Thursday, July 31, 2008

Yet another poem...

In the vastness of your creation
Is where I long to be
To breathe in and taste the beauty
Of your creation; all I see

Lying down under the velvety sky
Midnight blue and moon so bright
Stars illuminate and sparkle
Dance across the open night

And the ocean how it never ends
It goes far beyond my vision
The horizon I will never touch
The ocean waves that know their limits

Majestic mountains high and low
Rivers wide that run for miles
Perfect views of sunsets bronze
The way each view can captivate my eyes

The perfection of a new infant
The laughter of children young
The beauty of encountering romance
And one day uniting as one

How a moment can soon be a memory
A memory, a sweet or bitter past
How each day I encounter such beauty
May I take time to notice and not do things so fast

Take time to notice the small things
The rain and the scent that it brings
The vast summer sky and horizon
The crisp autumn leaves and trees

Each moment you spend with a dear friend
Or a day that you have with your mom
Make the moment of every small thing
For one day they will be gone

You can never change your yesterday
Only memories are what it holds it now
You can only determine tomorrow
And only you decide when and how

So, take time to notice the beauty
Of life, love and family
You won’t have it here forever
So let go of bitterness and seek peace

Revealed deep beneath
Inside your heart of hearts
Is the ability to love and see
Who God is and who you are

Amber Denae Collins

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Modifying Moments

I’ve begun to reminisce about days gone by, different things and defining moments that have influenced me and inspired me to be the person I am today. People who have challenged me, motivated me and pushed me beyond my boundaries and into more than I thought I was capable of.

-The night I truly dedicated my life to Lord, when my life changed and when I desired to know God, seek and pursue Him. I was 11 and I will never forget my heart literally feeling as though it would pound out of my chest due to my inability to breathe, my whole body ached as I heard the most intense salvation message I had ever heard. Yeah I was raised in church- practically born in church and I knew about the Bible and Jesus but I never really knew Jesus. I knew about Him, I sang about Him and I learned about Him but I never grasped or scratched the surface of this man I often colored pictures of and heard amazing stories about. I remember that night so well, I remember where I was and everything, that message felt like an eternity and I could feel my soul, I could feel my spirit and I knew that I did not really know God and I ached to. I ached to experience true salvation and a true experience with the creator of the universe and this man who gave His life for me. My mouth was dry and I was doing everything within my power to hold back the flow of tears (I never liked showing emotion publicly; I was always a very private person). My whole body was shaking and it was almost as if I was in a sprint for a race impatiently waiting for the blow of the whistle to take off. Finally after what seemed an eternity He gave the altar call and I did not hold back, I knew I needed to get right up there and immediately, I ran. I fell to the floor and I began to weep, never like I had before in my entire life. It was a deep wail from inside of me and I began to repent and cry out to God in a real way. I felt Him, I had never felt Him that strong and I knew He was there. It wasn’t just something I was told anymore- it was something I knew because I experienced it. I don’t remember much after that except I was on the floor for a long, long time and different people came and prayed for me and hugged me. I just stayed there, I didn’t want to get up, and I didn’t want to leave- I’m sure it was well over 2 hours before I got up and I was never the same. I was a new creation, I really had Jesus and I really had a burning passion to know Him and be with Him more than ever before.

-The time I cried my eyes out on the hard cold floor of the little chapel at youth camp for hours that I felt I had actually become one with the ground just because I wanted Him so badly and I wanted to live for Him and nothing more.

-Moments spent in sweet silence when my heart would be filled to capacity with the things that God was speaking to me.

-Days when I would live and seek out just to talk to one person about my faith and always looking for opportunities and reasons to do so.

-Deep talks with dear friends enriching and refreshing each other’s souls.

-Diving into the word and clinging to every single word I read as if I had not eaten in days.

-Moments of utter abandonment and sweet surrender, not just feeling as though I was losing control but allowing Him to take control for me.

-Hour upon hour spent in the secrecy of my bedroom in silence listening to hear Him speak and crying out to Him.

-Passionate times of worship and adoration pouring from my lips and abounding from my heart of hearts in awe of who God is.

-The simple sweetness of a conversation with my dear friend Meagan about our dreams and hearts.

-Those moments when I felt insignificant and God would send a special person to say a few small words to reassure me He hasn’t forgotten nor are my prayers and cries diminutive.

-Being pushed outside of my comfort zone and into a position I had no reason in obtaining and watching God use me despite how inadequate I felt.

-Accepting the need to surrender and learning what it means to truly lay it all down and take up your cross- (I still need to work on that).

