Thursday, August 30, 2012

I ALL CAPS HEART sweet brown African babies, but I can't like China. (So you went to China, but did you really make a difference?)

(I did a SIMILAR POST when I came back from my mission trip to Africa last summer, and I wanted to do it again for this trip.)

One of my BFF's has a little boy named Jacob and he says "I can't like it" instead of "I don't like it"......we have all adopted the phrase because it is so stinking cute. And it is how I feel about China.

Numerous people have asked me since I got back: "How was China? Did you like it better than Africa?", and that simple question has jacked up everything I thought I knew about missions.

I loved everything about Africa. It is a beautiful place, in spite of the reality that people there starve to death every day. The people are so poor, but yet they have so much joy. The children have nothing. Literally nothing. Many of the ones we met didn't even have pants, much less food in their bellies. But yet they seem so happy. They just want to play and have fun like other kids. The mama's may not have a job, and they may not know where their next meal is coming from, but if a mzungu smiles at them and makes eye contact, they can't help but shyly smile back. For some reason even the dirt there makes me happy. I remember being sad when I came home and it all finally washed off. The kids we met just want to be loved and held and told that Jesus loves them. And I am all about holding and loving on sweet brown African babies. ALL ABOUT IT.

So if I love Africa so much why did I go to China? Well, because God called me to (and if you feel like spending your day reading my blog, you can find that post HERE). People said it was silly and that I should stick with what I know and what I am passionate about. Many didn't like the idea of the security risks involved. Some said that since I loved kids so much, it didn't make any sense to go and work with college students. I am so glad that I listened to God instead, because otherwise I would have missed the great lesson He was to teach me through this trip.

I remember the first day we were in China, looking around this big bustling city and comparing everything I saw to Africa, and I truly thought, this place is just not for me. And the trip confirmed that. It was not FOR ME.

We as Americans have an inherent tendency to make everything about US. Even right down to our mission trips. We look at the list or search for organizations that will take us where we want to the name of Jesus of course. I know this because I did it.

Africa as a nation is very poor. BUT, in the areas I visited, the church was there. It was working. Tirelessly. Do those long term missionaries and churches need on-going support? Absolutely. But what about the places that are spiritually poor? That is what God opened my eyes to in China. I can't like China because I felt so sad there........because there are just so few believers there....much less followers. So many people who have never heard (let that sink in) the name of JESUS. Never. That was a tough pill to swallow for me. It is hard to see so many faces in such a spiritually poor place. They seem almost emotion-less. What motivates them to live their every day lives? What about the children? It is just hard. BUT, the spread of this great Gospel is the whole reason we go right? So then doesn't it make sense to go to the places where people haven't heard even if it is a tough place to be?

I was able to love on so many sweet kids in Africa and show them the love of Jesus. But, to be able to look into the eyes of another human being, fearfully and wonderfully made by God, who has never heard of Him, and tell them the story......there are just no words to explain how that feels. And that is what we are called to do. Not to go to the easy places, or only the safe places, or only the places that look pretty in pictures. We are called to GO therefor and MAKE DISCIPLES of ALL NATIONS.   

To quote John Piper:

Missions exist because worship doesn't.

Watch this quick video (only a little over a minute long):

Isn't that so true of us? We are believers, but we don't truly want to be followers. We will leave that up to the crazy people who go places no one else wants to go and adopt the children no one else wants to adopt. The crazy people who take their children in tow and move to the dangerous places because they believe that this Gospel is worth sacrificing everything for. The people who give their money away left and right because they don't feel called to go overseas themselves but want to be zealous senders of those who do. We want comfort, security, ease and safety because that is what people in this country have taught us to believe that we deserve

Africa is a beautiful place and it will always be etched on my heart. I would LOVE to go back there one day, but that is up to God. This is HIS work, not Jenny's work. People have also asked me "Would you ever go back to China?". They expect me to say no, but my answer is, I will go where ever He sends me.



Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The truth about why I am running the half marathon for Project Hopeful

When I started this process, I thought that God was trying to teach me a lesson by taking me WAAAAYYYY out of my comfort zone. While that may be partially true, I think I now fully understand what this has been all about.

First, let me answer a few questions. Some of which people have asked me out loud, and some I just know people are thinking....because I used to be one of them.

