Haiti

11011056_10152705523048994_3997068729463449874_n
From March 7th – 14th I traveled to Haiti on a mission trip with 32 other students and adults from Bell Shoals. And it was an incredible trip!
 
For the last two weeks I’ve been processing it all and I will continue to do so for a very long time.
 
When you visit a country like Haiti you are impacted in ways that cannot be fully explained. In order to fully understand you have to experience it.
 
Since most people have never visited Haiti, and because I was changed by it, I’ve wanted to post about it. But I’ve been struggling to find the right words. How do you put into a single post what was such an eye-opening, life-changing and kingdom-impacting trip? You can’t perfectly. So I’ll cut myself some slack up front and briefly share some of what I experienced. What I saw.
 
I saw breathtaking views of Haiti’s mountains, lakes and coastline.
 
I saw our students stretched outside of their comfort zone and step up to serve others and share Christ.
 
image
I saw children walk miles to get to school and many without shoes.
 
I saw women and children carrying water and other materials on their heads.
 
I saw beautiful smiles, joy and contentment in so many of the Haitian people even though they have so little.
 
I saw poverty. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Clean drinking water, food, health care and education are just a few of their essential needs that we in America don’t think twice about. To find out more about Haiti click here.
 image 
I saw the necessity of partnering with an organization that has ongoing contact with the community you are serving. We partnered with Greg, Maria and Caleb Shepherd with RTS Missions. They are making a HUGE impact in Haiti. People are being saved from earthly struggles and eternal separation with Christ through their ministry. To learn more about RTS click here.
 
I saw that a mission trip really can make a difference. We fed over 1200 children a hot meal, many of which had not received a hot meal in over a week. We saw the power of holding a child’s hand, giving a hug and tangibly showing love to others. And most importantly, our team led over 100 children to accept Christ! In talking with Greg, he told me of a young girl who had been present for 12 mission team visits to her school in the past. Each team presented the gospel, but she did not accept Christ. The 13th time a team came she decided to give in and accept Him. Each of those first 12 teams had a small part in God working in her heart. And had they not gone, that young girl would not now know Jesus. There are countless other lives with similar stories. Going matters!
image
Finally, for the first time in my life I grasped the weight of Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:31-46. Verse 40 sums it up well:
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Jesus cares passionately about reaching the lost. He also cares passionately about loving the least. I needed, and I believe our churches need, a renewed heart for the least. To not love them may lead to dangerous consequences. To love them gets closest to the heart of God. Read all 16 verses and you’ll see what I mean.
image
There is certainly a whole lot more I could say and some key things I’m sure I left out. Maybe I’ll write a part 2. In the end, God changed my life in Haiti and I’d go back in a heartbeat. Not to just experience it all again, but to be used by God to make a difference in the lives of others. To love the least. And reach the lost. Until next time, I pray I will live out the change that I’ve experienced here at home in Brandon, FL.
Haiti has my heart.
 
10155870_10152726309968994_1244758817784476873_n
Advertisements

7 Things God Has Used To Grow My Faith

imagesW82MI83J

The past two weeks I wrote about how you can grow in your personal relationship with God. I focused exclusively on having a “quiet time” and shared how that has been the single greatest factor in my spiritual growth. It’s what I tell students to focus on as well. Nothing will grow their faith as much as personally owning it on a daily basis through getting alone with God.

While I believe this wholeheartedly, after I finished those posts it got me thinking. What else grows our faith?

What else has been pivotal in growing mine? Because even if having a quiet time is the foundation, there have to be other things that have helped, right?

Yes.

In the same way lifting weights is foundational for muscle growth, doing that alone won’t give you maximum results. There are other factors that contribute to it happening. Good genes, right diet, drinking enough fluids, rest between workouts, proper sleep, etc.

So what are some of those other factors for growing your faith? Here are 7 things God has used, and continues to use, to grow mine.

 1)      Daily Quiet Time.

This is relationally connecting with God through prayer and reading the Bible. Last week I did a whole post devoted to this called “Have a Quiet Time.” You can check it out here.

2)      Relationships.

We were not created to be alone. We were created for relationship. If we are going to grow in our faith we must be in relationship with others because God often speaks in and through them.

Other than having Christian friends, two other strategic relationships have grown my faith tremendously.

Small Group: Gathering together with a small group of people allows for accountability, encouragement and conversation about faith.

Mentor: Finding someone who has been following Jesus longer than you to pour into you makes a major impact on your faith. I currently have a couple of people I consider mentors that I regularly talk and meet with. I’m so thankful for their influence in my life!

3)      Church worship services.

There is something special about coming together with a large group of people to worship through music and learn about how to follow Jesus through teaching. When everyone stands to sing truths about God, that collective “song” is a reminder of the faith you have. And when the pastor brings a message from the Bible, your faith is engaged. Find a church with practical teaching that focuses on Jesus in all it does.

4)      Application, application, application!

Learning a whole lot of stuff is great. But if you do nothing with it, it’s just knowledge that makes you spiritually fat. Growth comes when you apply what you’ve learned. If you don’t, you are deceiving yourself into thinking you are doing okay. (James 1:22) Take what you learn and put it into practice. You’ll always know more than you do, but working to shrink that gap has been pivotal for my faith.

5)      Serving others.

I heard it said a while back that we are never more like Jesus than when we are serving. And it’s so true. More than that, it grows your faith. I’ve experienced some of my greatest times of growth through serving others on mission trips, volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, serving in a nursery at church, feeding people at a homeless shelter, etc.

Also, serving in the way God has gifted me has been an even greater catalyst for my faith. God has gifted each of us in unique ways to serve others. Have you ever taken the time to figure out your gifting and served in that way?

6)      Reading and Listening.

I regularly read books and blogs and listen to sermons and podcasts of influential people. By doing this it allows for other people to speak into my life and help me grow in my faith. I may never meet them. I may disagree with them on certain points. But it stretches my faith and challenges me with a real-life example to follow.

7)      Sharing with Others.

If you want to remember something you’ve been trying to learn, teach it to someone else. The preparation and delivery solidifies it inside of you. It’s the same way with your faith. Since I teach publicly on a weekly basis on matters of faith this is an easy one that God has used. But there are two other ways I can share that grow my faith. I can share with others  what God is teaching me and I can share the gospel with non-believers. When you share the gospel with someone it increases your trust in God and reminds you of what it is you believe.

I’m sure there are more things, but these are the 7 that are most obvious to me that God has used to grow my faith.

What are some other things God has used to grow your faith?

PIC credit here