-Moments spent in brokenness, tears pouring with a continuous flow, words were absent as emptiness surfaced. Yet, I could feel myself becoming closer than I had ever been.

-Moments of betrayal, disappointment and hopelessness- when people who I thought were everything turned out to be different and hurt me. Their facades and masks eventually wore off and revealed what was truly inside.

-When I realized that I need not put my hope in man- they always fail and they always disappoint, even I, myself disappoint.

-The times I lost loved ones, the grief and heartache I experienced, the emptiness that it left me and the complete dependency that it created.

-Learning lessons the “hard” way, by experience.

-The day I realized that I wasn’t stuck- and just because I had never dated anyone and vowed to only date my husband did not mean I had to marry the only person I had dated when I knew it wasn’t right.

-Morning coffee and conversation with my mom.

-Having the profound opportunity of serving in a Spanish church- I loved it and I learned so much. It was a beautiful experience.

-Every missions and ministry trip I’ve ever been on- they’ve all been amazing, eye opening and life changing.

-Every opportunity I’ve had to meet amazing men and women of God- little God encounters with people who have like spirits with mine and hearts similar to mine- ah so refreshing and encouraging.

-Moments when God reminds me of His faithfulness, in the little things and the big things.

And there are still so many more- I would not be who I am today if not for all of these things, moments, people, hurts, disappointments, brokenness and opportunities. If you have contributed any amount to who I am today, good or bad, whether it be a family member, close friend, acquaintance, or leader in my life, I thank you deeply, you have made a difference in the person that I am today. Thank you.

-Amber Denae

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mexico- Part 3

After our adventures in the mountain villages we returned to the compound in Victoria. It had been a long couple of days and we were drained- our leaders decided that we would just take it easy that night, get showers, rest and share with one another highlights, stories and things that had touched and blessed us. It was sweet. When it came my turn to share I just had so much to talk about regarding those two days (which is kind of unusual for me in a group setting like that, especially when all eyes are one me). I was so impacted by the genuineness of this ministry. I was even talking with one of the ladies on the trip that night and was stating that this was true "new testament" ministry- this is what Jesus was talking about when he said "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations". These were true apostles. They are truly giving their lives for this- this is what they live for and they carry such joy in it- they're not in it for the money or offerings, they are simply and doing the work that God has called them to do in humility. They are doing it to reach people, to raise up ministers and laborers, to educate those who may never get the opportunity to have an education and to provide a solid foundation through the word. I had never seen anything quite like it- I have heard stories and heard of people like this but never saw it up close and personal. This is true ministry.

I believe it was wednesday when we went into the city of Victoria to go evangelizing. They divided us up into two groups and we walked through some very poverty stricken areas within the city. Dilapidated homes resting beneath the mountain range, no sense of hope or fulfillment found and again we came in contact with more children. Their circumstances were very unfortunate- there were mothers with babies that hadn't been fed properly, one lady had a little girl who was paralyzed, another man in a wheelchair living in practically nothing. It was heartbreaking- tears literally streamed from eyes almost the entire time. The leader of our group was a lady from the church named Maria Louisa. She was one of the most incredible people I have ever met- you could literally feel God's presence around her. Everywhere we went we invited people to come to a cell group and we brought diapers, formula, juice etc. with us to give to people with children. As we went from house to house and person to person we invited them to come and Maria Louisa immediately began talking about Jesus with the brightest radiance on her face- God was inevitably speaking through her. One lady invited us into her tiny home- her living room and bedroom were combined and she only had one more small room off of that for a kitchen which was really nothing. She had two children, one beautiful little girl and an adorable baby boy. She began to cry and tell us of things she was facing- real, difficult and trying circumstances. Maria Louisa shared Christ with her, the hope we find in Him, the truth we find in Him and the life we find in Him. This woman began weeping and clearly stated that she wanted to accept the Lord into her life. We prayed with her, cried with her and rejoiced with her. After we finished praying, Maria Louisa stated that she would be consistent in visiting her every week and picking her up for life group- discipleship. I loved that! They don't just tell people about Jesus, have them pray the sinners prayer and say, "Well, I did what I was supposed to do." (Which can actually do more harm.) No, they consistently disciple them and raise them up as leaders. I also noticed that everywhere we went Maria Louisa carried a pad of paper and pen and she asked people what it was that they needed as she penned each item to be sure she would not forget to bring those items to them. Wow.

