I love the airport. I love the whole process of packing a suitcase, going through the ticket line, sitting at the gate and people watching. Taking off on an adventure somewhere outside of your normal 9 to 5 daily grind. Exploring new cities and discovering new places.
But until about 5 years ago, I only enjoyed doing this within the continental United States.
Because it was predictable. Because it was "safe." Because it was comfortable.
When I was younger I made a list of places around the world I would like to see one day. But I never thought much of it because in my mind there were so many variables that were out of my control once I left the comfort of my home country. In fact, I used to always say that I never felt "called" to go on a mission trip. I fully supported missions and those who ventured out, but that just wasn't what God was telling me to do.
But it just wasn't true.
The reality was that I had felt a gentle nudge from God for a few years about taking a trip...but I chose, for a long time, to ignore it. And then one day, after watching a video in church about several teams who had just come back from trips all around the world, something clicked. I knew it was time to stretch myself and take a step out of my little box.
It was time to apply for my passport.
And when it arrived at my home, two days before my first mission trip, it might as well have been Willy Wonka himself standing at my door with the Golden Ticket. It was beautiful. It's fresh, blank pages just waiting to be stamped with remnants of adventures of a lifetime. It was my ticket to a new perspective. My chance to see the world through the eyes of someone else...to paint the picture of other cultures the way no book could ever do.
It was my opportunity to experience God in a whole new light. To stand with people in another country who are thousands of miles from me, who speak another language, but yet to worship the same great God is absolutely humbling and astounding. And to carry those friendships with me wherever I go, just makes this great big world that much smaller.
My passport is not just my ticket to adventure...it's my invitation to serve God in a way I could never serve Him at home in my comfort zone. It's my opportunity to shift my perspective of my reality I've created for myself in my own little corner of the world.
It's my little reminder of just how small we are and how infinitely big He is.
"Where You send us God, we will go You're the answer We want the world to know
We will trust You When You call our name Where You lead us We'll follow all the way..." -Chris Tomlin
It's so crazy to think that this time last year, I was returning from my first planning trip to Australia for Passion Sydney. I would have never guessed that a year later I would be preparing for a journey to South Africa...but I am so thankful for the Lord's hand on my path - He has a far better plan than I could have ever dreamed for myself! I am so excited to be able to take a group of our high school students with us to invest in and learn from the South Africa students of our partner church in Cape Town!
As i'm trying to prepare my heart for the task we have at hand, i'm reminded just how many distractions there are here that are competing for my time and attention: work, friends, family, social life, etc. It's so hard to "un-plug" from life when life stops for no one. But trips like these are great reminders that sometimes we just need to pause, detach ourselves from all of the media outlets that keep our minds on mental schizophrenia, and remember that we don't need a thriving relationship with Facebook/Twitter/YouTube/Google/iPhone...we need a relationship with our heavenly father and with His people..whether they be next door, or 10,000 miles away.
I hope that you'll track with us as we go on this adventure of a lifetime. I'll try to blog from here as much as possible, but we'll mostly be blogging from our team page: http://capetownhighschooltrip.blogspot.com/.
We would love your prayers for a safe, successful and life changing experience!
"Look at the nations and watch- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told." Habakkuk 1:5
Tonight is my last night living in Dunwoody...at least for a while. Tomorrow I pack up the last few belongings left in the apartment and take up residence in Acworth again - at a place that I haven't lived in over 9 years...
Yes, when I say home I mean home...as in, with the parental units. Yes, I know that I am 28 and moving home. Yes, I know this goes against any and/or all socially acceptable endeavors. Yes, I know my commute will go from a 10 minute blip to a 1 hour excursion...and I don't care. If swallowing my pride and putting a few extra miles on my car means that I can reach my goal of entering my 30's in a year and a half debt free, then I will gladly suck it up for the next 6-8 months...it's something I probably should have done a long time ago.
When I first entertained the idea of possibly moving home for a few months to save money, every ounce of my being protested. Don't get me wrong, I love my parents, but it was like something in me was saying that I would have to give up some of my "freedom" by living under their roof again. But the irony is in the fact that if i'm still a slave to the debtor, am I really free to begin with?
I'm sad to leave this fabulous area that i've come to love over the past 3 years, and the wonderful friends and community that have surrounded me, but I think the weirdest thing is that I feel a little bit like i'm going to be a stranger in my own home. Maybe it's because I am not the same girl who left there 9 years ago. So much has changed and I feel like I have learned and grown more in these past 9 years than I did in the 20 before that.
It's funny how life works that way sometimes...it's all part of the journey.
I can't believe this week has already come and gone, and I have just over 24 hours left in beautiful Sydney. I've spent the morning soaking in the sights as much as I can...grabbed my staple Vanilla Latte at Starbucks and headed over for a gorgeous walk across the harbor to the Opera House where I sat on the steps, journaled and just enjoyed watching all of the people pass by for a little while. It's so weird to think I may never get to see this city again in person, but who knows. I pray that one day God will bring me back to Sydney.
