There are No Small Acts of Kindness.

Two weeks before leaving Korea I met a girl named Mali from South Africa (of course when I first met her I thought her name was “Molly” because I from Michigan, oh how I love different cultures). She approached me after Sunday service at our church location in Itaewon (Seoul). I was surprised that she wanted to talk to me because I was intending to seek her out. I saw Mali at the beginning of church and she was so happy and excited to be there, I thought, “I must meet her.”

Mali attends our church campus down in Busan. It turns out that she wanted to meet me because before she moved to Busan, Korea she learned about New Philadelphia Church through this very blog. Mine. THIS ONE! I am sorry. I need everyone to think that is as cool as I do, because it is so cool… right? Thank you for introducing yourself to me Mali, it was the highlight of my year (or… at least one of the highlights).


Fast forward a few weeks to another completely unrelated meeting, but one that equally blessed me (aka made me so happy). I was in Holland, visiting one of the many campuses of The Point Church,the church I went to growing up in Michigan, when someone came up to me and said, “Hi! I heard I needed to meet you. I am Kristen.” It turns out Kristen studied abroad in Australia and I heard I was moving there. She was sharing her love for the country when her eyes lit up and she said, “Wait a minute!” Reaching for her purse she pulled out a MyKi public transportation card that she had kept in her wallet for a year from when she visited Australia last. She said there might still even be money on it (there was! 4 dollars!) and it saved me the 6 bucks it cost to buy it.


What a beautiful gesture. I felt God’s love through that card in a way I can never describe with words. Not only did I not need to worry about one more thing when I got to this country, but the fact that Kristen was so excited to give it to me. Thank you, Kristen.

From Mali telling me that she read my blog and to keep writing to Kristen giving me her public transportation card, there are no small acts of kindness— they are all big to me.

 

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My Burning Hands: Australian Edition

In September 2012, I wrote a post titled, My Burning Hands. It’s a short read, feel free to click on that link and check it out.

In Detroit, Michigan on Wednesday, June 29, I started a 26+ hour journey, making sure I had my own hashtag #movingmeltomelbourne (I am hip), as I traveled on 3 planes to Australia. The excitement for this move has been building for well over a year as I wrapped up my life in South Korea (seven years!) and anxiously waited to join my team who launched a church campus in Melbourne (New Philly) at the beginning of April.

A few weeks before my flight I asked God to give me the chance to talk to people about who He is before I even landed in Melbourne. I normally recede into my mind and watch a whole lot of movies when I travel, and I didn’t want to do that this time. I wanted to be bold (as one might say) and actually share my faith with those sitting around me if the opportunity came up.

I woke up Wednesday morning with a migraine and my four hour flight from Detroit to L.A. was miserable. My only thought was, “I have to feel better for my 14 hour flight, I have to feel better… I have to feel better.”  All thoughts of talking to people, encouraging people, sharing about my faith and why I was moving to yet another continent, flew out the window. My flight leaving Detroit was delayed, and my layover in L.A. was already cutting it close. As an extremely time-oriented person, the amount of stress I felt stuck in insane L.A. airport traffic while taking the bus that commuted you to the international terminal, was so intense I was holding back tears when I finally reached the security check point. Staring at my watch tick by one minute after another I made my concerns known to a security guard (by way of fearfully exclaiming, “My flight is boarding now!”) who told me to take a deep breath. Well, that wasn’t helpful. I cried instead. With 10 minutes to go until my flight took off, I scooped up my stuff without bothering to pack it away and ran to my gate. I was proud of myself for remembering to put my shoes on.

I made my flight, sweaty and flustered, but I made it. The adrenaline rush from running across the airport released my migraine. Nice, right? It was. The Australian guy in the seat next to me continued to strike up conversation after I felt the need to explain why I was so sweaty and out of sorts. Our plane ended up sitting on the tarmac for over an hour, but I didn’t even notice because I chatted with my new friend, Taz, the whole time. After I told him about why I was moving to Melbourne he told me that he just finished doing DTS with YWAM (a lot of acronyms, but if you know what they mean you are probably excited, if not, it means he is a Christian, like me-fun!). We went back and forth with different stories about our life and faith and what we’ve seen God do. I ended up sharing the story about My Burning Hands (it’s all making sense now, eh? Okay maybe not yet) and how I saw my friend’s leg grow to match the length of her other leg after I prayed. Not only was Taz excited about the story, he mentioned his own back needing healing because of a slipped disc (I think? I was just recovering from a high stress situation after all) and he was worried about the pain a 14 hour flight was going to bring.

