I need..

"I need Africa more than Africa needs me. When I think of Africa, the following images immediately come to mind: Starvation, AIDS, Child soldiers, Genocide's, Sex slaves, orphans. From there, my thoughts naturally turn to how I can help, how I can make a difference. 'I am needed here.' I think, 'They have so little, and I have so much.' It's true, there are great tragedies playing out in Africa every day. There is often a level of suffering here that is unimaginable until you have seen it, and even then it is difficult to believe. But what is even harder is reconciling the challenges that many Africans face with the joy I see in those same people. It's a joy that comes from somewhere I cannot fathom, not within the framework that has been my life to this day.

The images spilling out of my television showed circumstances that could seemingly only equal misery, and I was fooled. I bought into the lie that circumstance defines happiness. The truth is, in Africa I find hearts full of victory, indomitable spirits, in places where despair should thrive, instead I find adults dancing and singing, and children playing soccer with a ball crafted of tied up trash. Instated of payback, I find grace. Here, weekend getaways are not options to provide relief from the pains of daily life. Relationships and faith provide joy. Love is sovereign.

My new reality...I know now that my joy should have no regard for my circumstance. I am ashamed by my lack of faith, but at the very same moment I am excited by my new pursuit. I'm forced to redefine the meaning of having much or having little. I'm uneasy with the prospect of change and of letting go, but just the thought of freedom is liberating. I want what I have learned to trickle down from me head into my heart - I no longer want to need the 'next thing' to have joy.

I'm not saying that Africa does not need our efforts. It absolutely does need our partnership. But for me, I've come to understand that I NEED AFRICA MORE THAN AFRICA NEEDS ME. Why? Because it is Africa that has taught me that possessions in my hands will never be as valuable as peace in my heart. I've learned that I don't need what I have and that I have what I need. These are just a few of this continent's many lessons. I came here to serve and yet I've found that I have so much to learn, and Africa, with all its need, has much to teach me."- themochaclub.org

This is a direct quote from the back on my mocha club shirt. When I read these words I realized I couldn't have said it better myself, so why even try. Below is a video, also from themochclub

I miss these face daily 
I pray for these faces daily 
I love these face
I can not wait till I can hold
and love
these face again!
I will not leave you
as orphans 
I will come to you
John 14:18


Ok ok, I realized I just posted and most bloggers wait a couple days in between post so their readers can actually have time to read but I am far too excited to wait!

I have been praying for for an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and show Christ's love. Well today God gave me that opportunity!

I was driving home from work when I saw a woman walking on the side of the road. My first reaction: Should I? Is this really safe? I quickly shook my head and recognized this is my opportunity and immediately pulled over. She got in thanking me right away and told me her car had run out of gas and her phone had died just as she had gotten a hold of her son and said "I am stuck".We talked for a little bit before I asked her where she was from (she had an accent) to which she replied, "Africa." I couldn't contain my excitement and told her I had just returned from a missions trip to Rwanda and Ethiopia and was planning on returning. She began praising the Lord right there. She told me, "I was praying to God for help and than he brought you! This is not a coincidence, God planed this!" She goes to an African church (roughly 50 people attend from all over Africa) right near where I live and invited me to come, visit and share. She than went on to tell me that God places people in our path for a reason and she wants to give financial support for me return to Noel. We exchanged numbers and plan on talking soon.


I can't help but think of the traffic and that slow car in front of me, and how I actually left work on time today. But that just proves how God designed my day so that I would end up in that exact moment with that opportunity. I can not even began to tell you how big and glorious God is. He gave me an opportunity, I said "yes" and as a result blessed me even more than I could have ever imagined. God is so good!

Something New

I thought I would give you guys a break from reading my novels, try and a be a little creative (who am I kidding, I took this idea from someone else) and instead todays post is a video. Yay! But wait, don't get too excited. You still have to read. Only for a little bit though.

*I would mute the youtube video. The cards are unnecessarily, and unintentionally loud.

Thank you!

