Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Last Stop on the Line

It's been a while friends! I've been on a whirlwind adventure of flying through 5 more time zones and through Cambodian countryside and tuk-tuking through Phnom Penh. It's been an amazing adventure seeing the beauty of this country and contrasting it with the devastating history that has crippled the people of this nation for decades. 

Leaving Mozambique was difficult but exciting because I knew how amazing this trip to Cambodia would be. When you're certain you're supposed to be in a certain place, you're usually really excited as to why you're there! 

When I got to Phnom Penh and drove up to our hostel, I looked around and saw the copious amount of bars around us. I walked up the three flights (yes, 3!) and praised God for the free stairclimber and on the way saw a western man taking a Khmer girl into his room. My heart sank to the bottom of my stomach at the reality of what I was living amongst and then lept with joy at the privilege it was to be in the epicenter of darkness so that myself and our team could be the light these people needed. What an honor to get to intercede and pray for women trapped working in prostitution and for the restoration of the hearts of men who use women as an appeasement to the gaping wound in their heart. I could not have been more excited to be in such a sleazy environment. And to have the absolute assurance of safety I felt the entire time I was there. It was a privilege to come along side the team in Phnom Penh and encourage them and join with them in bar ministry and children's programs. I loved being able to go to areas were children were most vulnerable and play with them right there, seeing the joy on their faces as they got to act like kids; just kids. Being told I was putting on an impromptu bible story and object lesson for children in the slums was challenging and very fun. Getting pointed at because of my white Irish legs and being motioned at like I was pregnant was quite the experience I wasn't planning on having! 

We are currently in Sihanouk Ville which is roughly a 5 hour drive from Phnom Penh and we are visiting a newly established Iris base here. As we drove through the countryside, I was struck with the physical beauty of this country with its green grass, tropical trees and forested mountains. What is more prominent though is the extreme poverty that this county is living in. 

We had the privilege to visit a soon-to-be-opened boys center in Sihanouk Ville that The Iris team hopes to open soon. A little talked about issue in Cambodia is the fact that girls are victims of child sexual abuse, but it is actually the boys that are treated far worse as they are considered to be invincible and to be able to withstand anything and be perfectly fine. There is also a different mentality towards boys and girls. Girls are considered "white linen" and once they become dirty are to be thrown away and not good for anything. Boys are considered "pure gold" as they can get dirty and be wiped off, still being clean. 

We were privileged to get an in depth awareness of what actually happens in Cambodia by an amazing organization called APLE. They investigate suspected predators or if someone is appearing to be grooming or purchasing a child for nefarious purposes. They also work to gather evidence and testimonies against the numerous child predators that have taken up residence in this country. To hear the specific cases in which pedophiles have been convicted and then through corrupt government and bribery talked their way to an almost nonexistent jail sentence was shocking and angering. 

It would be easy to see this country completely void of hope, no change in sight. With 3000 NGOs in Phnom Penh and no foreseeable end to the problem it's hard to believe that any children will ever be protected from sexual exploitation. 

That's how I felt at multiple points of this trip. Weeping and crying out to God, asking Him to make a way where there seemed to be no way. I felt empty, with nothing to offer these children, no money to set them in school or a way to beg their parents not to sell them to the next foreign man for the night. 

I was the hopeless one. 

And then... I looked into the eyes of one of the children. 

There I saw a radiance, love and hope that I didn't think could come from such a little person. These children emanate joy. I realized again that it doesn't matter how polished my resume is to start a center, taking them all into my protective wings. It doesn't matter that I don't have a stacked bank account to feed and clothe them. 

This physical lack reminded me of what I possessed that is worth more to them than gold. In Acts 3, Peter and John were walking past the gate where the beggars sat. A lame beggar called out to them and asked for money. Peter responded:

"Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk." (Verse 6)

We convey hope when we spend time with the poor. I fully believe that I walk in light and when I walk into places where children are being abused, women forced to no other occupation than prostitution that the light drowns out the darkness. The two cannot coexist. 

