew I wanted, or needed, to go. At Mountain Park Academy (MPA), I re-learned how to love. Not just any love, but the way Jesus commanded. The way I had seen demonstrated in my youth. But, my newest instructors? The children of Kenya. 

Selflessness. Lovingkindness. Exuberance. Joyfulness. All of these "fruits" and more are always in peak season when you arrive at MPA. I'm talking about kiddos who are walking to school or playing football (soccer) in worn flip-flops, wearing tattered clothing (clothes that wouldn't even qualify for the donation pile), and whose little bellies are likely grumbling because they did not get enough to eat the night prior. Students who might take notes on yesterday's newspaper and who use every pencil down to the nub. Yet, each time I'm at MPA, I'm astounded at just how selfless and loving and joyful these children are when I know how easily the seeds of bitterness, frustration, hate, and anger could take root. 

But, in spite of all that—which by our first world standards would "rightfully" qualify them to be despondent—His joy is their joy. They demonstrate His love regardless of their circumstances. 

And so they don't love us because we're so loveable. (I mean, we are. *wink* However, I really wasn't my most loveable self the first day I set foot on MPA's campus.)

They don't love us because we look like them. 

They don't love us with any expectations. (Except maybe, probably, to be loved in return. I mean, they're adorable, beautiful children. How can one not?) No. They love with abandon. 

These sweet kiddos greet us each day with a smile, high-five, a "Jambo" ("hello"), hug, or even maybe, if lucky, a surprise kiss. (Ask me sometime about the sneak attack kiss by Steve-o... it will melt your heart!)

They use their valuable paper to draw us pictures and write us letters. 

This year a student gave me a bracelet. A BRACELET. Are we kidding? Do you know just how little they have and she gifts ME with something? C'mon... Incredible!

Last year a group of former students started a group called TREAT254 (what we would refer to as a non-profit). Do you know what this small group does? They collect money to give to organizations less fortunate than themselves. Stop it right now! This is where I can no longer prevent the tears from flowing because my heart simply bursts with joy! We have so much and they have so little, yet they are doing more than many in the United States ever do. Astonishing!

There are so many more examples I could provide of how I see Jesus in Kenya, and how, because of it, my relationship with Him is more real than it ever was before. In re-learning how to love, my sorrow dissipated and my joy returned. In turn, His joy has become my joy. Let's just say I'm so thankful I boarded that plane in March 2016! 

In closing, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one very important person whom I admire, respect, and love tremendously. VIP = JP. You know him as Joey Potter. He exemplifies this commandment. One thing that he repeats constantly is, "The world believes in what you do and not in what you say... " And Joey is simply the epitome of action (loving others) versus words!

I also cannot leave out my teammates, nay friends, who are living out this command, as well, each with their own gifts and talents (including baboon kicking *phew*).

Joey, my teammates—these are my forever family—even if some of us only see each other in places requiring passports! 

Life is a journey, and there most certainly will be valleys to traverse. But if we follow this simple commandment, it needn't be a laborious or lonely one. If you find yourself feeling low or broken, just think of the children of Mountain Park Academy in Nakuru, Kenya. 

Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love. - Mother Teresa

 