Dear Family and Friends,

            Thank you. I cannot express the amount of gratitude I feel towards you and the huge role you played in my ability to go to Africa. Fourteen days in Africa changed my life forever. The way I look at things has changed, the things that I want (or thought I wanted) has changed, my plans have change, I've changed, and I couldn't be more grateful. This trip has opened my eyes in more ways than one. I don't think I will ever fully be able to explain or put in to words what God did; it was that powerful, that big, that life changing. I don't think I can say thank you enough for the prayers and support you have blessed me with before, during, and now that my trip has come to an end. From December 27th-January 7th I visited five orphanages; Kimisagra, Noel, Imbabazi, Korah, and Kidane Mihret.
Kimisagra is home to 90 orphans built at the top of a cliff. 45 children sleep at the orphanage and 40 sleep at the homes of foster families, but return in the mornings for meals, as these families cannot afford to feed them. Even with just 40 children sleeping at the orphanage 3, sometimes 4, sleep horizontally on a twin size bed. A cavern serves as a cooking area, a small refectory doubles as an extra playroom and the toilets and showers were basic holes in the ground. There was a small play area about the size of an average living room where 90 kids plus the 15 of our team members squeezed into.
Noel orphanage is the oldest and largest orphanage in Rwanda. Noel is home to over 650 children, ranging from a day old to 25 years. The children live in the most appalling conditions. They are well cared for and loved by the volunteer mothers who come in from the local villages but they live in very cramped, smelly and extremely hot conditions. Many mattresses were permanently stained with urine and set out to dry in the sun when another accident occurred. I witnessed the special needs room. They were about 10 kids that filled a tiny room. Most were sitting by themselves not making any noises. Some of these kids were not born with their conditions but suffered trauma during the genocide. The other children in the orphanage did not seem to understand that these kids had special needs. They would call them “foolish” or “messed up in the head”. Because there are so many kids and so little nannies many of the kids are not given the attention and love they crave and need.
In the aftermath of the genocide, at the age of 82, Roz Carr founded an orphanage on her flower plantation in the foothills of the Virunga volcanoes. The orphanage is called Imbabazi, which means “a place where you will receive all the love and care a mother would give.” Since it opened its doors in December of 1994, Roz and her staff have cared for more than 400 lost or orphaned children. The Imbabazi is currently home to 110 children and remains a haven of love and safety and a symbol of hope for all. Imbabazi was one of the nicest, and most beautiful, orphanages we visited. The girls are learning to sew and the boys make woodcrafts which they sell to make money but they are all most interested in continuing their education and work very hard to do so.
             Korah is located in Ethiopia. All the children we interacted with were found at the local city landfill. They would play, sleep, and eat at the trash dump. At night they would have to bury themselves within the trash to avoid being eaten by coyotes, however, they had to make sure they didn’t bury themselves too far otherwise they would suffocate. These children had no hope, no future, but praise the Lord for Project 61. Project 61 is working on sponsoring the children and getting them of the dump and into school. Every child I interacted with had a sponsor. Right now they can’t take on any more children because of space limitations. It was wonderful to see 90 kids with sponsor but there are so many more wandering those trash dumps that deserve the same opportunities.
Kidane Mihret was the orphanage I felt had the most hope. This was the first orphanage were I actually got to meet children that were being adopted. The children were very polite and courteous but they were also a little distant. I didn’t make as many connections here as a result but still loved watching the children get their face painted and play soccer among other games. This orphanage also had a special needs room and babies rooms where it was very cramped. So despite the hope I felt at this orphanage, these children still needed attention.
No child should ever have to go through the things I saw or heard, or live in those conditions. Every single child deserves to have someone love and care for them. Despite the all the dreadful conditions of each orphanage and child, they were happy. They had so little yet were willing to give what little they did have as gifts to me. They knew the meaning of family and love and the expressed that with no selfish intentions or expectations, just unconditional love. I believe that is why I felt so close to God while in Africa. These children were living as Christ walked among us as sinners. They truly were an inspiration.
There were so many faces, so many smiles, so many tiny voices, so many hands reaching out hoping that you grab on. I walked away from each orphanage with so many things to say about the people I had the pleasure of interacting with. Some that will make you smile and laugh, others that would make you cry. I visited and loved on so many of God’s beautiful children but one place in particular that captured my heart was Noel.  
I was fortunate enough to be at Noel for two full days and then for a couple of minutes on the third day that followed. God broke my heart at Noel and then built it back together with ever touch, smile, face and voice that filled that orphanage.  It’s as simple as that. The second I stepped off the bus I was met with hand holding and hugs and questions. The second day I went and found Tara. Tara had gone on a previous VO trip and returned to Noel shortly after that for a year. Frank, my leader, helped me find her and that’s when I said it out loud for the first time. I want to return to Noel and live there for at least a year, exactly what Tara’s doing. She told me a little of her story and how she got started. We really only talked for 15 minutes, maybe not even that long, but I walked away from the conversation feeling peace. I can honestly say I had never felt such an overwhelming peace. Not only did I feel peace at Noel but I also felt whole. After two days Noel felt like home to me. The day that we had to leave I broke down. I tried to hold back the tears throughout the day but when we were loading the bus to leave I couldn’t help but let a few fall. Some words I will never forget, “I love you.” “I will miss you” “I will never forget you” and finally right before I got on the bus for the last time John D’Amour said to me, “You will come back, two weeks is not long enough.” As we pulled away I lost it. I knew there was no way I could leave these kids, this place. I knew I had to come back, just as John D’Amour said, “Two weeks was not long enough.”
All I can say over and over again is God is so good! After everything I have clarity and my life makes sense. Everything that has happened in the past happened for a reason and was leading me to the moment I stepped off that bus at Noel. One of my friends from my team described it as having all the pieces to the puzzle and finally being able to see the full picture; Gods picture., and let me tell you it feels amazing. God has called me to go to Noel. God has confirmed that is where He wants me to be. So for now I am anxiously awaiting until May, for when God allows me to return to where I left me heart. 
I still have a long road a head of me in returning to Africa so every prayer, thought or encouraging word that are sent my way mean the world to me. I am excited to return and begin meeting and interacting with new kids as well as continue to build relationships with the ones I have already been so blessed to meet. I am excited for God to push me out of my comfort zone because when that happens I have nothing else to do but lean on God and allow Him to work in wondrous way through and around me. Here it is said best, “To be right smack dab in the middle of God’s will is the best place to be. To trust him for everything is the wisest and safest place to be. It’s also the scariest place. It’s that place where we surrender all control and say yes to literally anything God wants to do in our lives. It means that what we thought our lives would look like and the plans we made for ourselves will be replaced by and hard all to glorify the name of Jesus.”
Thank you again for all the support you have blessed with me with and being apart of this incredible journey God is taking me on.

