NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

Flash from the Past

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been feeling sentimental recently and I really just want to look at some old photos. So I thought I’d share from my findings. I hope you enjoy this little glimpse into my life and history and if you think it’s a cool idea, feel free to do your own Flash from the Past on your blog or social media. Enjoy!

2008
I’m starting with this year because it’s when I first got my own digital camera, and digital photos are much easier for me to upload. This was the end of my senior year of high school and also my first semester of college.

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My high school Senior Picture… or one of them at least.

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My Senior Formal (Prom for homeschoolers)

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At my graduation party with one of my best friends Lindsey.

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My 18th Birthday with my family.

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Making new friends in college like Victoria.

2009

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A ski trip to New Mexico that I went on with my Dad.

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Having fun with friends Kari and Amanda at a dance in college.

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I helped paint our house that summer.

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I went on a road trip from Nashvilled, TN to Austin, TX with my brothers.

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My Sophomore dorm room and friend Heather.

2010

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At my cousin’s wedding in Indiana.

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Going to the Rodeo with my sister.

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My 20th Birthday.

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I went to Palmetto State Park with some college friends.

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I got into the Alpha Chi Honor Society that fall.

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We decorated our college apartment for Christmas.

2011

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We had a snow day in February!

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I finally saw the Austin bats with Tracey.

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I went to Germany with some college friends, including my roommate Victoria.

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I helped with my church’s Bible Clubs like I had for the past several summers.

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I went to a UT football game with my cousin Hannah.

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Senior Year Homecoming.

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On the TLU campus.

2012

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Ice skating with my family during winter break.

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One of my paintings for my Senior Art Show.

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Finishing my senior bucket list with my roommate by going up the chapel bell tower.

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College Graduation.

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I went to the Bahamas with my family and we swam with dolphins.

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I kept painting and made this for my friend Lindsey.

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Having Fun with my family for Thanksgiving.

2013

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I tried a Cleanse and ate a lot healthier in the Spring.

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I went to the Austin Kite Festival.

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I painted a cover for my first novel.

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I got the obligatory Bluebonnet picture.

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I donated my hair to Locks of Love with my sister.

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Haiti mission trip.

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I went to see my old roommate Victoria in Philly and we took a day trip to NYC!

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I decorated my first tree on the side of the road for Christmas.

2014

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I made a snowman, or iceman.

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My brother proposed to Ashley and we all went up to Abilene to celebrate.

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Another Bluebonnet pic with my sister.

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I was maid of honor in my friend Lindsey’s wedding.

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I got to be a bridesmaid in my brother’s wedding and I got a new sister!

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I saw Victoria for Christmas in San Antonio.

2015

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Ski trip to New Mexico with our church’s youth group.

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In Florida for my Grandpa’s memorial service.

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We had heavy rains that spring and a lot of flooding.

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Spring Bluebonnets with all my sisters.

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My 25th Birthday.

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My first book fair with my novel.

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Mission trip to Mozambique.

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Going to the Trail of Lights in Austin.

2016

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I went to a Spurs Game with my cousin Hannah.

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My friend Lindsey had Bethany, her first baby.

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I got to meet Marissa Meyer, the Author of the Lunar Chronicles.

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I got to go on a backstage tour of the AT&T Center.

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I went to Kentucky to see the replica of Noah’s Ark.

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I got to see a beautiful sunset in San Diego.

 

Well I’m going to stop there. It was fun to look through old photos and see some of the cool things that have happened in my life. I want to take some time to stop and be grateful for all the places I’ve seen, people I’ve known and ways that God has shaped me and grown me over the past 9 years. I hope you take some time today to do the same.

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The Shirt Off My Back

One of my favorite shirts

One of my favorite shirts I’m wearing while in Mozambique

Have you ever heard the expression of “giving someone the shirt off your back”? I have and I think that when I heard it I smugly thought yeah I’m that kind of nice person, I’d totally give someone my shirt if they needed it. But as I was reminiscing today about a mission trip I took last year at this time, I realized that I have actually had an encounter with just such an opportunity and I haven’t been as generous as I thought I would be. In fact this wasn’t the first time something like this has happened to me. Twice now, both while on a mission trip no less, someone has asked me if they could have my shirt. And it threw me off both times.

The first time I was in Haiti and a little boy with not much as far as possessions go sparked up a conversation with me in Spanish, since I know a lot more Spanish than Creole. And as we were parting, he asked if he could have my shirt. I think he knew that visiting Americans often left their clothes for the village children at the end of the trip. I can’t remember now if I said yes or no or that I was planning on leaving some shirts but not that one in particular. But the short of it is that no, I did not leave my shirt in Haiti for that boy. I kept it. And you know why? Because I was attached. I really like that shirt, it’s soft and reminds me of a lot of cool moments from my childhood. And you know what the ironic thing is? It has a cartoon that explains the gospel on it; how Jesus died for us and gave up everything so we can know Him. And I wasn’t willing to give it up. Yeah… so turns out I can be a hypocrite.

