Restoration

I’ve been to India.

I’ve been to India.

I’ve been to India.

I still can’t believe it actually happened. I was talking to a friend about it this evening. About how God has blown my dreams out of the water this year and done more than I could ever have imagined He would.

All in the space of about ten months.

I’ve wanted to go on overseas mission for years. Ever since I became a Christian when I was thirteen, sat on my sister’s bed reading a little leaflet about deciding to follow Jesus, I wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t England to do something amazing. I didn’t know where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do, but I wanted to go.

Mission opportunities came and went, and God kept the doors firmly closed. I became really frustrated and angry at my lack of ‘going’ and ‘doing’ that I decided that I just wasn’t going to go anywhere. Ever.

Because I was a very stroppy, over-dramatic individual at seventeen. Seriously.

Because of all these doors closing and me being my over-dramatic self, I was crazy surprised when my trip to India all worked out (ignoring the journey there..!) and I actually got to Frishta to spend time with twenty one of the most amazing children and young people that I have ever met ever.

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Now, before I can even finish processing all that God was trying to teach me in India, I’m off again.

90 days from now, I’ll be in Kenya with Compassion, working alongside them, learning more about this wonderful ministry and meeting my precious sponsored child, Dorcus.

What. Even. Is. This?! I remember when India was 90 days away, and I’ve been back on English soil for nearly six months already. And now I’m getting ready to go again. Less than ten months after my first ever mission trip.

The weird/worrying/wonderful thing? It just feels right. I’ve been struggling in so many ways since graduating from Bible College. I’ve been craving a ‘grown up job’ for so long, but when I read the job descriptions and actually think about applying, I suddenly feel like a little girl playing at being a grown up. But when I’m planning fundraisers/sorting out flights/on the plane/at the destination, I don’t feel like I’m pretending, and probably because it’s one of the few areas of my life where I feel I don’t have to. I honestly don’t think this whole mission thing is a long term thing (I would like a ‘proper grown up job’ one day, please and thank you), but right now I can’t think much past November.

As I was talking about this with a friend, I was reminded of that great verse of Scripture in Joel 2:25, which says “”I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten– the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm — my great army that I sent among you.

Of all the years that I felt angry and frustrated and lost, God has been planning these wonderful opportunities for me, and they have been perfect in every way…even traumatic travel plans going wrong in every sense possible! I can now honestly say that God is the God of restoration, and that’s a beautiful thing to come to realise.

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Let’s Talk About India: 5 Things I Learned about Myself

I’ve been back in England for nearly five whole months now, and God is still teaching me so many things about my time in India. One thing I know for certain, right here right now, is that I’m aching to go back. I miss that beautiful country so much, and there are some very special little faces that I just have to go and see and hug again real soon.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking more about what I learned about myself, and what I learned about God, during the five weeks I visited India, and I feel that there have been five things highlighted about me since coming home and having time to reflect on…well…everything.

So here are five things I learned about me.

1. I’m instinctively selfish. There were times when I was in India where I didn’t want to be surrounded with kids and I wanted to be able to shut myself away from them and their smiles and their cute little “Jesus loves me” singsong voice and just be in my own company. It’s not that I didn’t want to spend time with the kids and watch them being all cute and lovely and learn more about them, but being in an environment like that can become overwhelmingly intense pretty quickly, and there were times when I wanted to shut myself in my bedroom and pretend that I was back in my first-world world where we had good food and comfy beds and central heating. There were honestly times when India wasn’t enough, but other times when the whole thing was just. too. much.