Elise Cooper

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18

Happy Valentines Day

                                                                Happy Valentines Day!

I have so many people that God has blessed me with that I love dearly. Today I celebrate those people.

                                                            And so many more! 

Today I also got to marvel in the fact that I am in love with an amazing God, and that He loves me back, even when I disobey, even when I allow my sin to pile up, even when I run away, even when I ignore him, even when I am angry, he continues to love me. His love is real. He knows me inside in out. He knows my hopes and dreams, my desires, my likes and dislikes, he knows my comfort zone, he knows my secrets, He knows things that I haven’t even admitted to myself. He know my embarrassments, He knows my sin. And again He continues love me. He loves me so much he sent His SON to die for me.
Jesus suffered. He was betrayed, He was denied, He was abandoned, He was bound, He was mocked. Soldiers stripped him, put a scarlet robe and a crown of thorns on Him. This spit on Him, they struck Him with a staff (after he had already been flogged). He was nailed to a cross, took on the weight of the worlds sin and was crucified. Christ felt anguish when He took on the sins of the world, which caused Him to be separated from His Father. Why? Because we deserve that kind of loving sacrifice? Absolutely not. He did all this because he loves us and wants to enter into a relationship with us. 

John 3:16  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God. who loved me and gave himself for me.
Ephesians 2:4-5 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, evenwhen we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—
1 John 4:9-11 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Romans 8:37-39 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 John 4:7-8  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

No one ever could love me like He does and I could never love someone as much as I love Him. 

Kidane Meheret Children's Home

Kidane Meheret Children's Home is a catholic orphanage, and the last orphanage we had the privilege of visiting. I will be perfectly honest and admit that by this point I was emotionally exhausted. I didn't know if I could handle connecting with one more kid and than leaving them only a couple of hours later. Despite feeling incapable I knew God was in control and trusted Him. The first few hours I did not connect with a single child, instead I watched everyone else, face painted, went on a tour of the church and got to know a few more of my team members. It wasn't until the very end that I met someone.
All the children were running around with crepe paper and we were just about to begin the candy cane demonstration when a little girl approached me. She smiled and handed me one of her many papers and began to laugh. She was so full of joy and suddenly I realized, I may not be able to handle the heartache of leaving this child, but I can lean on my Father and we will make me whole again. He allowed me to lean on Him and love on this child. Her joy blessed me. We played with our crepe papers, held hands, she gave me a picture of herself, took a picture with me, gave me a hug and walked me to gate to say goodbye. I don't know this little girls name, and I don't know if I will ever see her again but I do know I will never forget her and the gifts she gave me that day; the gift of joy and a deeper understand of Christ's love.

Elaina, an amazing woman from my team, wrote about her experience that I would highly recommend you reading here. You won't regret it.