Question: Why do the marathon? Why not just write a check?
Answer: I am not going to "just write a check" first of all because it would bounce. Second of all, because it wouldn't help the ultimate goal AT ALL. My main goal in all of this was to raise awareness for these children and tell as many people as possible about Project Hopeful and the amazing work they do. The third reason is because I think our American-ized response to just about all things is "just write a check". You can't advance the Gospel by writing checks people. YOU have to step out and DO.

QuestionWhy do we need to give money for kids in Africa who have HIV? Don't we need to take care of "our own" first?
Answer: The words "our own" quite simply make me want to scratch the eyeballs out of any person who utters them. If you have ever said those words, then tell me this: what are "our own"? Are they just the kids who look like us, live like us, and don't make us uncomfortable? Or are they God's children? All of them? Did you know that there are kids right here in our country who are born with HIV or who have Down Syndrome or other special needs that cause them to be over looked for adoption just as much as a child in Africa? Did you know that Project Hopeful works hard for those kids too and many of the staff members have adopted kids with DS from right here in the US as well as HIV+ kids from around the world?

When did we decide as Christians to get our pencil out and draw an invisible but understood line around our country and assume that God would want us to love the people inside the line first? He didn't say "Go therefor into your own country so you don't get your hands dirty or get uncomfortable and then maybe someday you can throw a few bucks at the kids in Africa or India or Russia but only after you have paid off your new SeaDoo". He said "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...." and I am pretty sure by all, he meant......all. 

And one more thing on this subject: I have never ONCE met a person who believes in taking care of "our own" first, who actually does it. Who is trying to spread the Gospel at work, and school and in their own families, and adopting/fostering kids domestically. *jenny steps off soapbox*

Question: Does all of this money you are raising really go to Project Hopeful? Surely you are using part of it to pay your entry fee to the race, plane ticket, doctor bills or something? Why else would you be so crazy about it!?
Answer: Every single flipping dime goes to Project Hopeful. The reason I am so crazy about it is because I believe that when a group of people come together and VOLUNTEER their time and their very LIVES to do something like this, the CHURCH should step up and support them! Similar to short term mission trips. We can't all go to another context and do life there to spread the Gospel, but we can all go for a short time and support those that do.

Question: Ok, if the money all goes to Project Hopeful, then what do they do with it? Is it really a life or death situation or are you just being a touch dramatic?
Answer: I don't do dramatic. 

This little girl was 11 years old when she died. I don't even know her name or what country she was from, but I know that because she had Downs Syndrome, she was considered "not worth caring for" and she was left in an institution and neglected until she died. She never had a mother or a father on earth to love her.

This tiny baby has a name. Beatrice. She was about 2 years old, but only weighed about 10 lbs. Baby Beatrice was HIV positive, severely malnourished, and fought hard for her life. I could show you a picture of her in her tiny casket that I found on this blog......but I won't.
This is a little boy. In all pink. Transferred from an orphanage to an adult mental institution....when he was only 7 years old. He was transferred simply because he has some speech and mental delays and he is HIV+.

I could go on but I think that is enough to get my point across. If you CHOOSE to SEE THE TRUTH, then I don't see how you can NOT act and do something.

Question: You have had a torn Achilles, you have a fractured knee, you have likely have a  fractured toe (I dropped a metal bucket on it on Saturday. Ouch) ...... don't you think maybe God is telling you to quit?
Answer: No. I think He is showing me how to live.

This process has taught me so much. God has taught me so much about me, and about my life, and my lack of faith in Him.

God is showing me a tangible and painful picture of what my life is SUPPOSED to look like. Check your Bible. The Christian life isn't supposed to be easy. It is supposed to be hard. And maybe if it isn't hard, you aren't doing it right.

I have been down in the dumps the past few days because I have felt discouraged. Mad at friends who haven't donated to Project Hopeful for this marathon (just being honest). Mad at all the people who keep telling me to quit. Wishing I could just get through to people but I don't know how. So angry about the sweet children in this world who have to suffer while the church stands by and looks on.....or looks the other way. But, I am trying to remind myself to run my race. To do the best I can. To TRUST that God has this thing. To prove to Him that my faith will not be shaken by the physical pain or the difficulties of the journey.

This isn't about running a race in Chicago that has a metal at the finish line. This is about running the race that has a crown and JESUS at the finish line. And I pray that when I finish, HE will say "Well done."