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2. I’m materialistic. Whilst I was in India, I didn’t have access to first-world necessities: wifi, chocolate, food that wasn’t spicy. I could go on. My lovely friend Sarah sent me off with a box of rations, which included some sweet treats (that I just about managed to make last the five weeks I was there!), so I did have some home comforts. I had occasional access to wifi to update people back home and spend some time on social media, and my wonderful hosts made me some English food (and let me tell you…toast and butter never tasted so beautiful!). There were times when these things were nowhere on my mind (I have to say it was sort of refreshing to be able to leave my phone on airplane mode for most of the time and just use my phone as a camera!), but there were times when my Western mind craved instant: instant wifi, food, sleep, space…I found myself becoming so wrapped up in what I didn’t have that I nearly missed moments like this…

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3. I’m unfaithful.  Before I left for India, I read so many blogs that had been written by missionaries who each had a defining moment of faith on their trips, and I was so excited because I wanted that moment where God would speak in a booming voice directly into my situation/life/trip/whatever and I would come back from India being a ‘better Christian’. Let me be honest with you. That’s not quite how it worked. I can see that now I’m home, but when I was there, I attended morning prayers and read the Bible and prayed for the kids and for the staff and I did everything that a ‘good’ Christian would do, but I couldn’t help but feel it was all a little bit fake. I didn’t know why God had led me to India, to this little orphanage set off the beaten track, and it didn’t seem that God was about to reveal that information to be either. There were days where I was so exhausted that I would crawl into bed in tears because I just wanted God to do something and I felt so abandoned that my Bible lay in my suitcase unopened and my prayers were never spoken. God wasn’t doing what I wanted Him to do in the time I wanted Him to do it, so I didn’t want to engage with Him. I am so glad that our God isn’t like this.

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4. I’m unworthy. In Western culture, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in everything that screams status. The children I was working with at Frishta had nothing when they arrived at Frishta, so are considered pretty worthless by the world’s standard, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. These children have so much to give. They always ran to give me huge hugs when I walked into the room, they wanted to sit with me and hold my hand and play with me. They wanted me to read to them and then they wanted to read for me. They sang to me. They danced for me. They loved me from the moment I arrived in the village. They had no reason to love me. They had no idea who I was, or what I was. But that didn’t matter. They didn’t know how much money I have in the bank or what grades I got at A level or what I wanted to do after I left College. None of that was significant. And that was like a gentle slap in the face.

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5. In the end, it’s really not about me. There’s quite a ‘status’ about going overseas to do mission work, even in Christian circles. Both leading up to my trip and then again when I got back, I had people asking so many questions about my trip, and the phrase “what you’re doing is amazing!” was thrown around a few times too. But, even with all of the struggles of this trip, and even when I didn’t feel that God was doing anything, God showed up in beautiful ways on this trip (and many times I couldn’t even see these until after I returned!). I didn’t go to India to make me feel good. I didn’t go because I had to for my degree. I still don’t know why, but I went because God was leading me towards something that was bigger than myself, and I think we often miss what that is truly like here in the west. I got to introduce these children to the love of Jesus, and they did the same for me in return. We worshiped together, studied scripture and prayed together. We shared what God was doing in our lives and we were able to celebrate together when God came through and answer prayers, and join with each other when one of us needed God’s intervention. I saw kids change because they had the opportunity to get to know Jesus, and if that was the only reason I went to India, then I’m okay with that.

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A Place at the Table: Week One

So today marks a whole week that I’ve been following the A Place at the Table devotional and have been eating a similar diet to that of my sponsored child, Dorcus. And let me tell you – this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

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Now, I’m not particularly adventurous when it comes to food. I don’t like spice or very strong flavours, so I honestly thought this would be a pretty easy journey for me in terms of the food. But it’s been a real struggle. There are only so many days you can eat just potatoes or rice or porridge (and let me tell you…I hit that day about three days ago!). I’m missing really simple food like cheese (I’m not joking…what I wouldn’t give to have a good old fashioned cheese sandwich!!). I’ve not been eating for enjoyment for the last few days, so I don’t feel like I can eat very much food because there is absolutely no flavour to anything I’m eating, which means I’ve had this lingering feeling of hunger for the last week.

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Over the last week, this is what a normal meal has looked like…some tomatoes, flatbread with chicken in it and some potatoes. If I wasn’t doing this fast, I’d be pretty happy with that. But for more than two or three days in a row is not fun.