And in that, there is hope. 

Isaiah 1:17
"Learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow." 


Love, 
Me 

Ps. You may have notice when I do post pictures from Cambodia that they don't include many of the beautiful families and children we had the honor to serve. We were requested to not take pictures of the children as to protect their identity as even posting pictures with landmarks in the background could make these children vulnerable to predators seeking them out. It was difficult to not be able to show you all their shining faces! I thank you all for understanding the situation so brilliantly! 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

All Things Have Their Seasons

My time in Africa is drawing to a close, I can hardly believe it! It has been a whirlwind of two and a half months. I have traveled to the bush bush of Mozambique, visited a precious family that lives above the city dump and had The Lord consistently keep surprising me with my own insecurities and resurrecting pieces of my heart that held dreams that were straight from His heart. 

Words cannot fully describe what this experience has been like for me spiritually, emotionally, mentally and even physically. I've learned what it means to live in the kingdom, to fully live in the knowledge that I trust God with everything. It's something I thought I learned, it's also something I continually need more of in my life. I've learned to live without fear, not in a reckless way and not heeding wisdom, but in such desperation for The Lord to have his glory no matter what it costs me. 

The Moravian prayer and missions movement was famous for a 100 year prayer meeting but also for sending out the most evangelical missionaries in a few decades than the Catholic Church had in all of their history. One famous story is two Moravian prayer warriors who sold themselves into slavery to share the love of Jesus to a closed island. Their legacy is not just that the entire island came to Jesus even though it's the greatest legacy of all. They are quoted in their response to the question: "Why are you doing this?" by saying:

"May the lamb who was slain receive the reward of His suffering!"

This quote has been burned into my brain for the past few weeks and continues to be the cry of my heart. If I spend my life on the backside of the wilderness or in the ghetto of a modern US city and never get a platform, I will be ok. If I lose my life then it will be to the glory of the King! It doesn't matter a thing! 

I've learned what's valuable in life. Being immersed in a culture of poverty has made me look at life in the west in a different light. Material possessions but no joy means that we are poor. If we only chase after wealth, status or miracles we will never truly obtain them. 

I'm so excited to continue this journey of growth and to continue learning how to live from the poor. I came to gain my heart for things that I'm passionate about and I ended up losing my heart to this beautiful country. And in the process I gained my heart back!

Blessings,

K

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Do We Really Trust?

I have become absolutely wrecked by the fact that there are things in my heart I still don't trust The Lord with. I'm a missionary in Africa for goodness sake! Shouldn't I have this all figured out already? I have faith for healing and I have faith for finances, but if I'm holding back things in my heart where I don't actually trust Him with completely I will never b completely full of the spirit. I won't truly live with my arms wide open. 

I'm finding myself constantly giving The Lord back control of the same things, over and over because they are issues and dreams dear to my heart. I was sitting in the beautiful Mozambican dirt during worship today and I was again giving Him the exact same things and repenting for holding them tightly without trusting Him. I clearly heard Him ask in such tenderness: "Why do you assume that I don't have a plan for this part of your life? I know you, your desires and the dreams of your heart so why do you assume I don't have a good plan for you?" I was immediately struck with my own insecurities and the absolute travesty of how I actually hadn't actually given Him the dreams of my heart. 

How could I not believe that the plans The Lord has for my life is better than how I could choose for myself? How could I think that The Lord would call me to specific places but still believe I could pick and choose how the desires of my heart came to fruition? 

In Psalm 37 David talks about trusting in The Lord and how The Lord truth orders the steps of those who follow Him. 

Ps. 37:3-8

"Trust in The Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself in also in The Lord, and He shall give you the desires of Your heart. Commit your way to The Lord, trust also in  Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Rest in The Lord, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret-- it only causes harm."

V 23-24
"The steps of a good man are ordered of The Lord. And He delights in His way. Though he fall he shall not be utterly cast down; for The Lord upholds him with His hand."

