Fall Campus Update

Ya’ll…I love the fall on campus. Students are so eager to begin the year and get involved in things on campus. We get to do lots of club fairs and survey tables where we meet tons of students. We get to engage in lots of spiritual conversations and help students get plugged in to Cru and their local church. Excitement is high, for us and for the students.

This year, our staff team has been hard at work organizing, hosting, leading, meeting, discipling, texting, calling, emailing, planning, aligning, casting vision, etc. We talked this morning in staff meeting about all we have seen the Lord do so far in only about 3ish weeks on campus. This list was so encouraging that I thought it would encourage you too!  God is at work and we are so privileged to be a small part of it!

  • First Athletes Meeting at St. Johns University – 9 students showed up INCLUDING a guy! The new students that came came because OLD students invited them. 3 soccer girls had stood up in their soccer practice and invited their whole team and one girl brought 3 freshmen soccer girls with her to the meeting. We haven’t done any publicity but students are hearing about us and coming anyways!
  • Weekly meeting at Queens College – ice breaker was “nope, dope, hope” and two girls expressed that their hope was that they would get to go to Fall Retreat in October with us.
  • With our normal Cru movement at St. Johns University, students are finding Cru, rather than us finding them since we have done no publicity (3 students did this). Students are coming because they know friends involved with Cru at University of Tennessee Chattanooga or because they were flaky last year and want to be more committed. One girl brought her friends and one girl blocked out that day so she can come. Most of the students from the previous week came back to the Cru meeting the second week.
  • We have a potential guy at St. Johns who is leading a small group with Indian pharmacy students and he desires to reach the whole campus so he may be jumping on board with us. This is exciting!
  • The weekly pizza social at Queens College has been really encouraging. Kelly, who has been attending, brought a friend. 9 students have been coming regularly and most are freshmen.
  • Noel and Frank made decisions this week to place their faith in Christ!!! Tim (brother of Chris, a former student of ours who is serving short-term overseas with Cru like mentioned in a previous prayer letter) was with Doran, a staff guy on our team and they were following up a survey from welcome day filled out by a guy named Noel. Upon sharing the “Knowing God Personally” booklet, Noel realized that he wanted to be the circle of the person who has surrendered their life to Christ but knew he wasn’t and understood that you moved to that circle by by receiving Christ through faith. He said he wanted to keep growing and learning and pursuing God and he prayed the salvation prayer and even changed the words to make it his own. It was so sincere.
  • Frank was another followup from a survey that God had been doing something in – he had had two friends/mentors who were Christian who have spoke into his life and encouraged him to pursue Christianity. He has been coming to the pizza social (we shared about him at our last prayer letter). Praise God…he made the decision to place his faith in Jesus and become a believer!!
  • A big-time basketball player at St. Johns University named Greg Williams circled 10s and yeses on his survey (this means he had a high interest in exploring God, being a part of a Bible study, learning more about Christ, etc.) and Ed was able to have a small conversation with him and exchange numbers. Ed is hoping to connect with him this coming week and potentially get him involved in our Athlete ministry and have a spiritual conversation. He could have such an impact at St. Johns because of how well known he is.
  • Ksenia, a girl from Queens College who knew some Cru staff at her church, was introduced to us on welcome day, she came to the ice cream social, and said she wanted to be a part of Cru and wants to help us become an official organization. She is so excited to reach her campus. She also signed up for Fall Retreat.
  • 4 students are registered for Fall Retreat so far…we are praying for 10!! What a great start!!

This is some awesome things happening in just a few weeks. Please pray that God continues moving and we are able to share more awesome things like these that glorify His name!!

Remembering

Isn’t it funny that even as the years fly by, some things never fade from your memory? For me, today, those things that I can’t get out of my head are Hurricane Hugo and 9/11. What triggered these memories today?

Even though we now lives hundreds of miles away from my hometown of Georgetown on the coast of SC, because of Facebook and family still living there, we can stay very connected to what is happening there. For instance, tonight, I have learned that people are making real-time decisions about whether to ride out Hurricane Florence. They are watching the TV like a hawk trying to figure out where the hurricane is going (can we ever really know?). They are boarding up windows and stocking up on food and sharing tips about how to best store water in case they don’t have it for weeks. I also learned that they are closing down the hospital and Wal-Mart in Georgetown as of tomorrow, which NEVER happens there, even with past storms. My brother is officially working crazy insane hours as he is on hurricane duty with his law enforcement agency.