Another home we went to was that of a mother who had a little 5 year old girl who had a spine condition and and brain disorder. She can not walk and her brain does not function properly. They too live in this area and we know good and well that they probably can not afford the medical treatment that she needs. We prayed and prayed for this little girl, I kept pleading with God- "just heal her Lord, let us see her healed right now". I know that the Lord has His timing for everything and His will is above ours. We prayed and prayed. I could sense God's presence in that little room and the little girl smiled, I don't know exactly what God did in her at that moment but I know it was the beginning of something.
Again, I was so touched by all of this. I could not keep my eyes dry for very long and that time went by very quickly- too quickly. I suddenly realized that this is it- this is really it. We have such a mindset here in America as an American Christian that if we go to church every sunday, read our bibles for a few minutes a day, pray over our meals and before bed then we are really doing it right and we for sure have a place in heaven. But is ONLY heaven our goal? I surely hope not. Have we neglected to reach out and take the time to do what the word of God tells us to do? I know I have. God opened my eyes on this trip to see how desperate people are, yet we withhold from sharing our faith because we don't have time, we don't think they will listen or we care too much about what people think. If we are truly Christians then God will speak for us and through us. It will show in our demeanor, it will be displayed in our actions and people will notice that we carry something different, something attractive. It's simple, it's not rocket science. We have the power of God living in us, we have the greatest hope in the world. We have had a real experience. "The man with an argument can't argue with a man who has had an experience."- I can't rememeber who said that but it's so true.

Here are some more pictures...

The beautiful mountain range in the city where we went evangelizing.

Allison, Meagan and I before we went evangelizing.

Going from home to home

Outside one of the homes.

Sadly enough, I did not get many pictures of us evangelizing because we were praying and talking with people a lot. I know a lot of people who did and I am waiting to get copies of their pictures and I will put them up when I do because they are really good. Thanks for reading!

Love and blessings,
-Amber Denae

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mexico- Part 2

The same night (after we did all of the childrens ministry at the base in Tanculin) we headed even further up the mountain to a village that even Chacko (the missionary) had not been to before. Upon arriving we encountered many children, some ran up to greet us while others hid and quietly observed from the sidelines. It was almost as if they had never seen white people before- which Chacko assured us some probably had not. Chacko had planned to show a christian kids film on a projector to the kids but quickly discovered that they had forgot the projector down at the camp. The children had already shown their anticipation and excitement that there was only one thing to do- go back down the mountain and get it. This made time for us to go into the village and invite more people to come- young and old. We walked the indecent mountain road and ventured into the village to begin to befriend and invite anyone and everyone. While we were waiting for them to return with the projector we were bombarded with lots and lots of kids and so we taught them some games and talked to them about Jesus and simply loved on them. They were so open. Many other people began coming and were watching from the sidelines- parents, children, teens and young adults. Finally Chacko arrived with the projector and set up for the movie. He showed a Max Lucado film in spanish and I don't think I've ever seen so many kids sit so still and quiet for a movie as these did. More and more people began trickling from the mountains down to this basketball court to watch and observe. After the movie we divided the kids into groups and each one of us took a group and we gave them gifts and candy- wow were they grateful. I had about 9 little girls and they sat in a circle and stared intently at me the whole time giggling and smiling. I spoke with them in spanish and began teaching them some english- they loved it! They kept pointing to different things and asking me how to say it in my language. I loved every second of it- the gleam in their little eyes was so sweet and it touched me deeply. Chacko told the kids before we departed that he would be back the next monday with buses to pick kids up for a special christian camp they are doing for kids in the mountains- it's amazing. I have so much respect for this ministry.

Here are some pictures from that night...

Heading further up the mountain- somewhat of a scary drive but beautiful!

Ashley and I in the village

Two little girls who walked with us to invite people to come

They wanted their picture taken :)

Meagan talking to the kids about Jesus

Sweet girls

They LOVED having their picture taken and seeing it on the digital camera- it made them laugh so hard!

She was an absolute doll

There were so many people- pictures do not do it justice

getting ready for the movie

These few girls were in my little group

Megan, Ashley and I with some more of the girls and their toys we gave them

After a very long, hot, tiring and fun filled day needless to say we were exhausted!! So, we got ready for bed and our sleep was not entirely sweet seeing that we had spotted two scorpions, spiders and the mosquitoes nestled up with us in our sleeping bags. Ah, lovely :)

This concludes the "mountain experience". It was the most difficult considering the humidity, heat, sleeplessness, and inability to take a shower but definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip! Two of the girls on the trip got dehydrated and nearly passed out from not drinking enough water thus we had to leave a little earlier than we expected. However it was a great experience and it definitely made me appreciate the many blessings that I take for granted.
I will write a part 3 later- I think if I put more in this blog it would be too long.
Thanks for reading!
Much love and many blessings!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mexico- Part 1

So, for those anticipating this post and for those who were not and could care less, well this is for all of you =)

Mexico, mexico, mexico! It was great, beautiful, wonderful, extremely hot, very humid, challenging, hard, heartbreaking, life changing, eye opening, rewarding and so many other words that I can not think of right at this moment.

