Woo! Halfway into project! Sorry it has been so long, but we have been super busy like usual! Here are some highlights from the past two-ish weeks!
The annual staff vs. students softball game! All week long, the staff gave us challenges with the theme of "unity." For example, one morning, we were only allowed to set one alarm, and then rely on each other to wake everyone else up on time. Another night, each student got their own clue to the rules of the softball game, and we had to have a big meeting to figure everything out. We also had to make our own banner with everyone's name on it. (Props to me and my girl Hannah C, for going dumpster diving and carrying that sucker four blocks!) We also took it upon ourselves to make all matching shirts, which just made everything feel so much more official. Of course, staff had been practicing all along, so even though we had some great talent, they pretty much killed us. But it was such a great experience! We all only got to bat once, and the game ended up being waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay longer than anyone had cared for. But it was just soooooooo cool to see how 65 people could come together, and plus it was way fun. (Also, it brang back memories of playing softball for my whole life up until high school, and i realized how much I miss it!)
On Sunday, we had our biggest outreach of the summer! Instead of going around looking for people to talk to, and share our tools, we set up tables on the beach and the promenade and attracted people to us. It was awesome, and super fruitful! My roommate and I actually walked around, and accidentally got into a spiritual conversation with an old man at Coffee Bean. I love starting conversations now! I barely said hi, and told him I was from Arizona, and for the next hour he talked literally without us saying one word. He had been sentenced to jail for 25-life, and then after he got out, he started going to AA and became sort of the grandfather there, taking care of everyone. He had so many more touching stories to share, and he said that just by listening, we had blessed his day so much. It was so interesting to see his new take on life since he had been released.It was a super encouraging conversation, and it just reminds me of how open people really are to being talked to.
On Monday night, we had an International Dinner, but we had to take an oath saying we wouldn't tell people about it, in case the people we told ended up going on a Summer Project and had the surprise ruined. If you ask me in person I can probably just tell you, but shhh :) Basically though, it was a very moving representation of the state of the world, and the "hunger" of different people groups in many senses of the word. It was
On Thursday night, we had our goodbye banquet for staff! On stateside Projects, the 20ish staff leave halfway through, and pass down their jobs to all of the students. It was sad seeing them all leave, and it still feels a little weird, but everyone says project only gets better from here! After the banquet, we had such a powerful ceremony, which involved the staff lighting the candles of the students who would take their positions. I'm on the community team, which basically plans all the socials and fun stuff we do, and makes sure everyone on proj is still friends! I'm excited! Then, staff left for good and the new student leaders led us in a footwashing ceremony. It was so powerful to see some of the wisest and oldest and most loving students on project on the floor serving all of us. We spent a lot of time in prayer with each other over our new jobs and the future of our project. Since then, things have been going pretty smoothly, and I am super excited to see us come together even closer and run this project ourselves! We all seem to have a lot of enthusiasm, and I think everything will work out great!
Today, we had our first meetings with our new leadership groups. We did alright without our staff! Afterwards, we went out sharing again, and my partner and I got into a conversation with a couple using the Perspective Cards. The girl was from Bangladesh and raised in Islam, and the boy was raised Mormon. I have known for basically my whole life that the Mormon faith is something heavy on my heart, since I have been raised surrounded by it, and many of my best friends are Mormon. So, talking to him today was just kind of reaffirming an area of my life that I feel God wants to work in. Anyways, they both were well traveled and very accepting of others' beliefs, but not open to identifying with any. We talked for about an hour before they had to leave, and we didn't get into the gospel or anything. Walking away, we were just glad that we had gotten to talk to someone, but I still felt in a way that we had failed, or not done anything of significance. But during the whole 20 minute walk back, we talked over everything, and God showed me that sometimes instead of using conversations just to benefit other people, he points out areas that I totally need to grow in. Also, I've been experiencing lately how the Holy Spirit uses my own words to speak truth into my own life. I"ll start giving advice to somebody, not having any idea what I am going to say, and it ends up being this huge insightful profound thought that I needed to hear myself. So, during the whole conversation with these people, I had been thinking about how, when debating with other people, even if they disagree with me, the one thing they cannot combat is my personal testimony. I know how God has wokred in my life, how He has brought me to Him, and how walking with Him has brought me fulfilment in my life. But I got to wondering, how are my experiences more valid than other peoples'? Or who am I to tell them that their testimonies or experiences, even with other religions, are false? So while sharing my doubts about all this to my partner, I said that maybe this is the point of the conversation in which the Holy Spirit takes over. Although all along he gives us the words to say and the people to talk to, at this point there is literally nothing more we can do, and everything depends on the Holy Spirit changing that person's heart. Because we were talking about the armor of the spirit, I started explaining how this was an instance in which our armor would be the shield of faith. When I came home tonight, I looked up the verse and was totally convicted.
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted in the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests." Ephesians 6:10-18
So much good stuff that I totally needed to hear! And it started off with thoughts coming out of my own mouth. Weird. Thanks, God!
Also tonight, I went with a group to Reality LA, a hip young church that some of my friends from southern california go to. The sermon, about bitterness, fit perfectly with what I had been experiencing literally as I walked in the doors. Also, we sang the song "Here I am to Worship," a song I have sat through and sang thousands of times. But tonight, I sat there and forgot about everything else around me and just simply worshipped the Lord. To me tonight, singing the words "Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that you're my God" was my way of reaffirming why I am here in Santa Monica. I am here to worship God, and do whatever work he sends me. Sometimes I get involved in all of the activities, or I feel sad when I don't have enough time to hang out with all of my 65 new friends, or I have a hard day at my day job. It was so good just step back and think about how I am here, right now, to worship.
Here is a video of the first half or project so you can get a glimpse of my life here!
Also, this verse popped out at me as I was looking up the armor of God, and it fits my life so perfectly right now:
"Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given to me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." Ephesians 6:19-20
Sorry this is forever long! Miss you all! Also be praying for some craaaaazy things God might be planning for my future. Love y'all