Most people have no idea what it is like to live through a hurricane. When Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989, it made landfall south west of Georgetown, putting our area on the northeast side of the storm which is the worst for catastrophic damage. Not only do I remember huddling and sleeping in the hall at my grandmother’s house with my aunts, uncles and cousins, but I remember the sound of the wind, how long it took to get places because roads were wiped out, the trees that hit the house, the insane hours my dad worked with law enforcement adn relief efforts, and the absolutely horrible damage it did on all the places that I knew and cherished. Hurricanes have fond memories for me as a time when our family would come together and spend time playing games and hanging out, but lets be real…they are super scary and damaging. So tonight, I am remembering and praying for all of those in the South we know (Georgetown, Charleston, Raleigh, Wilmington) who are bracing for this big monster of a storm.

9/11 will always be a time that is etched in everyone’s minds….where you were when it happened, how you felt, what you did afterwards, how it has changed your life, etc. It is bizarre to me to think that this year’s college freshman was barely a year old when it happened and only know it as “that time my parents talk about.” I was in college, getting up to cram for a test, when I heard that I needed to go check out the communal television. Obviously, classes were canceled, convocation was held, tears were cried, people were stunned, and our worlds changed.

But living here in NYC, 9/11 has taken on a totally different meaning for us. And not just because we regularly walk past the memorial or see the One World Trade tower. We are living life next to people everyday who lost their father, mother, son, daughter, aunt, uncle, friend, etc. in 9/11. We are living next to people who looked up and could see the huge towers of black smoke leading to the sky. We are living next to people who went to help in the relief effort, who comforted their neighbors who didn’t know if their loved one was dead or alive, and who walked past missing posters everyday as they walked to work. We are living next to people who endured major racial profiling and feared for their safety simply because their ethnic background matched those of the terrorists. We are living next to people who share their stories about their mother who is alive because she “happened” to be late to work that one day when she usually never was. We are living in a place that has humanized 9/11 in a way that it never was for us. So, as I think about the 17th anniversary of 9/11 tomorrow, I pray for those who are continuing to grieve the loss of those who were so dear to them.

In the midst of lots of packing, the start of school craziness, and the fall semester rat race that is part of campus ministry, I am choosing to stop and remember that there is so many other things going on for so many other people that go beyond my immediate world and worries. Thank you Jesus for being the one who controls the winds and the waves. Thank you Jesus for being the one who can comfort us in a way that no one else can. Thank you Jesus for giving us the great privilege of praying and interceding for others who are preoccupied with so many heavy things.

 

Moving Already?

Something pretty big happened in our lives this week. Having tons of surveys filled out by students on campus? Yes, that happened, but that’s not it. Connecting with new freshmen and getting to share the Gospel with them? Yes, that also happened, but that’s not it. Surviving in above-record heat here in NYC? Yes, again, that happened, and we survived, but that’s not it. So, then, what could it be?

We signed a new lease on a HOUSE!!  For probably 6 months or longer, Ed and I have been praying and thinking about moving. We love our apartment and complex and neighborhood, so our list of what the new place had to have was quite extensive: we wanted to be closer to the girl’s school (we found out last spring that Kinsley, now in 3rd grade, doesn’t qualify for bus service anymore and we would be walking the kids to and from school every day, about 3.5 miles round trip), we wanted to be in the girl’s school zone (so when Blake goes to pre-school and kindergarten, we wouldn’t have to worry about him being on a waitlist or not getting a spot), we wanted to potentially be on the bottom floor of a place so we didn’t have to worry about kids running and jumping and making too much noise for people below us, we wanted to still be close to Forest Hills shopping and the subway. If we could find a place where we could park a car without a hefty monthly price tag (our parking garage in our neighborhood was $300 a month and street parking is almost non-existent) and a place where we could host our weekly small group and groups of students and guests better, that would be the icing on the cake. But again, because we loved our apartment, it would have to be the perfect place. We also knew the timeline would have to work out as we had signed a lease on our place until October 25 and couldn’t pay for two places for long.

