“‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” These past few months have been the hardest times of my 22 years of life. There have been some great times, but there have also been some very difficult and trying times.
As you know from my last newsletter, I had a great summer in Palestine, as I led a team of teenagers on a summer missions trip. Then, after spending two weeks home in NJ, I was off again! Three staff members and I led the 22 BMW students on a three-week leadership training trip. We started this journey by hiking 42 miles of the Appalachian Trail over the course of 5 days. It was very enjoyable! My group was called The Bowls of Wrath and we had a great time climbing up the mountains, getting to know each other, and observing God’s beautiful creation. It was grueling at times, but well worth it! We had to put aside our pride by working together and by relying on the Lord to get us through the journey. One of the neatest lessons I learned on that trip is that our limits are not God’s limits. After our hike, we drove up to Indiana for a week-long YEA (Youth Evangelism Association) leadership conference where we learned many things about being a leader and serving the Lord in ministry.
Upon returning to Florida, I jumped right into teaching a class for the students. I taught Doctrine IV, which covers the following topics: man, sin, the church, angels, satan, demons, and salvation. I had a lot to pack into a 10-week term! This was a very rewarding class for me to teach. I was asked to teach the class last minute, and thus, I did not have much time to prepare. I spent many hours over the course of those weeks pouring over text books and the Bible. I learned SO much and was also able to teach the students most of this information as well. Overall, we all enjoyed the experience and walked away with much more knowledge than when we had started.
During these months of learning and teaching, I stumbled across a new knowledge concerning my health. I have multiple food allergies that I had not known about previously, but they have been slowly causing my health to deteriorate over the years. Needless to say, I’ve decided to heed these new allergies and drastically change my diet in order to protect myself from further bodily harm. I’m basically allergic to all of the ‘biggies’ (dairy, peanuts, soy, wheat, corn, rice, citrus, legumes, shellfish, most tree nuts, and sugar) and many other foods as well. Now, as you may recall, I was the cook for the Bible school at Teen Missions. Cooking for a school while having multiple food allergies can be a very difficult combination. I tried to manage cooking for the students while eating right for myself, but it was to no avail. After a few months of battling between my health and my taste buds, I asked to be removed from the kitchen so I could get a handle on eating properly, according to my dietary restrictions.
Now I am working in the Promotions Department of Teen Missions. I spend my time setting up speaking arrangements for us to go and promote the ministry, as well as to recruit people to come on the summer teams. I spent a few days in Nashville, TN at a family conference and then, while I was home in December, I had around 20 speaking engagements. Currently, we are sponsoring the Winter Jam Tour (a large Christian concert) that is touring the United States. Through Winter Jam, we are reaching thousands of teens every week. It is very exciting. As of January, we have around 500 people signed up for teams.
Locally, I have switched churches and am now attending a very small church where I have started playing guitar for the worship team. I will also be auditioning shortly to play guitar for an evening church that caters to young adults. I am very excited to learn more on the guitar and to use the skills God has given me to honor Him and lead others into a time of worship. I have also moved my residence and am now living with two other staff girls off of Teen Missions property.
With the holidays behind us, Boot Camp is just around the corner. I have been placed on the Orphan Angels team as the head female leader. My team will travel by motorcycle to different villages throughout the country of Zambia to teach Sunday school to the children and to show them God’s love. This will be my first time returning to a country and I am very excited to be on this team and to have the opportunity to minister in this way. Some of you may be wondering when I will send out my support letters for the summer. Well, as a head leader, I do not need to raise support for my team. However, there are still many expenses apart from the team cost. Thus, should you feel led to help with the expenses for my team, you may use the staff support form found at the end of this letter. Thank you.
Going back to how I began this letter, and on a personal note, this has been a very difficult time of life for me. I have struggled with doubting whether I should be here in ministry and whether God really does have a plan for my life. I have also been battling fear, self-loathing, feelings of worthlessness, and depression. It has been an emotional roller coaster to deal with all of these things and to try to overcome them. I am always brought back to a few verses that really touch my heart. The first is Jeremiah 29:11, which started this letter. Even though I may doubt at times, I know deep down that God has a plan for my life that will give me a hope and a future. I also think of Romans 8:28, which states that God works all things together for good. This was a lesson I learned this past summer in Palestine when the death of the director of Hope School led to the salvation of the Muslim security guard. I know that God will use the things I have been through to teach me about His character and to minister to others that have been through similar situations. I also think of Phil 4:6-8. These verses have been my life verses for the past two years. Especially in this time, I cling to the part that says the peace of God will guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Yes, I have been struggling greatly; but, despite my doubts, I still trust that God’s hand is on my life and is tenderly guiding me on His path. I thank you all so much for your prayers and support, especially at this time of my life. The encouragement of friends and family helps me day to day and I am so blessed by you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. May God bless you.