As soon as our flight took off and we both went into our own zones of movie watching and sleeping I prayed for his back. I had my hands out, palms up, in front of me and they began burning immediately. I thought my mind was playing tricks on me, but after a few minutes I almost regretted praying so soon because my hands really were burning, and painfully. I ended up praying for his back about three times off and on during the flight, with my hands burning each time (thankfully not for the whole flight.). About 30 minutes before we landed I asked him how his back was. He looked at me, “Did you pray for my back?” I smiled, “Yes!” The first time he got up during the flight he felt a release in his back and the pain was a lot less. He was so excited about it and disappointed that he didn’t tell me before I asked. “When I first got up and my back felt so much better I thought, ‘Did Melody pray for me?’ I need to ask her!”

Taz asked me more about what I wanted to do in Melbourne and ended up praying for me as well, I was so encouraged and refreshed after my 14 hour flight to Brisbane, I couldn’t wait to get on the next flight headed for Melbourne.

I believe that prayers are powerful.

James 5:16

 

April: Compelled by LOVE by Heidi Baker

“Today it is fashionable to talk about the poor. Unfortunately, it is not fashionable to talk with them.”

Mother Teresa

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In Heidi Baker’s book, Compelled by Love, she shares a LOT of Mother Teresa quotes. Now, I have heard of Mother Teresa (I mean, in case you were wondering), but it wasn’t until reading this book— written someone who respected her very much, that I feel like I know more of who Mother Teresa was as a person. But that is just a side note… (I like side notes.)

Heidi Baker uses this book to talk about how God called her to love people. To love the poorest of the poor, the richest of the rich, and EVERYONE in between. But mostly, she loves those who have no material possessions, lack food, shelter, and people in their lives to tell them they have value. Her stories in this book blow my mind. The amount of times she has seen a small amount of food feed hundreds, thousands, more than it should is so COOL. The number of people who were blind and now see, who were deaf and now hear, who were DEAD, and are now alive— I mean, what?!

But what tugged on my heart string the hardest were the stories of the children, orphaned, who learned to find worth in themselves because someone reached out and loved them. Loved them through their diseases, their fleas, their fifth, their anger, their violence, their hopelessness.

Love is powerful. Love changes lives. Love changes whole countries.

I am not sure how this book came into my hands (Jee Young?), but I am glad that it was on my bookshelf.

March: Become a Better You by Joel Osteen

As I mentioned in my February book post, this month’s book was Become a Better You with a delightful smiling Joel Osteen on the front cover. It’s cheesy, and I love cheese.

I was warned that this book was long. I was told that this book might be hard to get through. I was also informed that this book is amazing. I found all three to be true. Joel Osteen is a man of examples, and giving situation after situation. After read the meat, and skimming through a few examples, I realized something. Out of all the people reading this book, one of those examples is going to set someone free. It might not be the first one, or the fifth, or the seventh. But ONE of them will. So, I say— write those examples Mr. Osteen, write away! I know how to skim.

One of my favorite quotes from the book, “The world does not need to hear another sermon nearly as much as it needs to see one.” Amen.

Another thing he says that really “set me free” so to say is, “Tremendous freedom results when you accept the fact that not everyone is going to like you.” WHOA. I really want everyone to like me, it’s just my personality. Writing that down makes me feel vulnerable, but there it is. And you know what? It’s not going to happen, and I need to accept it. Okay. I think I have accepted it. Maybe.

“Faith doesn’t instantly deliver you, but it always carries you through.” That Joel Osteen is a WISE MAN.

Summarizing this book is easy. To become a better you, you need to be better, and surround yourself with people who will build you up (aka, make you better!). And smile often. Okay, well that is what I got from it…

And to do that you need to “keep your eyes off of your problems and onto your God.” You also should not let “other people determine your potential” and “often, out of our greatest rejection comes our greatest rejection.” Because “what happened in the past is not nearly as important as what is in your future” and “your destiny is not determined by your critics.”

“We attract what we continually think about” so think about things that are true, things that are good, things that are pure, and righteous, and HAPPY.

Okay, I basically just strung a bunch of quotes from the book together, but it’s good right? Now I just need to apply it all (I am trying to smile more often, and it’s fun).

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Any suggestions of what book I should read for the month of April (or May or June)? Sound off in the comments! Oh my, I have always wanted to say that.

February: Confessions of a Reformission Rev. by Mark Driscoll

I made three new year’s resolutions this year. So far I haven’t blogged every week (oops), and I haven’t even started to think about exercising… and I have probably started eating worse (Kindergarten teachers NEED CHOCOLATE). BUT I HAVE, I have read a book each month that has some type of faith/spiritual theme to help me grow more in my “Christian walk” as we Jesus folks like to say.