We have asked family, friends, and ministry partners for wisdom for us as we looked and decided, and when we returned from our summer travels, we loosely started looking. Then, this past week, we amped up our looking. Houses in the girl’s school zone are pretty expensive so finding something in our price range was pretty challenging but we looked at 3 great options. One was a townhome with a little too much space with a bigger price tag, one was a townhome with a little smaller than we have now with a lower price tag, and one was a house that was in between on everything. It also came with a finished basement, a garage, a driveway, a closer walk to the girls’ school, and a tiny yard. It is still pretty small like NYC places and compared to houses in the South, but it has the garage for storage, which is nice. After putting in an offer and the owner originally saying no (there was some confusion about our income because we have minister’s housing allowance which makes the income on our tax return look lower than it is and she didn’t think we could afford it), she changed her mind and said yes!  We meet her a few days ago to sign the lease, get to know her, and to get instructions and such. We found out through talking that her daughter is a Christian but her daughter says her mother is Hindu/tolerant of all things, so we are even praying that God allows us chances to minister and share the Gospel with her. We are seriously so thankful to the Lord as she had so many people interested and we were not the most attractive on paper (others had way higher incomes and could move in sooner), but she changed her mind and leased it to us. Even after she accepted our offer, she had diplomats look at it and love it so much they wanted it. We are praying this house gives life to our family in so many ways and allows us to minister more effectively here. It also looks like we will be able to get a car soon too!

I am a little apprehensive about the next few months – in the midst of the beginning of the school craziness (our campuses started last week with the exception of St. Johns which begins this week), Ed taking a seminary class in October that requires a lot of reading, the girls starting school, and us focusing on growing our team of ministry partners, moving is just something else to add to the list and make life more crazy. Would you pray that we don’t get overwhelmed and that God provides all we need to make it through? He provided this place so I am trusting He will provide everything else.

For the icing on the cake, my cousin and his wife from SC came up to stay with us to go to the US Open and to spend time with us. We had a GREAT time with them and even in the midst of crazy schedules, looking for a place, signing on a place, etc, it was easy and very life-giving. We took Sunday to travel to Governors Island with them….to get there, we had to travel to lower Manhattan and take a ferry, but it was so beautiful there and we loved getting to walk the island, eat lunch by the water staring at the Statue of Liberty, see the unicycle festival, and let the kids slide on the longest slide in NYC.

Thank you for your prayers for wisdom – we definitely felt them and feel that God led us to just the right place. Continue praying as we continue the beginning of the school year craziness and as the girls start school this Wednesday.

Treasuring the Moments

It happened again this morning. I found myself yelling at my kids. I know, I know….full-time missionaries aren’t supposed to yell at their kids (not sure who said that but it sure is the lie Satan tells me). I had a million things on my to-do list. Ed was hurrying out the door and unable to help. Two kids were bickering and pushing and biting and who knows what else. One kid was sassing and talking back and having major attitude because they didn’t want to do their “school work.” I felt like everyone and everything was in my way and not cooperating and didn’t they know I had stuff to do. And so I did it. I yelled. At everyone. And then, the perfectionist, wanting-to-love-them-like-Jesus-does, momma inside of me felt so guilty.

With only a week and a half of school, I want to savor the days with them. When I think that next year my oldest will turn 9 which is half-way to adulthood, it makes me so very sad. The saying “The days are long but the years are short is so very, very true” but somehow I tend to forget that over and over and over. I want to focus on being present with them, cuddling and reading and talking and playing. I want to parent to their heart instead of responding according to what is easiest and quickest to get the issue over with. I want to really disciple them like Jesus has called me to do instead of treating them like they are just one more task in my already busy day. But it is hard. So very hard. This parenting thing is not for the faint of heart and is so very, very sanctifying.

I have to remember that there will be times when things go really smooth and I look over at them playing all calmly together and think “my cup is overflowing with thankfulness for these little blessings” but then there will be other times when lunch doesn’t get fixed until 12:30 because we had two kids who needed to be disciplined, another who spilled the cup of water left on the table, and another who just didn’t quite make it to the potty causing a river to clean up (true story for our lives just today). And its okay. Things will get done. I will stop running a marathon and sweating and be able to eat lunch before 4. And things may not get done on my to-do list. And its all okay. This is a season that I need to savor no matter what the day brings instead of wishing it all away.