(if you want to donate to Project Hopeful and help save lives, just click the image above)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Great Wall, and the GREAT WALL. Days nine & ten.

It is hard to leave this place. Although I have formed real bonds with the students, that isn’t why it is hard. Although I loved China, that isn’t why it is hard. Unlike Africa, it isn’t because of the sweet brown faces of the babies I have gotten so attached to. It is because of the sinking feeling of the lack of the Gospel in this place. It is because so many of the people we saw all over this city, will live and die without knowing the God who saves. The ones we saw as we walked to and from our hotel each day. The ones who served us our meals in the tiny restaurants. The people we sat (or stood) next to on the bus. So many of them. So lost.

We left the city and headed back to Bejing. Since we had a NINE hour layover, we were able to have a driver take us to see the Great Wall! What an awesome surprise! However, we realized on the way there that our awesome surprise was likely to turn out slightly less than awesome. It is the rainy season here, and this particular day was apparently the most rainy day of the rainy season. But, how many times to you get a chance in your life to see the Great Wall of China? So, off we went. The green ponchos, on top of our already nasty bodies and clothes (you just cant stay clean here because of the pollution) were a really nice touch. In hindsight, I would not recommend a hike up the Great Wall, in the POURING down rain, with thunder and lightning, up “over one thousands steps” to anyone with a fractured knee, much less a fully functioning brain.
A few of the "over 1,000 steps"

We made it to the top, drenched. I am sure it is an AMAZING sight…….on days when it isn’t a monsoon and the fog mixed with pollution causes you to not be able to see much farther than what is directly in front of your face. So, we snapped a few pictures and headed back down to haggle with the many, many angry women in the many many shacks at the bottom of the Wall that sell souvenirs.

We made it back to the airport after having to detour because a couple of large trucks were stuck, and floating in water ahead of us……I told you it was a monsoon.

(We later found out that the storm that day wasn't just a regular storm, but a deadly one : Read article "Heaviest Rainfall in 60 Years" here.)

Our flight to Korea was slightly delayed because of the weather, but we made it safely. Here we had a TEN hour layover, but, it actually worked out great because we were able to go to a hotel near by and get a few hours of sleep and a much needed shower after the mess in Bejing…..and a Korea stamp in our passports. ;-)

Currently we are on the lonnnnggggg flight home. 14 hours in the air is a long time, but it passes pretty quickly.

We were able to see the Great Wall, which is clearly a once in a lifetime opportunity, but we leave this country with a burden. These people have no knowledge of God and there are very few people here who can teach them. The concept of God and eternity, was left behind a couple of generations ago, and now the new generation sees it as a joke. A funny thing that the very old people used to believe. The walls between these people and the Gospel are high, and they are thick. But, God has broken down some of those walls, as only He can do, and I pray that all over China, the walls will continue to come crashing down until they have all heard.

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?
 Romans 10:14-15

Friday, August 10, 2012

Last chance. Be bold. Day eight.

The dream team :)

This was the final day of English camp and our last day with the students.

During our morning session we talked about the very end of the book Jane Eyre. It closes with the story Jane's cousin named (St. John) who is a missionary that gave his life to spread the Word in India, and that life is coming to an end. He says he knows that he has followed the path that God laid out for him and he is not afraid to die. Rather, he is eager. These students have never thought about their own deaths, much less eternity. It was an amazing experience to see them begin to think of their lives in a new light. I asked them at the very end of the session, what if all of this is true? What if there is a heaven and a hell? What if there is a God and an Eternity? I pray that many of them will continue to ponder these questions and that God will do what only He can do. Please Lord help them to believe.

We went out to our last lunch with the students. There are 2 girls that I have had a chance to get pretty close to this week and I really wanted to have a quiet lunch with just the 2 of them and have some bold Gospel centered conversations, but we ended up with a big group of about 15! However, God worked it out (as only he can) that I was seated next to a couple of guys who I really hadn’t had a chance to talk to much, but who had a lot of good questions.Hopefully some new seeds were planted there.

We finished up our business projects in the afternoon, and then we did a little more dancing! Who would have thought that Chinese college students would love the To De Ta (and the Hokey Pokey and the Cotton Eyed Joe and the Electric Slide) as much as African kids?!?! In addition to that, these people who aren't supposed to be loud, aren't supposed to be outgoing, aren't supposed to be touching people of the opposite sex, were all dancing, singing, and hugging everyone they could get their hands on!