Mountain Park Academy

I’m going to be honest. I grew up in the church. I grew up knowing who Jesus is, memorizing Bible verses in school, and being able to generally tell people what they wanted to know about who God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are (shoutout to my Sunday School teachers). It wasn’t until 2013, though, that I really, I mean really knew who Jesus was. I met Joey Potter through sheer chance through a family friend about a month before he was taking a group to Spanish Wells, Bahamas. I had always wanted to go on a mission’s trip, but never really knew how to get connected. This opportunity fell in my lap, and I couldn’t pass it up. I served with some really great people in Spanish Wells, many of whom I still tell people about today, and this trip sparked my need to seek Jesus more than I was. Fast forward to 2015, I am graduating from college and one of the first things I think is “I can go to Kenya with Joey” because lacrosse was no longer taking my spring break time, the time that the group was going to Kenya. I prayed about it, and man, I prayed hard. It has been a longstanding dream of mine to go to Africa, I feel like God has been telling me to go to Kenya for years, and this was my time. I really didn’t know where I was going to get the money to go, or what the heck my parents were going to think, but I decided to take the leap because I felt he was calling me. I signed up for one week, with a bunch of strangers that I had no idea who they were (besides Joey), and I was so excited. Then the opportunity came to spend an extra week, and naturally I didn’t even have to think about it, I let JP know right away that I was all in. Somehow, I was able to raise all the money to go on the trip and I kept telling people, God provides. I’m not sure how he does, but he does. It’s March 2016, and it’s time for me to embark on the very long journey to Nairobi, to meet a bunch of new people and my task was to help work in the medical clinic. Now, I’m not a doctor, or a nurse, I am a current physical therapist assistant student, but I have a passion for helping people, so I jumped at the chance to help nurse Bethany in the clinic. Man, God blessed me with that bright woman. She probably doesn’t even know this, but I attribute so much of my spiritual growth through watching her work and having conversations with her. I think the real turning point for me in that two weeks in Kenya happened on one of our last days there. On a whim, the 8 people that stayed decided that we were going to pull our money together and feed every single person in that school (800 students plus faculty members). Joey suggested that we simply do bread and soda. So, we decided that each person was going to get a half a loaf of bread and a soda, because they are hungry. They get two meals a day at school, but they are so. dang. hungry. And what better way to carry out Jesus’ work than to feed the hungry. So the 8 of us got the supplies and set up to feed 800+ people. I have replayed this moment in my mind every day since that day in 2016. Babies coming up and getting their bread and soda and gorging themselves with it, until there was no more. Students and teachers, sitting quietly, eating bread and drinking soda, just simply being. Not being greedy, not being choosy, just happily taking what they were given. Then I thought to myself “Brittany, you need to get yourself together and start really living for Jesus, because THIS is what he is”. Jesus is acceptance of everyone, and I mean everyone. Jesus is feeding the hungry. Jesus is providing sustainable feminine products to teenage girls that miss a week or more of school when they are on their periods. Jesus is NC State football players teaching Kenyan boys the ins and outs of American football and being mentors to them. Jesus is having dance parties in dorms and singing Justin Bieber. It sounds cliché for me to say that Jesus taught me so much in that week, but he did and he is still teaching me. It’s amazing to know that people like Joey, and my friends that I met serving in Kenya with are LIFELONG friends. Y’all, I haven’t even hung out with my Kenyan friends in the U.S., but I know they are a phone call or text away. We pray for each other endlessly. This trip has provided me with family that I didn’t even know I needed. Jesus challenged me in these two weeks, ultimately leading me to get baptized in my home church when I got back. Jesus is continuing to tell me to not be afraid to share Him, to proclaim Him to the nations, to go in His name. At 24, I’m still finding my footing as to what I want to do with my life, but if there is one thing for certain, it’s to live for Jesus, because he saved my life. 

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Have You Found Your Destiny?

I'm not sure most people have found there Destiny or even imagine what it will be like. However I know one thing. The only ones among you that are truly happy are those who have sought and found how to love and serve. 
The experience of seeing many of my family torn away from the sting of death taught me a lesson. Hurting people need "nothing" more than the love you give them. It's the ultimate unconditional commitment to an imperfect person. That was me, wounded, sad and longing for love. However, I was rescued thru the example of my mother. She demonstrated this love towards me even today. In spite of losing two husbands, five children plus many unlimited relatives and relationships she continued to press forward. 
Seeing her break free and meeting the needs of others affected me tremendously. Not because it was perfect but it was thru my own experience that taught me to realize this: If you wait for the perfect moment when all is safe and assured it may never arrive. Mountains will not be climed,races won or lost or lasting happiness won't happen. 
I went on my first "mission project" to Kenya five years ago. Amazing in the midst of what I saw still sends chills to me. The joy, peace,and love of those there was life changing. Happy in there current status, I  viewed them still as poor. They don't see it that way. They see it thru  the lenses of an opportunity to create!So  thru this i received the biggest gift I could ever have.There tremendous  love for each other was infectious.True unconditional love, sharing and caring was the common theme there. 
 So being happy is this.If you want "OTHERS" to be happy, practice compassion. If "YOU" want to be happy, practice compassion. We can choose to see life as a series of trials and tribulations, or we can choose to see life as an accumulation of treasures. I choose the later. 
Prayer: God Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot. Courage to change things I can,and the wisdom to know the difference.