When we rest in the active plan of The Lord, we are both held up by Him and ushered into the exact place we need to be. God gives us good gifts, He is our father who loves His children! He has GOOD and PERFECTLY TIMED plans for us! 

When we completely trust Him we give over to Him our senses that distract us from following our own wills. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cambodia Calls

So I've now been in Africa for six weeks!  Time has flown by! I have fallen in love with this country, the people and what The Lord is doing here! I've learned so much and enjoyed giving out so much! I'm so excited that I get to share this with all of you! It's amazing to know and see the support of all of you back in the states! 

I have a burning passion on my heart for women and children who are vulnerable to exploitation in the sex trafficking industry. I love the privilege I get to be involved in women's lives day to day and I wholeheartedly believe that I will be able to help women around the globe over the course of my life. 

I currently have an amazing opportunity to go to Cambodia and work with a newly established branch of the organization I'm currently working with in Mozambique. I will be working with these new bases and encouraging those who work there year round as well as practically serving their needs. One of the main focuses of Iris Cambodia is rescuing children (particularly young boys) who have been trafficked and abused, and so team members will have the opportunity to interact and love the street kids and also the women who work in the bars and brothels close by.

I will get the incredible privilege to worship, intercede and hear God's heart for Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and the nation of Cambodia. There are other organizations and NGOs in the city that we will have the opportunity to partner and serve with. This could range from helping with feeding programs in the local slum areas, or basic medical and sanitary care. 

I asked God why we are sent to specific places and why He wants us to do specific things that may not lineup with what western thinking would call logical or practical. He replied: "I don't send you for your own benefit or for you to share a cool story of what I did in nations, but I send you for them. I send you for the sake of those crying out for a savior and to feel a love that they've never known." 

This completely shifted my idea of what "missions" look like and why we do it. We aren't supposed to be comfortable! It's not meant to make US happy but rather to see the happiness of those who hear the gospel for the first time and their lives are changed forever! 

Upon coming to Mozambique, I intended to come back to the states and have a few weeks to see family and get back into the rhythm of life and adjust back to the western world and not visit another country before coming back. But when I made myself available to The Lord and said "I will go where You send me" he began putting pictures of little girls in Cambodia in my head and I knew that I needed to go on this two week trip. It works out perfectly with my school schedule and I will be back in the states in exactly the amount of time I need! Giving my life to God wholly means that my idea of comfort and easing back into my home culture is not what is in His plan for the end of my summer. But I would rather live a life of obedience to God than ever be "comfortable" and doing what I want. Because I am confident I'm the fact that The Lord will take care of me completely! 

I am beyond excited to go on this adventure with The Lord and to be able to walk into the passion The Lord has given me for the vulnerable and the oppressed! I thank every single one of you for being faithful in prayer for me and for contributing to my financial situation while I have been away. It has been such a blessing to see The Lord come through and use all of you as vessels in your "yes" to The Lord! I have abundant faith that The Lord will come through again in all ways and this trip to Cambodia will be absolutely blessed as myself and our team spread the love of The Lord to another part of the world. You all have blessed people you may not meet until heaven! 

So! CHALLENGE! If 135 people give $20 I will be completely funded! 

If you want to give, it's easy to give through my paypal account at: Kelsey.e.mcgee@gmail.com 

Friday, June 13, 2014

How Beautiful the Feet

Wow! It's been two weeks! Time has flown by!

My trip to Pemba was absolutely perfect and included an exciting stay in Nairobi that gave my traveling companion and I the opportunity to get up close to baby elephants!

My time here at Iris has been absolutely incredible. There have been a few amazing moments that I am so excited to share with y'all! 