These are the things I am praying, pondering, and trusting Jesus for today.

Gearing Up

The craziness officially begins this next week. Club fairs, move ins, survey tables, weekly meetings, discipleship, followup from surveys, etc. will all begin THIS WEEK. My friend Linsey made this comment explaining her excitement for students this coming year and I love it – “They might not know that He is going to change their lives while in college. They have no idea that these next few years are going to shape them- and that the decisions they make while in college affect the rest of their lives. These students might think that they are going to live a typical college life- but for some, their stories will be different.” While we are expectant and excited to see what God is going to do, we are so very thankful for this past week.

This past Sunday, we loaded up our family in a rental van and drove 2.5 hours to East Hampton, NY to join the rest of our team on a staff retreat. There, we enjoyed time connecting with each other, catching up on our summers, encouraging each other by sharing what God has been teaching us, relaxing together, and spending time with Jesus. We spent time at the beach and in the pool and cooked meals together in our rental house and played games. I love our team that feels like family to us! It was also really fun to say that we have been to “The Hamptons” – I was in complete shock as I counted the number of “nice cars” we passed…and by nice, we are talking about Range Rovers and Porsches and Ferraris and Teslas and Lexus’ – seriously insane. Another fun thing about our time is that we got to celebrate the birthday of our new team member – Kathia!  This is an answer to prayer on so many levels – to have more laborers, to have more laborers who don’t look like us, and to have more laborers who don’t look like us who can identify with college-aged students.

Then, this week, we started our beginning of the year planning meetings to get things lined up and set up for the school year. I am so thankful to great babysitters who enable the moms to be a part of this! It was super encouraging to talk about what we are trusting God for as a Queens team!

Last weekend and this weekend, we decided to venture into Manhattan to enjoy what the city has to offer. Last year, we were told by a friend and ministry partner about this place that is only open during the summer called the Magnum store. Last weekend, we traveled to the Magnum store and created our own Magnum bars. They were delicious!  However, the train ride with Brynn was pretty rough and there was lots of complaining from the walkers about being tired and how much longer we had to go. Ed and I knew to give them all lots of grace as we were all transitioning into the city and even for us, getting used to walking again and subway commutes and even traveling to 4 grocery stores to get all we need has been an adjustment for sure.

This weekend, we decided to travel to Park Avenue where we had heard that for a few Saturdays this month, they shut it down to car traffic and they have things set up all along the way, like booths for vendors and kids fitness area and food samples. The kids had a great time getting free applesauce pouches and running the kid’s obstacle race. Afterwards, we got hot chocolate, went to the American Doll store and Nintendo store, and saw where they were going to be hosting the MTV Video Music awards. It was a very relaxed and fun morning in the city and the kids did SOOOO much better. No breakdowns, kids asking to play on our phone, or bugging us about too much walking. It was such a breath of fresh air to have a laid-back and fun morning exploring this city that we love.

Here are a few fun pictures from the last week here. – scooter riding to the store in our neighborhood, Blake riding his new “big boy” bike at a local park, and Blake trying out a new hairstyle.

The kids don’t start school until after Labor Day, so it will be interesting navigating campus start ups and staff meetings while having them all home. Our hope is that we can take them to some things on campus, I will stay home with them some instead of participating in start of the year things, and that we will be able to hire sitters to help us. More updates to come on how God moves!

 

We are back!!!

The final 10 days of our trip in Raleigh/Fuquay Varina flew by!  In 10 days, we had over 20 meetings, both church presentations and personal meetings with current and potentially new ministry partners!  We split our stay between two families who graciously agreed to host our family of 6 and we were so thankful that not only did it go smoothly, it was very life-giving for both us and our kids. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all who met with us, hosted us, fed us, and prayed for us.

While there are so many things I love about having an 18 month old, flying, eating out at restaurants, sleeping in new places, and riding in the car long distances are not them. Case in point – on our return flight, after playing with Play-doh, eating 4 different snacks, watching two different types of TV shows, playing with the shape shorter, coloring, and going back and forth between her dad and I, Brynn was just done. Tired and done. Did I say tired and done?