I have never been adventurous, bold, courageous or brave. I’m a homebody, comfort is a big deal to me. I tend to be picky but like things very plain. I am OCD about certain things. I like to take a hot shower everyday. I like to come home from working only 7 hours and relax by watching T.V. I have been very fortunate to not be in debt or have to worry about certain expense because of my parent’s love and generosity. I was supposed to graduate from college get a job, get married, have two kids, live a “normal” life. But that’s the thing, I don’t want a “normal” life. We as followers of Jesus Christ are called to live differently. We are supposed to stand out. Instead of living for ourselves, we are living for Him. So I may be different now, my plans may have changed quit drastically, and many people may think I’m crazy or weird or different (however you’d like to describe it) but I am going to embrace this. I am going to embrace being transformed and renewed by God, following in His will, obeying His commands, loving Him with all my heart. I am excited to live differently so that others can see Christ through me. My life is comfortable and convenient and I could easily continue with my planes for a normal life. It’s not a bad plan, but it’s also not the plan God has intended for me.
The moment I saw those children, those orphans, in Africa I knew nothing would ever be the same; I would never be the same. My plans for my life has been thrown out the window and with it my expectations for how the rest of my life will look. I haven’t even gone back yet and I still catch myself (and sometimes it’s after the fact) getting too comfortable, almost falling back into my old ways. It’s hard having to jump back into a routine as a different person. It’s hard wanting more than anything to be back in Africa with those beautiful children but having to wait. Right now everything just seems hard. That’s when I close my eyes, and like a flip-book, I see their faces, one after the other. I touch my bracelets and remember the smiles that tied them on. I remember that God has a perfect plan and perfect timing. That everything I am facing, struggling with, going through, God is right by my side, holding my hand, and helping me through it all, even when I stumble or stray He is there for me to lean on; He will not leave me. This is not the plan I had for my life at all, but I am trusting, following and embracing God’s plans, for they are far better than my own.  

Objections and Fear

This was another hard post to write, and may be hard for some to read, but I believe it was necessary for me to share because it is apart of my journey in following God’s calling to Rwanda. I also want to be honest and share with you how God is working in my life and the things He is revealing to me.

Since I have returned home I have struggled with being here. Not only because I am away from kids that I have formed relationships with but because of the reaction I received.

As I was getting on the plane for home I kept over hearing team members say how hard it was going to be. Because I knew it was only a matter time before God allowed me to return I didn’t think it would be that hard. How foolish of me. I was hit with reality as soon as the plane landed and I met my Dad at the airport. While in Ethiopia my team member John was gracious enough to let me use his laptop to send a message to my parents and tell them I have some big/exciting new and to prepare themselves. The first thing my Dad asked me when we got into the car was, “So what’s your big/exciting new.” Some of their theories; I had met someone. I was engaged. I was going to be nun. I was going to move. As most of you know the answer to the question As soon as I told my Dad this I got a serious of questions, the biggest being why. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t come home thinking everyone would get it. I knew they wouldn’t because they didn’t see and experience Africa as I did. I understood and accepted their concerns. It is only natural. What I didn’t expect were the people I care about the most seemed the most intent on 1. Trying to convince me not to go 2. Not trusting that God would keep me safe. I thought these people would understand this was not something that I planned, but it also wasn’t something I was doing on a whim because I “felt bad” about what I saw. This, moving to Rwanda, is something God is telling, me to do. To listen to those that love me and remain here in the states would be a deliberate disobedience to my heavenly father. God did bless me with so many people that love and care about me but ultimately God has my best interest in mind. He knows what I need, what I desire, He has created a plan for my life to bring glory to Him! I am not special, I don’t have any unique talents or gifts, but I am the daughter of an all powerful, all knowing, loving God who works in and through me. I am living my life for God and will continue to do so despite others objections and/or concerns.

This week, one night in particular, I was really struggling with everyone’s comments. I opened up my Bible to Matthew chapter 16. When I read verses 21-23 I had to stop and thank God. Matthew chapter 16:21-23 reads From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” In my application part I read, “Great temptations can come from those who love us and seek to protect us. Be cautious of advice from a friends who says, “Surely God doesn’t want you to face this.” Often our most difficult temptations come form those who are only trying to protect us from discomfort. Could God not have planned that reading any better?!

So I know many of you may be concerned, and I appreciate how much you care and love me, but you need to understand this is 100% a God thing. Because I know without a shadow of doubt that God is calling me to Rwanda I have no fear what so ever and neither should you. I think we tend to rely too much on outside help, such as guns, deadbolts, security system, police men etc. that we forgot God is bigger than all these things and people. He is the ultimate protector.

Please understand this post was not aimed or directed at anyone in particular. This is something that I have just been struggling with and God is helping me through. Also please understand that I do have many people that support me, most of the people who originally objected have finally accepted that this is Gods plan for my life, and those that haven’t I will continue praying that God would open their eyes and hearts. If you could pray with me that would be awesome! 

Thank you all for continuing to read and joining me on this new journey. There is still one more orphanage that I have to write about and than I don't know what but God certainly does and I'm excited to see and share what that is.