Last Monday, just three days after I started, I had my first feast day (which will fall on every Monday) which was absolutely beautiful. I’m so much more grateful for the food we have in England that is so easily accessible. Mondays are very quickly becoming my favourite day of the week (and I have a feeling they are going to be full of bacon and cheese and other delightful things that I’m otherwise not able to eat!).

God is teaching me so much about the art of thankfulness during this journey, and the importance of not relying on what we know. Eating the diet has been one thing, but learning more about God through this journey has been such a blessing. The devotional I am using focuses on the Exodus. I’ve been learning that this isn’t just something that happened all those years ago with very little relevance to the here and now, but I’m learning that I’m in need of my very own Exodus. We’re all slaves to something, and this week, I’ve felt like a slave to my eating habits. It’s been so easy to get legalistic about this journey and lose sight of the bigger picture. But the truth is I’m just as in need of an Exodus to the slaves in my life as the Israelites were to Pharaoh. This isn’t a distant, far off story anymore, but one that I can see into and learn from.

This journey isn’t nearly as easy as I thought it would be. But I’m so grateful for the lessons that God is teaching me through these forty days. I can’t wait to see my sweet sponsored child in Kenya, especially after experiencing the smallest glimpse of what her life is like. There is nothing that can prepare me for what I’m going to see and learn and experience when I travel to Kenya in just under four months’ time, but I’m so grateful to be on this journey.

Your prayers over the next forty days would be wonderful, that God would continue to teach me all that He wants me to learn. Also, your prayers for God’s provision for the trip would also be so valued. You can visit my GoFundMe page here.

Eating for Kenya!

Food seems to be featuring pretty highly in my fundraising for mission {anyone remember the day I had to eat curry to raise money for India?!}.

Anyway. Today marks just 125 days until I fly out to Kenya to work alongside the wonderful people at Compassion UK for a week, where I’ll be visiting different projects, finding out how those in Kenya are working to help lift these children out of poverty, worshiping alongside a partner church and spending a day with my eighteen year old sponsored child, Dorcus.

Dorcus aged 16

I am so excited to take this trip. It’s actually been a challenge moving so quickly on from my experience in India to prepare to go to a completely different continent! I need to consciously remember that the lessons God has for me in Kenya could be completely different to the lessons He taught me in India, and that’s a challenge in itself. I’m a comparison person, so I’m already finding myself comparing my experience of this trip (that’s barely started!) to that of my trip to India.

I’m so excited about this fundraiser! For forty days starting tomorrow, on Friday 18th July, I will be following a wonderful devotional called A Place at the Table whilst following the diet that children living in Kenya eat. This means my diet for the next forty days will consist of:

  • porridge
  • flat bread
  • rice
  • corn
  • onions
  • tomatoes
  • greens
  • beef
  • goat
  • potatoes
  • chicken
  • passion fruit
  • milk

I don’t know about you, but this looks a little different to what I normally eat. I was grateful when I found out that there were some ‘normal’ things in this diet! But I’m excited to see all that God is going to do through this.

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Following this will {hopefully} two purposes. The first is to give God some space to speak to me in preparation for this trip, and to help me shape my prayers for this trip. I want to be able to look for ministry opportunities whilst I’m there and to be open to God’s leading.

The second purpose of eating this diet is to raise some sponsorship for my trip. I’m praying so hard that God will provide for this trip, but I can’t sit back and do nothing. So I want to invite you guys on this journey with me. I’ll be blogging about all of these interesting diet changes over the next forty days in the hope that you will be able to share in these experiences with me. Your prayers would be so valued over the next few weeks, and if you feel led to financially support me on this trip, you can find my GoFundMe page here!

So how does this work? For six days out of seven, over forty six days, I will be following the diet outlined above, limiting myself to what (honestly!) seems like some pretty boring food. Alongside this, I will be reading through the devotional and praying that God would speak to me about my trip. On the other day of the week, so every Monday, I’ll be celebrating with a feast day. This is included in the devotional to encourage us to be thankful for the good things that God has blessed us with in terms of food, and allows us to focus our hearts more on those days when we don’t have the luxury of ‘normal’ food.