We're packing up now and heading out to Bondi Beach for the night. A little change of scenery sounds fun, and the beach on a beautiful day like today...who could ask for more? I am unplugging for the rest of the trip - so likely no internet. If I don't get a chance to blog again before I leave, i'll see you all back in the states!
I don't think I could write an entire chapter and adequately describe to you all the amazing night that we had last night here in Sydney. I am so humbled and amazed to be here, to see and experience first hand the work that God is doing through the Passion team all around the world.
And it wasn't about the fact that I got to travel around the globe to one of the most beautiful places ever, it wasn't about the fact that God filled the auditorium with over 8,000 students. It wasn't about the cd's that were sold, or the songs that were sung. It was about uniting the body of Christ and students from over 86 universities all under one roof for His renown, and hearing and seeing what He was doing in and through that...from the moment we started planning months and months ago, till the very last person left the arena.
Stories are already pouring in about God at work last night, both inside and outside the arena, and I was blessed to experience one of these moments first hand. At about 2 hours to go before the beginning of the event, hundreds of students were already in a line that stretched halfway around the entertainment center. As I walked outside to check on the status of things, I was approached by a guy named Mike who walked up off the street. Mike is from Germany, and he is in Australia on a work visa. Our conversation went something like this:
Mike: "So what is going on...why are all these people lined up out here?" Me: "It's an event for University Students" Mike: "An event? What kind of event?" Me: "It's a Christian event - we'll have worship and teaching and all that fun stuff...it's gonna rock." Mike: "It's for Christians? You mean all of those students are lined up for an event for Christians?" Me: "Yep." Mike: "You have to be kidding. Are you kidding? Something like this would NEVER happen in Germany where I am from. There's just no way."
We continued to talk about the event - I told him it was a free event and asked if he would like to come. His eyes were as big as saucers, and he shouted "YES!" I handed him a ticket, and then he realized that it started at 7pm, and he was scheduled to be at work at 7pm. He thanked me, and then asked me to give the ticket to someone else who could use it...and then he just stood there for a moment looking at the students, somewhat speechless. Then he said that even though he was not going to be able to attend, God was speaking to him. He told me, "you have no idea what this has just done for my walk with God - seeing all these students in a time when I have been questioning things...you just have no idea." I prayed for Mike for the rest of the night as we worshipped there without him...I don't know anything else about his story, and it's likely I never will, but it was so cool to see God using this night to reach people in this city who never even set foot inside the arena doors.
I was reminded then that, even if everything else the rest of the night went wrong, it didn't matter - God was already at work and He would accomplish His mission anyway!
The rest of the night was great - it was so amazing to just stand back in the arena and watch 8,000 university students just worshipping the Lord with all their might - unified across campuses, across cities, and even in some cases, across continents. I pray that something sparked in the hearts of those students last night that they will carry out back into their campuses and homes and just be alive in Christ to all those around them. I pray that they become a generation who will not hold back when it comes to proclaiming the name of Jesus!
Today was a wonderful, and also bittersweet day. I felt a huge relief that everything that our team has been working on for months and months had finally paid off, but i'm also a little sad that it's all over and that i'll be going back home in just a few short days. My heart has grown very attached to the people and the students in the city of Sydney. It was a cold and rainy day today....and I was so thankful. Thankful that the rain held off until today, and that the students stayed dry last night. As I type this, I am looking outside my window at quite possibly the most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen, sweeping over the Sydney Opera house and touching down into the Sydney Harbour. It's colors are brilliant - the brightest i've ever seen in a real rainbow. I'm listening to Tomlin's song "God of This City," and looking at this rainbow - a symbol of God's promise - couldn't be a more fitting end to a perfect day. Just as the song says "greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city." That's my prayer tonight. That God will continue to do great things in the city of Sydney, long after we are gone. Who knows if i'll ever get to come back here again. But I can assure you - the people of this city will remain in my heart forever.
Here's a little glimpse into Passion Sydney, with some of my photos and videos, and also a few photos from our amazing tour photographer, Jeremy Cowart (you can tell which ones are his -they are the phenomenal pics. I'm not that great of a photographer - he's stinking amazing with a camera!).
I can't believe that we are just 24 short hours away from Passion Sydney! The excitement is building as the team is making final preparations for tomorrow. We've been scurrying all over the city for the last few days finalizing details, picking up last minute items, and praying for the students who will ascend on the SEC tomorrow night. Please pray that the weather holds out!! Before we left Atlanta, the forecast for Sydney showed blue skies...but since we've arrived, that forecast has changed to rain. Rain, rain, go away!
I haven't really done any sightseeing since we got here this time (besides the quick jaunt at the markets) because we've been working around the clock to get everything ready for tomorrow night. However, Mark and I did witness the strangest (and coolest) thing yesterday as we were running some errands in the city. We were waiting at a busy intersection to cross the street, and when the crosswalk sign came on, instead of crossing from one side to the other like normal, everyone just crossed right in the middle! It looked like a fun version of fruit basket turnover! We thought it was so cool that we made a little video of it, check it out...(embedded video)
Isn't that bizarre?! We thought it was so cool, that when we ran errands the next day we decided to do it. :)
Ok, time to run...gotta go do our last visit to the venue to make sure everything is in place! I'll leave you with a few of my favorite pics from this trip so far...more updates to come soon as we prepare for the big night tomorrow! Keep praying!