I do not think I will be able to accurately convey all that occurred during this one week because there is just way too much, but I will do my best to collaborate stories and pictures for you!

Just before we crossed the border!

This is the sanctuary at the compound we stayed at. "Casa de Esperanza" which means "House of Hope" in spanish.

Meagan and I Outside of the compund

Megan R., Allison, Me, Meagan and Ashley

Some of our team

Olga, Suni and I. They were two of the girls who worked at the compound and they cooked for us everyday, very sweet girls.

Some of the kids singing in the church- so cute

this little girl was absolutely precious!

Meagan, Allison and I with some of the girls after the service

Allison and I with more little girls- they were so lovable.

This was the team- minus a couple of people. We had a really great group, i loved everyone.

On Monday we woke up really early and left the compound at 6 am to head up to a town way up in the mountains called Tanculin. It was about a 6-7 hour drive up in the mountains. Chacko (the missionary we stayed with) is from india and he has an amazing testimony. He moved to the U.S. from India to pursue the american dream, start a business and make lots of money. Well, not too long after he had begun to do this he had a encounter with God that changed his life forever and God told him to go to mexico and take these mountains for Him. He obeyed God, sold his business and headed to mexico. He told God, "I'm not going to ask anyone for money, you told me to come here and so that's your problem". (Yeah, I'd call that faith). God has provided since the beginning. Well he built a compound in Victoria, MX which is where we stayed most of the time and he has planted a church there, a training center, dorms and everything. It is really nice. He has also begin to go up into the mountains to plant churches in places where there are none! It's amazing!

I had the opportunity to talk with Him a bit when we were up in the mountains at the place where he is establishing a ministry and he began to tell me the story of how it began up there in the village of Tanculin. God brought him there and told him to plant a ministry there and so he went to the village people and told them he wanted to buy land- they told him no repeatedly until he would not give up. He was very persistent and perseverant in asking. Finally the village people told him he could buy a piece of land and they offered him the worst possible piece of land, it was practically a hole off of the side of the mountain- something we would look at and say- "That's impossible". He agreed and took it!! Not only that but he had teams come in and fill the hole with land and now it's one of the nicest pieces of land in the village- he is building a sanctuary and dorms, there are beautiful banana trees, mango trees, and flowers and not only that but the people who denied him and laughed at him are coming there! I was practically in tears when he was telling me the story. He has such a great amount of faith and trust in God. It was encouraging and inspiring. Here some pictures of the camp now, it's called "Casa de Restauracion" which means "House of Restoration".

This is the view from on top of the building that is going to be the dorms. (Keep in mind- this used to be just a hole on the side of a mountain).

This is going to be the sanctuary and they are going to build dorms on the top. This is also where we slept while we were there (accompanied by lots of mosquitoes, gnats, spiders and even scorpions that we saw!!- pretty creepy)

This is the inside.

Shortly after we arrived we were divided into 2 groups to go out and invite children to a special service we did for them. Thus began our hiking journey through the mountains led by some adorable little kids we met along the way...

It was absolutely heartbreaking to see the conditions these people lived in- they barely had homes. Most of the houses didn't have four walls or even a roof.

I told you- we hiked up a mountain. These kids were taking us everywhere they had friends or where they knew kids lived- it was so sweet.

This little girl stayed right beside me the entire time and held my hand- it was precious.

These two little guys pretty much led the way while head locking one another at the same time...ha ha.

After we did our little hike and invited lots of kids we headed back down to the camp (Casa de Restauracion" to begin and this is what we found...

and they kept coming...

Bowing their little heads to pray.

I don't remember what she was telling me, but whatever it was completely captured my attention. She was a doll.

These guys had a serious arm wrestling competition

There were so many kids

Sweet Vicki

Little Vicki and I

Meagan and I- very hot, sweaty and tired but having lots of fun with the kids :)

Okay, so that pretty much sums up the first like 3 days- there is so much more but I am going to conclude this blog for now. I will write a "Part 2" next. Hope you enjoyed it! It was amazing and there is still so much more to tell about and I've even left stuff out!