First day was children's day. In Mozambique, children's day is a national holiday to celebrate children. It was a really big deal for us here at iris and we were expecting children to come from all the surrounding villages to join in celebration with us. Which sounds super exciting and it definitely was, but it was also a lot of work! For days we stuffed bags of candy to give to the children as gifts and each child that attended was given a meal of chicken, rice and a soda! In the end of things we had fed, loved and given candy to 5000 children from the poorest neighborhoods in Pemba. I had the privilege of being apart of a special gift giving process with the girls that live on base in the village of joy and see their reactions to the wonderful gifts that had been donated from around the world for these special ones. To see the genuine joy and happiness on these girls faces was more than amazing! 

                                  


The program I am apart of is only one entity of iris as there are Mozambicans here as well for training and equipping to spread the gospel in Africa. We are placed into groups and will be involved in ministry with the students in our program as well as the Mozambican 'emy emys' (Mozambican missionaries). Part of team unification has involved games and also special moments like today. We have been taught how to honor one another and to make ourselves not only teachers of the bible but also learners of the culture we have chosen to immerse ourselves in. So today we washed the Mozambicans feet and they washed our feet as a sign of honor and value. Water is a precious resource here and becomes even more valuable when it's not been running for almost two weeks as it has been here now! So to take the time and wash one another's feet and use such a valuable commodity shows honor to one another. As I washed the feet of a Mozambican pastor I felt such pleasure from The Lord and joy at the privilege to serve them as they have walked a hard road to share Jesus with their nation. And what a privilege it was to be served and feel the honor and acceptance from these amazing people I cannot begin to express. There was such a sweet presence of The Lord in that building it covered the room. It was such a beautiful cross cultural exchange. 



Life here in Mozambique has truly been amazing! Even in the midst of not having water for about 2 weeks and being covered in dirt! I'm so excited to get to start serving those who serve here long term. I get to spend my Friday nights in the city spending time with girls who are vulnerable to exploitation and speak into their lives and pray for them. My heart is so alive and this place feels like my home! 

The verse that has been stuck in my head for days is from Romans 10:

"How beautiful are the feet of them who being glad tiding of good things!" 

How beautiful are our feet when we step onto foreign soil and who step into what The Lord is calling them to with hands wide open, fully surrendered and available to go exactly where we're supposed to go!!! Living all for His glory! Nothing else matters! 

All I can do is be excited about living in His will! 

See you all soon!

Kelsey 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bon Voyage

I have been absent, I know! It has been a whirlwind of a time the past few months getting ready for my trip, fundraising and finishing up my college classes for the summer! 

I have been so overwhelmed in the most extreme of ways! From stressing about finals to resting in the arms of my Papa God as the miraculous events of fundraising began to completely astound my paradigms of how good He is to His kids!

I want to take s moment to thank those of you reading this who gave out of your hard work and sacrifice so that I may fulfill the dreams The Lord had placed on my heart. I have hardly felt so loved as I have these past few months as I've had the privilege to dialogue with several partners! 

The theme that has been running through my head as The Lord continued to surprise me is the line from a song: "I got a testimony 'bout Jesus... I only call on Jesus! I'm leaning on His everlasting arms!" He has blown my mind and I have heard Him giggle as though it were the funniest and most joyful experience in the world! Oh He is SO good! I met my fundraising goal thanks to the kindness of those whom I am truly valued by! What a privilege to be in their lives! 

It's amazing to reflect in this period of change of where I've come from, of where I've been in he last calendar year. A year ago I was shackled in shame and guilt, I had only a limited view of the goodness of Abba father and I was ultimately not in a place where I felt free. I was compromising and settling for things that were less that what I was created for. We generally don't realize how pressure drastically changes us and refines us until we are a few steps ahead of where we were. All pain and suffering put me in a position where I had to make the choice to stay stuck or grow and learn hard lessons. Only by the grace of God did He empower me to stick with growth and press on into the journey. 

But I tell you all this: I have never felt such grace to go low, to be humble and so prepared to sit in the figurative and literal dirt with people. Maybe in a few weeks I won't feel that and I'll get the opportunity to grow into it more, I'm not perfect! 