Well fast forward in time to last year and as we were moving through the airport in Johannesburg the lady in the airport security uniform suddenly said she liked my shirt and asked if she could have it. She said I could change into a different shirt from my bag. I was thrown off, partly because I didn’t know where I could change in an airport security line, and also because this lady who obviously had a job and seemed to be able to provide for herself was asking for my shirt. I said I didn’t have another shirt and went on my way. (I meant another of the kind I was wearing, I had plenty of other T-shirts, just not one that looked and felt like the one I was wearing). For again someone had asked me not just for an old shirt I didn’t want anyway, but for one I treasured and valued and didn’t want to give away.

So now I’ve been reading a very compelling, and convicting book called “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne. He writes a lot about how Christians give to charity or even go on mission trips to help themselves not feel guilty for not loving the poor. But he says that what’s really needed is for us to know and be friends with poor people. Because then when there is a need, we want to meet it, and we’ll sacrifice to help our hurting brothers and sisters, instead of living for ourselves and our own comfort and merely giving to charity the things we don’t want anyway. One part in particular really hit me, he wrote “I heard that Ghadhi, when people asked him if he was a Christian,would often reply, ‘Ask the poor. They will tell you who the Christians are.'” It struck me that a true follower of Jesus should be known as someone who joyfully gives away what they have.

Through all of this God has been teaching me that He doesn’t want my stuff or my things, He wants me. He wants me to give Him everything: my time, talents, treasures and heart. So I’ve discovered one of my treasures that I tend to value above Jesus and above the people He’s asked me to love, are my clothes. And I don’t want that to stay true of me. So that’s part of why I’m writing this. I want to change, to be okay with giving away things that are precious to me, and to do it joyfully. So hopefully the next time someone asks me for the shirt off my back, I’ll be able to say yes and give it with a smile.

Well there’s my thoughts for the day. I highly encourage you to read Shane’s book too. I haven’t finished it yet but it’s really good.

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The Importance of Laughter

So while I was on the mission trip in Mozambique, I laughed a lot. Some people may think that hanging out with the same group of people for 2 weeks straight would be a nightmare, and it’s true that you can’t keep up appearances for that long. Eventually everyone gets upset or tired or stressed. But when you’re with a community, they can help you calm down, rest, or change your perspective on the situation. And one of the best ways we helped each other was by laughing. If you’re in a tough situation, and you choose to laugh instead of worrying or getting mad, the tension just dissipates. I’m so thankful for the many times I laughed with my team. So, I thought I’d share a few jokes or memories from the trip that our whole team laughed about. Enjoy!

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One of the earliest jokes that entered our group was “Do you need a cookie?” It started when one of the team members started talking about how things would just come out of her mouth that she didn’t mean to say, and that maybe God had made her love eating so much so that she couldn’t say what crossed her mind. She just happened to be eating a pack of cookies when she was telling us all of this. So whenever someone in the group said something a little mean or inappropriate we would ask, “Do you need a cookie?” and immediately everyone would start laughing.

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Sarah writing her song about Mozambique

We also had a team member who loved to just burst into song at any moment, and it soon turned into a game. If a song came to mind because of a word or phrase that was said, he would just sing that line of the song. By the end of the trip I’m sure over 100 songs had been referenced by the whole group. And one girl had even decided to write her own song about her time in Mozambique.

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One of the beds that came with a mosquito net

One joke that I found particularly funny was when the girls were getting ready for bed one night. One girl named Whitnie had shared with us how on a past trip she had made the mistake of spraying insect repellent inside her mosquito net and then was caught in the fumes. I can’t remember if she shared it right before this next story happened or if she had shared it earlier in the week, but I remembered it and thought it was hilarious. So the girl on the bunk across from me asked if anyone had some bug repellent. I did, so I handed it to her and she put some on and crawled into her bunk for the night. Within a minute she started coughing and asked, “Can someone open the door to let it vent out in here?” The rest of us were already laughing at her mistake and then Whitnie said playfully, “No you sit in that poison and think about what you’ve done.” And we all laughed even more.

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The team waiting to go to the market

And the last story I’ll share happened when our missionary friends sent us to the market for some groceries. The plan was to get several items in order to make care packages to pass out throughout the trip and then fulfill the social interaction where you game something to a local and had a conversation with them. We were split into 3 teams and we soon decided that we were basically doing the Amazing Race. We rushed off to the market to find sugar, tomatoes and what I found out eventually was sweet potatoes. My team luckily found a man in the market that spoke English, so that helped us find out what sweet potatoes were. (Our list of what to get was written in Portuguese). The man also happened to be selling sugar (both white and brown). My team remembered seeing brown sugar in the missionaries’ home and it was cheaper, so we went with that. Then when we finished off our shopping we found a Granny (or caretaker of orphans) to give some money to and tell her Jesus loves you in their local language. (Jesu wakka rhandza wenu). I was really glad I had learned that phrase. Our team hadn’t run into the missionaries or translator so the only help we got was from people in the market.