I am so excited, and I will definitely be writing more about this journey as it goes on. Your prayers would be so appreciated!

Compassion Joy Dare: July

Another month of this year is over, so to celebrate the end of July, I’m joining in with Jill’s Compassion Joy Dare!

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Let’s Talk Letters!

After receiving eight letters last month, I expected this month to be pretty quiet. I was quite surprised to look back over the last month to see that I’ve received another eight letters! I received my first ever letters from Suresh Babu in India and Jose Luis in Mexico! I then also received letters from Rahul in India, Blessing in Togo, Irabizi  and Rendi, Cristin and Glen in East Indonesia!

Photo Updates!

This month, I received a beautiful photo update from my second ever sponsored child, ten year old Krisna from Indonesia! Here he is at ages 6, 8 and 10!

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Let’s Celebrate – Birthdays!

My Compassion family celebrates one birthday in July – one of my newest Compassion correspondent children, sweet Miguel from Colombia, turned seven years old on July 19th!

Miguel aged 5

Let’s Celebrate – Anniversaries!

I got to celebrate a very special sponsorship milestone this month. On the eighth of July, I got to celebrate sponsoring my sweet eighteen year old sister, Dorcus from Kenya, for one whole year. I can’t believe that in just a couple of short months, I will be on the plane to Kenya to hug this sweet girl!

Dorcus aged 16New Additions!

July saw two beautiful teenage girls join my Compassion family as correspondents! The first is sixteen year old Cindy from Indonesia!

Age 15

Cindy lives with her grandparents and celebrates her birthday on November 15th. She’s currently studying in grade nine and her hobbies include volleyball, singing and listening to music.

The second teenager girl to join my family this month was sixteen year old Anandhi from India!

Age 15

Anandhi lives with her parents and celebrates her birthday on March 26th. She is currently studying in 10th grade and her hobbies include group games, walking, hide and seek, running, reading and art/drawing!

I’m so excited to welcome these new girls, and also to get to know my whole Compassion family more over the next month!

Compassion Joy Dare: June

This year is literally flying by, but I can’t think of any better way to end each month than joining in with Jill’s Compassion Joy Dare!

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Let’s Talk Letters!

At the beginning of the month, I knew that I had eight letters on the way to me, so I was so disappointed when, day after day, the lovely postman wasn’t dropping them through our letterbox! However, this month I received all eight lovely letters! I received my first letter from my newest sponsored child, Riya from India! I also received letters from Chelsea in Ghana, Adner in Colombia, Dorcus in Kenya, Nova in Indonesia and then from Cristin, Rendi and Glen from East Indonesia!

Photo Updates

I received a beautiful photo update this month! This update technically arrived last month, but I had to wait a little while for the digital copy to arrive, so I’m proudly showing it off now!

The photo update I received was of ten-year-old Rendi from Indonesia! Here he is aged 5, 6, 8 and 10!

Rendi

Let’s Celebrate – Birthdays!

My Compassion family celebrates two birthdays in June.

First, my sponsored sister, Dorcus from Kenya, turned eighteen years old on June 5th. This girl is so special to me because she was sponsored in memory of my Nan, who passed away when I was fifteen. It was lovely to remember my Nan, who also celebrated her birthday on this day, as well as celebrate with my sweet Dorcus.

Dorcus aged 16

The other birthday I got to celebrate was just a couple of days later on June 8th, when my precious Janki from East India turned ten years old!

Janki aged 9

Let’s Celebrate – Anniversaries!

I got to celebrate two sponsorship milestones this month, too! There are two precious little boys in my family who I have now been corresponding with for a whole year! I started corresponding with Rahul from India on June 7th last year, and with Joyonto from Bangladesh on June 21st last year! I’m so blessed by these sweet boys, and I am so grateful to have then as part of my family.

Rahul aged 7

Joyonto aged 5

I’m a little bit excited about July now!

 

Let’s Talk About India: Coming Home and a New Adventure

Last week marked three months since I got back from India. Honestly. I’m having a hard time believing I’ve been home for three weeks. Before I went to India, I promised myself (and anyone else who would listen!) that I wouldn’t get the travel bug and that my feet would forever remain on British soil.