I leave the country for Mozambique in four days and I can't tell you how incredibly surreal that feels! The reality of leaving people and places for two months has become more than real to my poor little hard. I love adventure but I despise goodbyes, they are a wretched thing! I want to take all my favorite people with me! But in the midst of the emotional feelings, I am still incredibly sure that I am where I am supposed to be! 

A prime example is when I was preparing for a presentation on my involvement in Mozambique I was sorting through pictures of massive flooding from April of this year in the Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado where I will be staying. Let me preface my reaction to these pictures of torn apart mud huts with the statement that I'm not a crier. I know many women are and I partially envy their ability to release emotions quickly through tears. But when I was sifting through these pictures, I could not contain my emotion and I began feeling the welling up of compassion and tenderness towards these people in a place I have never been but has a stake in my heart already. I have felt a little of what The Lord feels for different people groups. Oh how He wants us to open our hearts to the emotions He has for others! 

I encourage all of you to go to: www.irisglobal.com and watch the update videos from Heidi and Rolland and the pictures from the flooding in Northern Mozambique. If for no other reason than to pray for me! ;) 

It has been a beautiful thing to see The Lord preparing me for this journey when I'm too busy to realize it. It's so sweet and tender of The Lord to work without us realizing it! He makes me laugh at how sneaky and wonderful He can be! 

I am so excited for this next few months and I feel your excitement for me to go as well! Please keep checking back here for updates as I will have some but limited internet access in Mozambique! 

Praise Him for where we've been and where we're going!
Me. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Secret Garden

We've all felt disappointment. People don't respond how we want them to sometimes.

It uncovers a pain that cuts deep. We feel rejected, unloved and sadness.

Whether it is a broken promise from a friend, a disappointing end to a date or relationship, or not creating the perfect March Madness bracket or whatever the case may be; disappointment ranges from superficial to an earth-shattering level of pain.

What do we do in these situations? Do we pick up and move on hoping that the cuts on our hearts will just heal themselves if we leave them alone? Do we wall ourselves off from ever feeling again?

No! Because no matter how hard we may try, we cannot shut off every single emotion and we end with unmet emotional needs. We are supposed to be in community and build relationships! And I know I am in no way the only one who has ever wondered why that was because people are painful and hurtful!

If we were all honest with ourselves, we have all said at one time or another that: "Life would be great if there weren't all these people around to mess it up!"

It's not easy! Dealing with people is not a walk in the park! Especially if you are as opinionated as I am! It involves a risk when we reach out to another person. We risk disappointment and hurt on a daily basis.

We become slaves to fear if we ignore our bleeding hearts and become emotionally crippled. We wall ourselves off in the name of "protecting ourselves".

This reminds me of Colin in the book "The Secret Garden". Colin was Mary's cousin who was secluded in his room who everyone thought he was a cripple and he lived as such. His father kept him in isolation to protect his weak constitution. At the same time, Mary discovers one of the long walls outside the house isn't just a wall but a garden and she had to spend time searching for the door to the inside. As Mary and Colin begin to work in the garden his deceased mother used to tend to he becomes stronger and healthier and is eventually able to walk again as the story progresses.

This story seems to be an allegory for the condition of the garden and Colin's health, but also what we tend to do with our own emotional trauma and pain. We close the door, forget about the key and let weeds take over where beautiful flowers used to be and the walls become so overgrown with vines that when we decide to possibly crack open the door of our hearts we can't even remember how to get in.

We forget how to hope that things could be different.

It's a lot of work to face our pain and our fears. But the pain of not dealing with it is greater than the pain to confront fear and uproot its' hold in our hearts.

In disappointment, in fear and in love we must never stop hoping. Getting hurt and continuing to hope doesn't mean we skip around saying it's all going to be alright. Hoping and loving in spite of fear is feeling the pain and saying that it will be alright in faith rooted in the assurance that God never abandoned us.

The only for sure "answer" I have on how to handle disappointment is to never lose sight of hope. And hope lies in God.

To hoping in spite of fear,
me