However, when we met up with the two other teams, we found out they had done things a little differently. One team, that had finished first, thought they needed way more tomatoes than they actually needed to buy and asked the translator if that was correct. He laughed and told them no, so they got a little help from him. They also ended up buying the white sugar instead of the brown sugar. But otherwise everything had gone smoothly for them.

But the last team had the most hilarious adventure. They had bought tomatoes outside the market which I guess isn’t allowed in the country because Police came running out and took the produce the lady was selling. She got mad and started throwing tomatoes at the police. So when the police left that team went back and bought onions from the lady too because they felt sorry for her. By that time the translator realized they were not in the market so he guided them to where they were supposed to go. And they decided to buy some skirts (with their own money). And by the time they got back to the car with the other two teams they hadn’t even bought the sugar. So then they started trying to haggle with the other teams and trade some of their produce for sugar. It was hilarious. And in the end our 3 teams came to be known as “White Sugar,” and “Brown Sugar,” and “Got Sugar?”

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Bridge of Spies and Worry

Bridge of Spies

A couple weeks ago I got to watch the Bridge of Spies with my family. It was a very well done movie and if you like dramas, or historical films, you’d love this one. Tom Hanks always does a fantastic job in his movies and this one is no exception. I loved the story and the characters, but the one thing that stuck out to me from the whole movie was a line that Rudolf Abel says several times. He is a Soviet sent to America to serve his country. In his eyes he has done nothing wrong. But he gets caught up in all of the drama of the Cold War and is accused of being a spy and even threatened with death. Then he is sentenced to jail and later offered as an exchange for an American prisoner. But in all of the tough circumstances he constantly maintains a calm attitude. Throughout the movie other characters ask him, “Aren’t you worried?” and he responds calmly, “Would it help?”

And does it? I know I’ve spent a lot of my time worrying about little things that don’t even matter, and does it make a difference at all? No, not really. Worry accomplishes nothing, it helps no one. And even though I know this, I often still do it. So how do we stop it?

Well while I was in Mozambique, I shared a Bible story with the children about this exact thing. After acting out a skit with a fellow team member where she was really worried, I read them these verses:

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!” -Luke 12:22-28 NIV

After sharing these verses, I prayed with the actor, and told the kids that instead of worrying, we could be thankful. Then the whole team helped the children make flowers out of pipe cleaners and construction paper. And I told them that they could write things they were thankful for on the flower petals to remind them not to worry and that God could take care of them.

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And I think that’s the real issue with worry. Worry comes when we think we are in control and we can change our circumstance by doing something. So we get ourselves all worked up thinking about all the things we can do, to make sure it goes the right way (our way). We try to predict what could go wrong and how to fix it. We might even try to make sure everyone is happy. But in the end we only wear ourselves out and often no matter how much we planned or worried or stressed, it still doesn’t come together the way we hoped.

I think the reason that Rudolf Abel was not worried, was that he knew and accepted that he was not in control. He didn’t stress about his circumstances because he knew he couldn’t change them. And I think when we do the same thing with God and accept that He is the one in control, not us, then it’s a lot easier to relax and stop worrying. Because ultimately God is in control and what He has planned is good. It may not be what we expect or want, but it is good. And I think that’s one of the big things I learned from going to Mozambique. I didn’t try to be in control while I was on the trip. I just held my plans loosely and laughed when they got changed. I didn’t worry about what I would say in front of a large group, or how a Bible lesson would come together, I simply trusted God and did my best. And it was so freeing.

So I want to encourage you today. You don’t have to worry either, God is in control of your life and He has the best plan. So trust Him, and if you’re still having trouble with worry, ask someone to pray with you.

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Praying and Praising

 

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For my next installment of Mozambique reflections I thought I’d focus on a lesson God was teaching me before and during the trip. Since we were in the country for 10 days (the other 4 days of our trip were traveling there and back) each of the 10 members of the team led a devotional on one of the days. My devotional fell in the middle of the trip and I decided to use James 5:13 as my starting point. It states “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.” NIV ’84

For some reason God had put it on my heart to learn this verse before we even left for Africa, and during the trip I couldn’t get it out of my head. During my last mission trip to Haiti, God had taught me a lot about the importance and power of prayer. I couldn’t help thinking about that when I went on this next trip, and I wanted everyone around me to know how important it was to pray. The beginning of the verse states that if anyone has a problem, an issue, is “in trouble” then the obvious solution is to pray. That isn’t the normal reaction most people have and when I’m at home I often forget to pray too. But ever since my mission trip to Haiti, I’ve been trying to pray more often. So on this mission trip I encouraged my teammates to pray as well. And man there are a lot of opportunities to pray on a mission trip. Whether it was a car breaking down, getting lost in the countryside, or asking God to open people’s hearts to His gospel, there was always something to pray about. And it was exciting for me to see the team be proactive in praying after I shared about my experience with prayer. I’ll share two quick stories about prayer.