The team with most of the students

We said our goodbyes to the students and then we all headed out for one last dinner with the group. A couple of other Americans and their son (who were commissioned from Brook Hills) flew over for a couple of days to be with us. We had a great dinner and then headed back to the apartment. We had an amazing time with our WHOLE group in the Word and worshiping together. We were able to pray for all the ones who will stay behind when we are gone to continue this great work. We sang, we prayed, we cried. It was truly and amazing time of worship in a tiny apartment in the middle of nowhere.

We traveled back to our hotel, with the same thought on all of our minds. We pray that God will keep all of His believers here safe. That He will grow the seeds that have been planted as only He can do. That His church will truly rise up and spread in this city and all over China.

The last two paragraphs of the novel Jane Eyre:

St. John is unmarried: he never will marry now. Himself has hitherto sufficed to the toil, and the toil draws near its close: his glorious sun hastens to its setting. The last letter I received from him drew from my eyes human tears, and yet filled my heart with divine joy: he anticipated his sure reward, his incorruptible crown. I know that a strangers hand will write to me next, to say that the good and faithful servant has been called at length into the joy of his Lord. And why weep for this? No fear of death will darken St. John's last hour: his mind will be unclouded, his heart will be undaunted, his hope will be sure, his faith steadfast. His own words are a pledge of this-

"My Master," he says, "has forewarned me. Daily He announces more distinctly,-'Surely I am coming quickly!' and hourly I more eagerly respond,- 'Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus!'"

The last two verses of the Bible:

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen. 
Revelation 22: 20-21

We had the students read out loud in literature class. In all three sessions we had today, I was overcome with emotion and had chills simply hearing the words "Amen. Even so come, Lord Jesus" come out of the mouths of these students who have previously believed in nothing. I have no doubt that God's Word is powerful enough to transform hearts simply by being spoken aloud by the most unbelieving of unbelievers.

May it be so in our lives, and Lord let it be so in thiers.


-The people here do a lot of stuff that looks like worship, but it's not.

-They randomly do fireworks here. In the middle of the day. Not like the go up in the sky and make a boom type but the light them and run away and they pop on the sidewalk sounding like a machine gun type. This is good information to know BEFORE you experience it lest you wet your pants thinking you have been shot.
-The cucumbers in this country are freakishly large.

-No eggrolls. No fortune cookies either. Who knew!?
-They don't brew tea. They put tea leaves in a cup and pour hot water over the top. Then you wait til the leaves sink and drink up. An undisclosed member of our team (name rhymes with......Malph) got his cup of leaves and said "Am I supposed to drink this or smoke it? HA!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

We interrupt the posts about China to give you this important marathon training update:

Easy Fundraising Ideas

Training Update: My knee still has a big nasty stress fracture in's about it.

Plan for race day: I am not going to quit. I know that is what you are thinking, and you think wrong! :-) Here is my current plan: I go back to the doctor in about a week. IF he clears me to run, then I will have about 4 weeks left to train. At that point, I am going to focus on a run/walk plan. I have a watch that I can set to beep after 4 minutes, and then again after 1 minute. So I will run for 4, walk for 1 and repeat until I reach the finish line! Pray it works and I don't get picked up by the "You are running too slow and we have to re-open the streets at some point today" wagon.

The good amazing news: I am up to $1,650 in my fundraising!!!!! That means I only have $350 left to go! That is SO amazing! Your support means so much to me.

I am not running this race to display my amazing athletic ability (obviously). I am doing it simply to raise awareness for this great cause and for the MILLIONS of children out there who have no voice to speak for themselves. This money will go directly to Project Hopeful and it will literally change the lives, and possibly SAVE THE LIVES of many children in OUR world. What a great reason to run!

So, between now and September 9th, I plan to not only complete my ultimate goal in all this, but to complete it, and then some!

PLEASE click on the picture below to go to Project Hopeful's site, then click the button above my name that says "donate"! It will direct you to pay pal and you can donate any amount!! If you don't want to donate online, feel free to mail me a check, but be sure to make it out to Project Hopeful!

So easy!



6166 Eagle Point Circle
Birmingham, AL  35242