I have been late blogging about it though—oops, again. My library (aka, Jason) lent me this book and I read it within three days, or something like that. The church in Seattle, Mars Hill, led by Mark Driscoll has always been on my radar, but I didn’t really know much about it. I have heard a few sermons by Pastor Mark Driscoll, and I always enjoyed his sense of humor and controversial preaching topics.

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After reading this book I can understand the whispers I have heard of why this man of God rubs some people the wrong way. I get why people love him (me!), and I get why not everyone is his biggest fan (maybe, you?). The thing is, Jesus was offensive. What is that phrase I love? “Jesus offends the mind to get to the heart.” Yes, that’s the one. God needs people like Driscoll, a man with a strong back bone, who isn’t afraid to tell people how it is, whether or not how he thinks it is, is actually right or wrong. Someone who is willing to make mistakes and then learns from them, and in the process, has a whole lot of successes too.

His book is a story about perseverance and faith. He starts with church statistics and then breaks the book up in chapters by sharing what was happening when Mars Hills had 0-75* people in attendance, 75-150, 150-300, etc. eventually ending with the thousands of people who attend today, and the plan for adding thousands more. (*I forget the actual number markers of each chapter and I already gave the book back, but I think it’s close to that.)

Side note that is semi-relate to the book: my feelings on mega-churches have drastically changed since I was a young child, or whenever it was that I formed an opinion about big churches. I like you church, big or small, I like you.

We are living Acts 29. Let’s do this!

For the month of March I am going to read, “Become a Better You” by Joel Osteen, also on loan to me from my library, Jason!

New Year’s Resolutions 2014

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Picture: I rang in the New Year with my Dad, Amie (sister), and Jordan (brother). My mom fell asleep at 11, she almost made it!

I have never been a fan of “New Year’s Resolutions.” And not because I was someone who made them and then could never keep them.

I refused to like the color pink growing up because everyone said pink is a “girl’s color” and since girls are supposed to like the color pink, I decided that I didn’t like it. I am not exactly sure where this mindset came from, but I didn’t like to be put in a box and I didn’t like to do things because everyone else did them. The world did things one way and I liked to do things a different way.

Here’s the thing though, I really do like the color pink.

I didn’t want to make New Year’s Resolutions because everyone else made them.

Here’s the thing though, I really do like New Year’s Resolutions. So, last year, for the first time… I made one. I called it a goal because I was still trying to avoid the whole “resolution” label. But, call something by any other name and it is still that something (or however that quote goes). My goal was to be more creative. I made this goal after my cousin asked me to do Project Life 365. In 2013 I took a photo (well more than one photo, but I chose ONE photo) every day each day of the year. This was just the tipping point. Making it my goal to be more creative spilled into my faith and my work. I started writing for re.write magazine and discovered that as someone who doesn’t like boxes, I had put “creativity” in a box my whole life. I discovered that my blogging, my writing, this is creative too.

As I look back and reflect on 2013 I can tangibly see evidence of how I grew in my creativity. I want to be able to do the same thing for 2014. This time my goals, sorry, my resolutions, are more challenging. Which has me sitting here wringing my hands together nervously. But, ahhh shoot, here I go…

1. To blog at least once a week (I can’t believe it’s been over a MONTH since I last posted!)

2. Read at least one Christian book every month (and to look to mentors like my pastors and other ministry team leaders to recommend these books to me)

And I am terrified to put my last goal out there, even though it’s probably on 99.9% of people’s list because it’s you know, the ONE resolution that most people make and break…

3. Eat better AND exercise (eewwwww!!!)

I have friends who find a verse for them to meditate on for the year, and I can’t believe I have never done that because I love this idea. So this year I have a verse too! I  went to 1 Timothy to find it because I still have this overwhelming feeling of youth. At times I take pause and think about how I am a grown woman with a full-time job, I think about how teaching is my career, and I get a little bit terrified at the thought because I feel SO YOUNG.

I have always wanted to love people completely and totally the way Jesus loves. And to do so I must have a pure heart (pure motives) and a good conscience (stay accountable) and a sincere faith (unashamed of the Gospel!).

My Verse:

“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5

I don’t have fingerprints

It’s after weekends like this past one that I cannot doubt my faith, my belief, my God. #itaewonleadershipretreat2013 #yesIjustbloggedhashtagged #ohdear

Not that I didn’t believe before. Especially after this past season of my life… and for myself, I realized I need to timeline it out. Write it down. Remember. I need to remember.

Spring of 2013

March 

I accepted a position at a Canadian school in Seoul, teaching Kindergarten. It would be my fourth job and fifth year living in Korea. God is a fan of uprooting me.

April/May 

I gathered all my paperwork and started applying for a British Columbia teaching certificate, a requirement from my new- very Canadian- job. Now, when I say I gathered all of my paperwork I mean that Canada wanted everything but the actual limbs on my body.