I’m such a liar.

Turns out, I quite like traveling. Okay, so maybe not the actual ‘traveling’ part of it (do you remember the interesting journey I had to take to even get to India?!) but I do like meeting the people, getting to know the culture, and even the food wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be!

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More than anything else in the world right now, I want to go back. Or at least, I want to go somewhere. I encountered Jesus in such a way that I can’t forget while I was in this place. I still can’t fully process in my mind just what happened when I was there.

So much has happened in the last three months. I went back to college to finish my last ever term as a student, and before I could turn around, it was time for our valedictory service. I’m not a student anymore!

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Because I’ve known that the end of college was so near, I’ve been gently pushing doors on a few different trips, to different places to do different things, but none of them have given me that sense of peace, where God says “Come on, Shelley. This is the adventure I want to take you on!”. So I keep looking. And praying. And getting very frustrated at spending too long on England. And, just as only God can, the perfect opportunity landed in my lap.

Well…in my inbox.

Last summer, I sponsored beautiful eighteen year old Dorcus from Kenya through Compassion in memory of my wonderful nan, who passed away when I was fifteen. I chose Dorcus for two reasons: the first reason is that she shares a birthday with my nan, and I loved this connection. Secondly, Dorcus struggles at school. When I was in secondary school, I struggled a lot, in a different way to Dorcus, but school wasn’t great for me. It was my nan that I would want to talk to about it, and it was my Nan who always encouraged me. I wanted to be the support to Dorcus that my nan was to me, so I decided to sponsor her.

Dorcus aged 16

Because of this special connection between Dorcus and my nan, I knew that I had to get out to Kenya to meet this precious young woman before she graduates the programme in 2018. I had no idea how I could possibly make this work, until around two weeks ago. I received an email from the lovely folk at the Compassion UK office, inviting me to travel with them to Kenya, to see firsthand the work they are doing and with the opportunity to meet Dorcus!

I called the office yesterday and paid my deposit, so now I can officially say that I’ll be spending a week in November in Kenya! My goodness, our God’s plans are so much more exciting than ours!

Before I was even guaranteed a place, God was already orchestrating some pretty incredible things. Because of the nature of my job, getting the time off, in many ways, was going to be the easy part. Finding the money, however, was the challenge. The morning after I received the email from Compassion (so before I was even guaranteed a place on the trip!), my mum was having a conversation with some friends, who later gave me £200 towards my trip! They’ve visited Kenya, and were amazed at all God was doing there, and they didn’t want me to miss out because of finances, so they gave me this money! This money alone nearly covered the deposit, so now there is no way I can be worried about God not providing for this trip.

I don’t really have any other details right now, but I can’t put into words how excited I am to be a part of this wonderful ministry, and a part of this trip! It’s such a relief to finally be able to make it public knowledge that I’m going, now it’s all been made official!

Please, please, join me in praying that all of the details would work out, that the money will come through, and everything will be, like India, just beautiful.

Compassion Joy Dare: May

Can you believe I haven’t joined in with Jill’s Joy Dare since NOVEMBER?! Whoops…Between preparing to go to India, actually going to India, coming back from India with a fractured ankle and now being ONLY SIX DAYS AWAY FROM GRADUATING, life has been more than a little busy. But I hate using busy-ness as an excuse for not being thankful, which is why I’m making time to reflect back on the last month and join in with the celebrations!

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Let’s Talk Letters!

I received six wonderful letters this month! I received one from Joyonto in Bangladesh, one from Evis in Colombia, one from Gad in Rwanda, one from Krisna in East Indonesia, one from Chelsea in Ghana and one from Rahul from India that just made it into this joy dare by arriving yesterday!! My letter from Chelsea also had a beautiful surprise extra photograph with it!

Day 2

I also found out that I have three more letters on the way, which should be with me in the next couple of weeks!