She screamed for the last 15 minutes of our flight – not whimpered or cried on and off but screamed bloody murder complete with whipping of all body parts that could whip. People were holding their hands over their ears. People were staring. Mommy, who definitely struggles with people-pleasing and knows how bad people talk about those parents whose kid won’t stop screaming, was straight up embarrassed. When we got our chance to leave the plane, you can bet I was doing just that and fast-like. Ed grabbed my backpack, I jetted off the plane, and we met outside the gate. Thank you to the sweet people behind us who stopped outside the gate just to say that we did a good job with her and that anyone who is parents can understand and empathize and that those who can’t empathize can just get over it….your words helped calm my frazzled nerves a bit. We grab our bags at baggage claim (complete with me asking Ed “Did anyone from our flight see you and say anything to you while they were getting their bags”) and then wait for an Uber that can fit our massive load of bags (meanwhile the screaming baby is now asleep…couldn’t that have happened earlier?” and we head home.

Once home, I realize something major. I forgot to tell Ed to grab my phone which was in the back of the seat of the plane. Uh-oh. Big uh-oh. Like multiple hundreds of dollars uh-oh. We call, file a report, pray, but doubt we will ever see it again. Last night, Ed went to Apple to get me a new-to-me older phone and after getting it all hooked up today, we get a phone call. They found my phone!! Seriously!! Praise God!! Ed went back to LaGuardia today, picked it up, we returned the new one, and we are back in business.

It feels good but yet so weird to be back in the city after being gone a month. There was lots of complaining as we walked a mile to meet some friends at a playground today (gotta get used to city legs again) and as we all poured sweat in the heat and humidity that never seems to end. But I love playing at a park and looking around and realizing only one other mom looks like me. I love getting to interact with friends who have become so dear to me. I love being able to smile and wave at our doorman and hear him say “Hey, wait, you have been gone a long time – glad to have you back!”. I love hearing the honks, the trains, the ice cream trucks, the road construction. It feels so good to be home in this city that we are learning to love.

Differences

Coming back to SC and NC this summer, we haven’t experienced as much culture shock as we thought we would. But, here are a few things we have noticed that we haven’t noticed before (ok, maybe we noticed them but have seen them in a new light):

1 – There are so many trees and grass. Anyone that has been in the city for a while has this same reaction. But, it stuns me that this is ALWAYS our first thought. So. Much. Green.

2 – It is so quiet! Again, anyone that has been in the city for a while has this thought, but I honestly think sometimes “Is there anyone out there in the world? It is so stinkin’ quiet!” While the quiet has been nice, it makes our kids seem a whole lot louder!

3 – Riding in a car is so boring. Seriously, the first time Ed and I drove a long stretch with hardly any buildings and lots of trees, I thought “This is so boring and feels like it is taking forever.” What’s funny, we travel the same amount of time in the city to get places by riding on the subway or the bus, but you can multitask, watch the people, sleep, zone out, etc. which makes the time go so much faster!

4 – People talk and wave to strangers a lot! When we first got in at the airport, we were loading everything and everyone into my mom’s car and a lady started talking to Ed. I asked him “What was she saying?” He said “She was just talking.” I said “What was she talking about and saying?” He said “April, your forget this is the South and people just talk to you to be friendly.” Wow. In NY, if they are talking to you, it is usually to tell you what you are doing wrong. Even on a run around the neighborhood, I can’t count the number of waves from people I got….so weird!

5 – Where are all the people who aren’t white? Ok – I know this is a touchy one, but we are seriously used to being some of the only white people around, so it is weird to come here and not see people who don’t look like us. Or to feel like we are in the majority instead of the minority. I have actually struggled with this one the most since being back. I crave and love diversity now.

6 – These houses and lawns are so big! Compared to the tiny houses and NYC apartments, everything seems so big. I get that it is because housing is way cheaper here, but honestly, I don’t know if I would want to clean a place this big!

We are a little over two weeks into our month-long break and I can tell you that I feel like it has been a really good thing for our family. It has been great to be with friends and family, to have a little more downtime, to have more room for our kids to run and be loud, and it has been super encouraging to see God providing everything we need for our ministry to get us back to 100%. Seriously, I almost cried yesterday as I got overwhelmed with how God is providing for us. While starting up ministry partner development for the summer can be so intimidating, I love seeing God work, provide, and allow us to partner with others. Blown away!