1. At the very beginning of our trip one of the cars broke down and we had to take it to the mechanic. We prayed that God would fix the car, but in the meantime we used our translator Dilon’s car which was much bigger and could even fit the whole team if we squeezed in. I didn’t realize till late in the trip that the only reason we used that car and could travel all together, and get to know Dilon so well was because the other car broke down. We had prayed for God to fix it, but He knew that it would be better for us to have the whole team together in one car and get to know our driver really well. I’m so glad for all of those bonding experiences and that God didn’t fix the car.

2. I think it was the day after I shared my devotional, we were trying to drive a bunch of orphans to the beach, and there were so many people that they had to pile onto the trailer since there weren’t enough seats. But once we arrived at the highway, we could see police cars waiting on the side of the road. If we pulled out on the highway we would get in trouble. So we stopped. There was supposed to be a taxi to meet us so everyone could be in a seat, but there was no taxi. We sat uncomfortably, unsure what to do. Someone asked Dilon, “What do we do?” His only response was “Pray.” So we did. And soon the taxi pulled up and the kids piled in and we drove past the police with no issue. It was amazing how quickly God answered our prayers.

All of my experiences with prayer were a good reminder for me that God is a loving Father ready to give us what’s best, and whether we ask for what’s best or not, He will give us what’s good and we can trust Him.

The second part of James 5:13 is something I hadn’t thought about as much. It said that if someone was happy, they should sing songs of praise. Now I don’t know about you, but in America I usually only break into song in my car or shower, not around other people. But in Mozambique things are very different. People sang all the time, while working, playing and worshiping. It really inspired me to not just sing when I’m at church, but sing when I’m happy and praise God throughout the week. And instead of writing a story, I thought I’d share this short video I took. It’s of some girls singing and dancing enthusiastically at one of the worship services we got to be a part of.

I hope this post encouraged you to be more proactive in praying and praising too.

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Expectations

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Our church team praying before we left for Mozambique

Hello blogging world, sorry I haven’t posted in so long but if you hadn’t seen, I was out of the country for 2 weeks and didn’t have access to my laptop or even the internet. I had the opportunity to join my church on a mission trip to Mozambique. I had never been to Africa before and it was a wonderful experience. It may be hard for me to process all that’s happened and what all I learned from the experience but I’m hoping this blog will help me sort out my thoughts. So for the next few days or weeks, I will be posting a lot about Mozambique. I hope you enjoy and maybe even learn something.

So for my first post, I wanted to write about expectations. I think whenever you go on a trip, there are expectations that you have for yourself and that the people around you have for you as well. Especially for a mission trip, I feel like there’s this unspoken expectation that you are going to do something significant, make a difference, and achieve something. Often times we measure this with “projects.” It might be building a well, or a new church building, or providing food or clothes to poor people but we like having a specific mission and then achieving it.

Well going into this trip, I was very unsure what that “mission” was. I heard hints of showing the Jesus film and spending time with the Grannies (or caretakers of orphans) but I wasn’t really sure what we were supposed to do or what our mission was. Then right before we left, our trip leader told us that our main goal of the trip was to be a blessing, an encouragement, and a refreshment to the local missionaries in Mozambique that our church supports.

This goal might not have seemed very monumental but during the trip, I discovered how significant it really was. So often in America we focus on the physical world, like the “projects” to build buildings and provide food and clothing and solve problems. But on the trip I realized that all of those things are temporary. There are hundreds of buildings in Mozambique that are abandoned and crumbling. They aren’t allowed to tear them down, so they just sit there, useless and wasting away. Who’s to say that any project we work on won’t end up being the same way in a few years, eventually losing it’s usefulness and crumbling. Even the food we give out won’t fill empty tummies for long, and clothing will eventually wear out as well.

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An abandoned hotel on the coast

I realized that the only thing that really lasts, like for eternity, is relationships. People are eternal beings and when we engage with each other, encourage each other, build each other up and point each other to Jesus, that has an impact that lasts into eternity. So even though we did do a few of those earthly “projects” on this mission trip, what I’m most excited about is the time I spent with people, developing relationships. Because of this trip I now know our missionaries Mark and Les, and their local camp director Dilon, on a deep level. I now know how to pray for them and encourage them and I even if I never make it to Africa again, I will always be their sister in Christ.

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Some of the girls I built relationships with on the trip

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