I sent my fingerprints to the FBI in the States for the background check I needed in order to change the work visa in my passport.

June 

Back in Michigan for the summer, I received a rejection letter from the FBI. They explained that sometimes this happened and I would need to send in another set of prints. I have successfully gotten my background check three times, so I was a little confused… but not worried.

I was more worried about getting all the paperwork I needed for my BC teaching certificate, which required documents from every teaching position I have ever held… documents those schools needed to fill out.

July 

Yearly coffee date with my friend Gina. Sitting outside of Starbucks enjoying the beautiful summer weather in Michigan, I sipped my chai tea latte while Gina told me that she had been praying for me all day. The one thing that God told her was, Melody’s visa will work out. Gina didn’t know I had to send in my fingerprints again, and that in order to get my visa to work in Korea, I had to have a background check completed. I felt relief. My visa would work out.

Aug.4

Back in Korea, I get a text while I am half sleeping on the floor of my new apartment. Before I fell asleep my mom’s text read, “We got your background check!” I fell asleep in a state of joy, knowing I would still have enough time to get the rest of the process done before work started. I woke up the next morning to a text from my mom saying she opened the letter and it was actually another rejection. I cried.

I rally myself together and have my parents fedex me the rejected prints. I fill out two fingerprinting cards, though I wanted the CSI to do five sets. They refused. I send in the third set of prints on August 6.

I wasn’t able to fully unpack, my boxes still available in case I had to move back home… to America.

Sept.10

I called the FBI once or twice a week during the first few weeks of August. They kept telling me I had to wait a minimum of five weeks before I could get any answers. At the very beginning of the fifth week I called again. I talk to Monica, explaining that I am checking on my FBI background check, to see if my prints cleared. She looks something up on the computer and says, way too casually, “Aaahhh, yep. Looks like they were rejected.”

What.

I calmed myself down enough to explain my situation, that this is my third time sending in prints, and if I get rejected again I lose my job. After those words flew out of my mouth I started to cry (like the ugly cry). Then, something amazing happened. Monica was empathetic. She put a flag on my file and e-mailed some special division asking them to take a look at my prints again.

Up until this moment I had been trying to hold onto the word Gina gave me back in the summer, that my visa would work out. But it was hard. I had no faith for it, not yet. As soon as I got off the phone with Monica my faith soared (that is after I called my dad and started crying again). I realized that it had to happen now because it was actually impossible, and God makes the impossible, possible!

I threw away all of my boxes.

Sept. 11

No word back from Monica. So, I call the FBI again. Michael tells me to call back. After I get a hold of Monica she tells me that regrettably she had not heard back yet and they may have already destroyed my prints. Destroyed fingerprints? No big deal God’s got this.

Sept.2

On the phone with Monica for the third day in a row, and while I talked to her she received an e-mail from the special division, saying they would look into my situation.

Sept.13

Woke up to and e-mail stating, “This e-mail is being sent on behalf of Monica. Your prints have been processed. Your results were sent in the mail. -FBI communications department.”

I pumped my fist in the air and thought, “Go God!”

Sept.23

I receive my background check via fedex from my daddy.

Sept. 25

My school drops off my paperwork at immigration. Except. My former job never sent in a release letter. In the Korean system I was still working for someone else.

Sept. 26

I contacted them old job, they send letter over to immigration. I planned to head to Japan with the visa number on October 2nd.

Sept. 30

On Monday, I asked my work to contact immigration to make sure I would get my visa number before I headed to Japan on Wednesday. They explained that they had not started processing my paperwork yet (which normally takes a week) because my old school sent in an incomplete letter of release, something about a missing stamp…

Oh, and there was a news report talking negatively about my new school and other schools like it (all false statements), so immigration shut down the processing of visas for my school.

Immigration. Shut down. All visa processing.

My principal storms into my classroom (stressed about the negative news report I am sure) demanding to understand why the release letter wasn’t at immigration, because if it had been the processing of my visa number would have already started. I had no answers. But I did know that even if immigration only decided to process one visa within the next 24 hours, it would be mine. Because God’s got my back. But… I couldn’t exactly tell that to my boss. I prayed instead.

Oct. 1

Immigration started the process for my visa.

Oct. 9-11

I walked out of the Korean consulate in Fukuoka, Japan with tears in my eyes. I looked down at the visa in my passport and can’t believe that I finally have it.

***

Long story short, I may have no fingerprints… but I God. He is all I need.

A week after I got my visa one of my pastors preached a message at a prayer meeting. During her sermon she gave me a shout out, briefly explained my situation, and told me exactly why I am still here, in Korea. And I agree. I completely agree.

Listen to Pastor Erin’s message here. Seriously. It is really good.