Here are a few pictures from our last few weeks:

Enjoying my brother, sister-n-law, niece, and nephew-

When we traveled to Greenville, SC, we were excited to see Ed’s parents AND because our really good friends from Raleigh had just moved to neighboring Spartanburg. Spending time with them and their kids has been so life-giving. If you ever get a chance to find a friend like Jenn, hold on tight. She is intentional, direct, God-glorifying, kind, funny, and just a huge blessing in my life. I love having friends who feel like sisters! It is also a blessing that our kids love each other (the picture below is minus 3 kids!)

The kids have loved being able to read in daddy’s hammock (there are actually trees to hang it from!), wash the “cars”, and swim in pools. Ed has also enjoyed taking a break from working in our apartment or coffee shops, and actually getting to work outside!

And if you see Brynn in the next few weeks, please know that we do not beat our child. She has had a couple of nasty falls chasing after her siblings and she looks rough!

Please continue to pray for a great rest of our trip, for safety as we travel to Raleigh on Saturday, and for God to finish our team of ministry partners.

 

Traveling to the South

We made it to SC!!  What trip with the Hetzels would be complete without a little drama?

On the plane, I sat on the aisle with Brynn in my lap, the girls sat behind me, and Blake and Ed sat behind them. Across the aisle from me was a man in his 50’s (sitting by the window) and his middle-school aged son. The plane flight was going smoothly until we landed and at that point, I look over to the dad across the aisle and I notice that not only were his eyes closed, his head was hanging down and was very limp. I watched his son try to get his attention and the dad didn’t respond. At this point, the son and I both at the same time realize and voice that something is wrong. The boy alerts his mom who is sitting ahead of him, and she tries to get her husband’s attention. It took a few minutes but he finally opened his eyes and looked up, even though he didn’t lock eyes with her. Then, he locked eyes with her an then a minute after that, he was able to respond. When she asked him what had happened, he said “I don’t remember anything.” He said he was having a few chest pains, so we aren’t sure if it was a heart attack or fainting episode, but the EMTs met us at the plane and took him to the hospital to get checked out. Even when we were leaving, you could tell that he wasn’t back in his right mind. It was super, super scary watching someone not respond and having a medical episode. Crazy! The flight was so eventful that sweet Blake feel asleep on the drive home.

We have spent the week visiting/presenting/giving updates to churches and individuals who partner with our ministry, having appointments with potential new partners, seeing family, spending a few days with my parents at a campground in Myrtle Beach on vacation, and time enjoying doing and eating things that we only get to experience in the South. It has taken some adjusting to getting used to traveling by car again (Blake asked one night when we got back into the car “How many stops until we are there?”) and riding in car seats and we have really struggled with seeing so many people who look like us….we miss that about NYC….but overall, it has been a smooth transition and our kids are loving having space to run and be loud. Rather than walk through each picture, I am just going to post a ton of them and let you experience some of our week through pictures.

And then today, Ed got to cash in on his Father’s Day present from us and his parents – a voucher to go skydiving. Ed loves crazy, high, adrenaline-filled things (he is a 7 on the Enneagram if that tells you anything!) and so when we had a chance to get him something like this, we jumped on it. Needless to say, he was thrilled, loved the entire thing, and can’t wait to do it again. I will watch him every time but you will NEVER get me up there. Crazy man.

Please continue to pray for our trip here in SC and NC. We are trusting the Lord to get our ministry partner team back to 100% before we return and we have complete faith that God can do it – will you pray this with us too?

Ye of little faith

When we started this summer mission, I was very doubtful and nervous. Last year, we had 19 students and this year, we had 11. Last year, we were totally fine on budget and this year, due to 3 students dropping the week before the summer mission began, we were in the hole and had to make drastic budget cuts and decisions in order to even start the summer mission in the black. Last year, we were excited and trusting God for big things but this year, due to all the drama before the summer mission began, I was already worn out and so nervous about what the summer held.