Photo Updates

I received three photo updates this month! I only have two of the digital copies though, so one of them will have to remain a surprise for now ;)

The first photo update I received was of two-year-old Gad in Rwanda! His photos show him at 7 months, 13 months, 19 months and just a couple of weeks before his third birthday!

Gad

The next photo update I received was from my correspondent child, thirteen year old Nika from Indonesia! I haven’t received a letter from her yet, so this photo update was a lovely surprise! Here she is aged 9, 12 and 13!

Nika 9 12 13

New Additions

I have three precious new additions to my ever-expanding Compassion family this month!

When I was in India, I had the chance to go and visit a local Compassion project. When I was volunteering at a Compassion event after I got home, I found a packet of a little girl who attended the project I spent the day at! I wasn’t convinced God was leading me to sponsor her, so I spent the next few days of the event trying to find this sweet girl a sponsor. After I’d been home for a few weeks, I felt God lead me to sponsor a child from this project that I have grown to love. I spoke to the wonderful people at Compassion UK and they told me they had one little girl from this project and it just happened to be the little girl who’s packet I had found at the event! Without too much hesitation, I decided to sponsor sweet five year old Riya from India!

Riya aged 4

Riya is five years old and lives with her parents and grandparents. Her birthday is on February 12th and there are two other children in the family. For fun, she enjoys playing house and playing hide-and-seek and her errands at home are buying and selling in the market. I’m so excited to get to know this girl, and future trips to India (and to this project) are now going to be that little bit more exciting!

I also was blessed this month to be assigned two new precious correspondent children from Colombia! God has completely captured my heart with this wonderful country, and so these new members of my family are so special.

My first new correspondent child is seven year old Jose!

Jose aged 5

Jose just turned seven on May 17th and lives with his parents. He’s studying in first grade and for fun, he enjoys group games, football and running. He helps around the house by making beds and helping in the kitchen. I love his little shirt!

The second correspondent child I was assigned this month is five year old Miguel, also from Colombia!

Miguel aged 5

Miguel will turn six on July 19th and he lives with his parents. For fun, he enjoys cars, listening to music and playing ball games, and he helps around the house by running errands and cleaning. He is currently studying in Kindergarten at an above average level!

Let’s Celebrate – Birthdays!

My Compassion family celebrates three birthdays in May.

First, my very first sponsored child, Cristin from East Indonesia, turned NINE YEARS OLD on May 8th! She was just two months shy of turning six when I first sponsored her, and it’s been such a joy to watch her grow over the last three years.

Cristin aged 8

The littlest member of my Compassion family, sweet Gad from Rwanda, turned three on May 16th! I started sponsoring this handsome kid when he was just thirteen months old, so this is another special journey! Also, this month marked two years of sponsoring Gad, so this was a double celebration!

Irabizi aged 2

The final birthday was one of my new faces – Jose turned seven years old just two days after I was assigned him as a correspondent child!

Jose aged 5

I’m so glad I took the time to reflect on this month. I was feeling a little disheartened after realising that I hadn’t heard from many of my kids this month, but there have been so many more blessings than I ever could have realised!

#100happydays Day Six

Still here playing catch up! But having time to remember what we’re thankful for is never, ever, a bad thing.

#100happydays day six

Day 6

I got to spend Wednesday afternoon in a great little cake shop with a very special friend having a great post-block placement catch up. I had the opportunity to chat to her about all I learned in India and I got to hear all about her amazing time working with kids in South Africa. Fellowship sure can taste good!

#100happydays Day Five

So it turns out taking part in a challenge like this and only being a month away from finishing a degree is actually pretty darn hard, so today is a major catch up day. But hey, I’m thankful for the time I’ve got to reflect on the last few days and what’s really made me smile.

#100happydays day five

Day 5

I’ve been taking part in a 90 Day Bible Challenge over the last few days, and on day five of my #100happydays I reached the end of Exodus. I loved going back through this story and seeing God’s faithfulness littered throughout the entire story. I’m so grateful that I can spend so much time in God’s word, and I’m so excited to see all that God wants to teach me through this journey.