This is the cool shot of the full moon from the plane..
I apologize in advance for the lack of length in this post, but it's now 9pm Sydney time (which is 6am our time), and I am barely still functioning...trying to hold out a little longer to adjust to the huge time difference.
We made it here safe and sound, with two great flights! I got a good bit of sleep on the 14 hour flight, managed to watch 2 & 1/2 movies, and made a new friend....all in a day's work! When I got to the Sydney airport though, it was like deja vu of my last trip here all over again....picture me standing at the baggage claim waiting....and waiting...and waiting. Suitcases revolving over and over as one by one their owners claimed them and went on their merry way. Guess who was the last one left...again. :) Apparently my luggage never made it onto my flight! I couldn't help but laugh at the situation...I mean, things happen - there's no use getting upset, plus I got a $100 supplement to cover my "necessities" while I waited for them to track down my bag...not too shabby! My luggage finally arrived at the hotel just about an hour ago, so I am a happy camper.
We had a great start to our journey here - we hit the ground running with a prayer meeting amongst some of the Uni leaders in the city. It was so great to just sit in a room together, all praying and lifting up the students of this city all in the name of God's glory...I couldn't think of a better way to start our trip and align our minds and hearts to the reason we are here in the first place. We made a few other stops and now we're back at the hotel resting and getting ready for a busy day tomorrow.
That's it for now...Passion Hong Kong is going on as we speak, so please pray for the students there and also pray that God will just continue to make everything fall into place here in Sydney as we countdown to the big event on Tuesday.
Must get sleeeeeeeepppp....good Thursday morning to you all at home, i'll update again soon!
We survived the 14 hour flight from Sydney to San Fran, and we're now waiting in the airport for the last 4 hour flight home. It's noon here, 3pm at home and 5am in Sydney, so right now my body cant tell if it's coming or going. I'm so tired, yet still awake and hungry as all getout. :) We should be landing in Atlanta around 8:30pm, so here's hoping that I can sleep tonight. It's back to work for me tomorrow, and i'm sure i'll need Starbucks in hand!
I'm sad to have left such a beautiful city, but also glad to be almost home. Oh, they're calling us to board now...i'll see y'all in the ATL. (and yes, I was laughed at for saying y'all in Sydney.) ;)
Our time is winding down here at Sydney, and it makes me sad. I have fallen in love with this city and especially it's people. I am already counting down the days until we come back, and I haven't even left yet. I am so very excited in anticipation for the things that I know God is going to do through Passion in October!
The last two days have been a whirlwind of meetings. We've met with church and campus leaders, media distributors, radio stations and on and on...it's been crazy, but great! We are leaving feeling very optimistic about the relationships that are being built and the potential to get the word out to a ton of the university students in the city. I could write so much more about all of this, but right now it's 1am here and I am absolutely exhausted. The bottom line is that we have a lot to do over the next 4 months in preparation, but we are very excited about what is to come. To quote the song that's resonating in our hearts right now..."greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city." I'm so humbled to be a part.
Today we also had a prayer gathering with some of the Uni students here on the steps of the Sydney Opera House. It was so great to meet some of the students and actually be able to pray with them for their campuses and for the city. I am excited to be able to remember their faces and pray for them and all their peers specifically over the next few months. What a privilege!
Just for fun, here's a little snippet of some campus visits we made in the city....enjoy. I'll see you all when we get back to the states!
It's 6am here, and I have been awake since 4:30am...courtesy of jetlag. :) But if it means that I get to see amazing sights like the one above, i'm ok with that. This is the second amazing sunrise i've been privileged to see since I embarked on this journey. The first was from my plane as we were about to touch down in Sydney. It was amazing...to see the fiery colors just above a layer of marshmallow clouds. For a split second, I thought I caught a small glimpse of what it might be like to be God every morning..basking in the beauty of creation, and looking down on the world where things that seem huge to us, really in His grand view of things, are very small. Here's a glimpse of that one as well...
I'm excited about the day today...we will get to experience worship at two different churches - Hillsong and Christian City Church. We've made some great friends at both of these places, so it will be a treat to get to worship with them. The next two days will be hectic, we have back to back meetings all day, so I am thankful for today, to be able to take in some time to praise our creator who sent us over here in the first place!
My heart for the Uni students of Sydney (i'm picking up the terminology here!) grows more each day...even though i've only met a few of them so far, just the fact that I am being given the opportunity to play a very small role in helping unite them for the glory of God humbles me beyond belief. There are some great leaders doing some great things here, and I am so grateful that we can come here in October to create a space where they can take off the planning and teaching hats, and just come in to worship and praise with their students. So cool.
Well, that's all for now...I need to go and get ready for the day. Happy Sunday, by the way! I know it's Saturday evening at home, but I just thought I would send you a little preview for what tomorrow looks like! Weird, huh? :)