It was like God said “Oh ye of little faith…see what I can do.” This year we ended up having only 14 less spiritual conversations than all of last summer (and that was with 8 less students/staff than the summer before) and having 11 people accept Christ! Praise God for how He moved in students’ hearts! We also came in under budget – which, if you knew the circumstances and details, is a HUGE miracle! Despite my nervousness about the summer, it turned out to be one of the best summers we have had here in the city. God did great things in our students’ and staffs’ hearts, as well as those we encountered. Here are some quotes we heard from the end of project:

  • I have grown more in 5 weeks than in 2 years of knowing Jesus. I learned about surrendering my life to Christ, learned about the Holy Spirit, learned about eternal perspective (never heard that before). Sharing my faith is as easy as sitting down with someone over lunch.
  • I can see how God grew me from  beginning to end. I can now share the Gospel, I feel capable and equipped – it doesn’t end here!
  • I came in not knowing my worth and now God has shown my worth to me.
  • I learned that our faithfulness and obedience has a continuous ripple effect beyond what we can see.
  • We saw God continually answer our prayers this summer. I learned to be obedient and spend significant time each day talking with God.
  • The Lord revealed to me the deep root of my pride, but in that He taught me about his deep love and redemption.
  • I learned that my identity is found in Christ and not in my works or my talents. I have learned to read the Word, enjoy Him, and experience intimacy with Jesus.

One of my favorite stories from the summer was hearing about Ronise making a decision to surrender her life to Christ. Ronise met Elise and Taylor in a busy area of campus at LaGuardia Community College in Queens. Ronise became so immersed in the conversation that it was like she didn’t even notice the swarms of people walking by. LaGuardia is a campus with heavy security in which we aren’t really supposed to be on the campus since we aren’t students, much less sharing the Gospel, so we try to lay low near the security guards. During the part where Taylor was sharing the Gospel with Ronise, the security guard “happened” (no coincidence!) to be distracted by something at the other end of the room and wasn’t watching them as they read Scripture and talked about placing your faith in Jesus. Taylor started crying as she heard Ronise’s heart and then watched Ronise pray a prayer to Jesus asking him to forgive her sins and make her a child of His forever – a prayer that lasted 3 minutes with her eyes closed and head down in a very busy intersection of campus. 

The Lord even started teaching me some deep truths this summer that I shared with the women on our summer mission and hope to one day share with you all, one day soon when I work up the courage to be open and vulnerable for everyone to hear. I am missing this group something fierce this week as it feels like our family (or at least it has been the last 5 weeks) is missing. Thank you for the significant part you played in 154 people hearing about Jesus, 11 trusting in Him for the first time, and our 22 students and staff growing deeply in their faith!

The question we get now is “What is next?” After summer mission ended last week, we rested over the weekend before we turned around and started heavily planning, making calls, making appointments, etc. to work on ministry partner development. We will travel to SC and NC over the next 4 weeks to have some R&R, visit our support bases, see current partners and churches and meet with potential new ones. Would you pray that God goes before us, letting us share with passion and vision about what God is doing in NYC and leading people to join our team in partnership to make this vision a reality? We are trusting God for a lofty goal but, as he taught us this summer, He can make it happen!

I couldn’t end this post without sharing pictures of our weekend and 4th of July. We spent last weekend letting the kids play in the sprinklers and have a picnic in Central Park and celebrating Emerson’s graduation from pre-school group at church to the older kids and then we spent fourth of July playing in Long Island City by the water, having a cookout with our small group friends, and then watching the fireworks with different friends from our roof. I have said this before, but watching the fireworks from our roof is the best thing ever. You can see fireworks going off around the whole city in all directions AND you get to enjoy them without all the loud bangs! Who needs to watch the Macy’s show on TV when you can watch it in person? The picture below doesn’t do it justice as you can barely see the fireworks on the right hand side of the pic, so just take our word for it.

And just for those who think Brynn will never get hair, check out this picture. And I think she may even have her mama’s curls. Its about time – the girls hair is wavy, but we need one of our 4 kids to have my ringlets. 🙂

Next check-in will be from the South!

NY SM Week 5!

Week 5 is in the books! My goal is to write a more in-depth post next week about the ways we saw God working this summer and what He did in our students’ lives, so let this just serve as a brief overview of our week, and not the final summation of the summer mission.

This week, we had our final staff meeting, had seminars for the students to attend (boundaries in relationships, transitioning out of college, and financial stewardship), walked the Brooklyn Bridge, took our group photo in Brooklyn, ate delicious pizza at Juliana’s in Brooklyn, went to campus for 4 days, had the last Bible study and discipleship appointments, ethnic dinner, had our staff banquet, and had our final celebration banquet with both staff and students. Which is actually going on right now, but due to a kid who got strep throat TODAY instead of waiting until project was over tomorrow, I am at home writing this post instead 🙁

Our goal for the entire project was not only for our students and staff to see God change, grow, and transform their own lives in significant ways, but that they would step out in faith to have good conversations and see what God was going to do on campus with other students through them. Our goal was that we would see 10 students place their faith in Jesus, and we are excited to say, we have ended our summer mission seeing 11 students place their faith in Jesus! Yay for answered prayers! We are so proud of our students and staff. I love seeing how far God brings them in having good spiritual conversations from the first week to the last….such growth! Here are the people who made decisions this week (minus Israel who didn’t feel comfortable getting his picture taken).

This girl below, was so sincere, and she prayed for like 3 minutes quietly to God (even with people constantly walking by in a busy area of campus) when she was asking Him to forgive her sins and begin a relationship with her.

Here is our complete project picture!

One of my very, very favorite parts of project (besides seeing God cause so much growth!) is that my kids get to regularly interact with staff and students who not only love the Lord, but who sincerely love on them. These pictures are just a few examples.

Here are a few pictures of our time eating at Juliana’s and taking pictures at the Brooklyn Bridge area.

Ed, thanks for being a great dad and husband even in the midst of a challenging, exhausting, and work-filled summer. You have served us well and this family wouldn’t function without you!

And this picture shows our amazing leadership team for the NYC Summer Mission. Meghan, Ellen, and Ed, thanks for making leading something this big and challenging and God-sized a great adventure and lots of fun. Thanks for your grace, truth, and hard work – we worked like dogs but had a blast in the process. I have loved no drama and lots of fun – it was a blessing from the Lord to work with ya’ll!

We spent some time of the weekend showing my cousin Makenzie around the city and visiting her “bucket list” places like Washington Square Park (where we saw an awesome performance by both some dancers and our kids 🙂 ), eating cookie dough at Do, and visiting Chinatown.

For our ethnic dinner this week, we had food delivered from a food truck called Makina Cafe. The really, really fun part is that Makina Cafe (specializing in Ethopian/Eritrean food) is owned and ran by my old college roommate (who was also in our wedding). I loved being able to give her business and taste her delicious food, but the ultimate best was being able to hug her sweet neck. So proud of you Eden!

The girls had their last day of school followed by a visit to the theaters to see “Incredibles 2”. They are going to miss their friends and teachers, but are excited for a more relaxed pace and time with us.

We had our nice staff dinner at a restaurant on the water in lower Manhattan overlooking the Statue of Liberty. Then, we headed to Chinatown to eat dessert at this place called Milk and Creme cereal bar, where you get ice cream mixed with cereal and toppings. Delicious! Little did we know, the night was going to get interesting. We had an incident on our train where a guy who were clearly impaired got in a couple of our staff guy’s faces and tried to fight them (at our stop, he got off the train and got back on while arguing with another guy so who knows what happened when they left our station)…having been here in the city for a while, it was a bit scary and I really thought the guy was going to attack them (which would have been crazy in a group with 4 guys and one of them having police training and one of the girls having a black belt in 3 forms of martial arts). Then, after dessert, we tried to get on a train but the station was filled with smoke, nasty smells, and nasty noises and we learned that a train was stuck on a track and there were no uptown trains going that way. We tried uber. We tried another train which went a few stops before getting stopped because there was an incident on the last train car and they needed to investigate. We tried uber again. And then, we finally ditched it all and took the Long Island Rail Road back to Queens. Talk about a crazy night and having issues getting home. I told Ed it had to be a full moon (which of course we can’t see in the city) and sure enough, I found out that it was.

Again, I would love to share more about what God has taught me this summer and what He has done in our staff and students’ lives, but thats a whole ‘nother post. Til next time!