Heading Back To The Heather

I've been loving running in the bush that is behind and surrounding our base at YWAM Noepe. I love it because it's a beautiful combination of alone time, exploration, discovery, and exercise. Last week I was pushing my limits on a six mile run when I came to a particularly muddy part of the road. An elderly man was weaving his way through the puddles on s bicycle so I decided to jump across a few of them in order to give him the right of way. Can you remember how long ago you, as an adult, jumped across puddles? I can't. In fact the very action of it brought me so vividly back to jumping puddles on the lane behind my home in Scotland that my heart had a few odd palpitations and I had to gasp for breath to recover. 

In just over two weeks I will be back in Scotland and will walk that same lane for the first time in 12 years. I've spent half of my life dreaming about returning. I moved to American when I was 13, and now almost half my life later I am returning as a 25 year old. I long to see Scotland's highlands again to breathe in the air, hike the trails and let's be honest, get rained on a lot. My heart yearns to hug my friends many of whom are more like family, to cherish their smiles and laughter again, and to meet their growing children. 

I'm curious what the adventure of returning home will teach me. I left feeling very Scottish and return feeling very American. I frequently ask God what He will teach me during this time. It feels like I am getting an opportunity to return to a very happy dream I once had more than it does my childhood home. 

I wonder if my expectations are too high, my memories idolized over the years. I wonder if it will be more beautiful and peaceful than I even remember. Only time will tell. 

It's no accident that I was born in raised in the United Kingdom, but I often wonder how it shaped or developed me. What parts of me or my personality are uniquely British (are there even any anymore) and how will God use those for His glory?  

So I'm off to the heather and highland cows I head, to find out more about myself, or not. Either way I am excited for this adventure that I've waited half my life for that is now just a plane ride away. 

Getting From Here to There

I’ve truly loved every car I have ever owned, and I say owned loosely as most of my cars have been owned by my parents technically. My first car was a 93’ grey ford ranger. It was a small truck with a single cab with a manual transmission and a burgundy interior. It was my car for two years then my sisters car for two years, both of us very proud of our cute little truck (and our ability to drive a manual). My next car I went in 50-50 with my parents after my freshman year of college. It was a red PT Cruiser, I forget the year but it had automatic locks and a sunroof. While it was a bit of a “dorky” car I loved it deeply as I had helped pay for it, that is for the two months I had it before totaling it on a country road. My next vehicle was another truck, a blue Chevy Silverado with an extended bed and extended cab. We called that truck “the beast” as it was massive. After that car almost bankrupted my parents with gas bills, they sold it and I inherited another identical PT Cruiser that had been my grandmothers. I drove that for a few months before leaving for Hawaii. In Hawaii I did not have a car for my first year, and shared a car with my friend for a few months my second year. It was an old Ford Explorer Sport, a cute little two door SUV again with a manual transmission. I adored that car, but when my friend left Hawaii I was forced to sell it. A year and a half later I bought my friend’s car off of her when she left the island, a little red Plymouth Breeze sedan. It was the first car I ever bought all on my own, and I loved her, even shipped her to the Big Island when I moved there.


A car has always given me a great sense of freedom. I was one of the last in my class to turn 16 and get my license and truly was itching for the freedom it would give me. I could go where I want, when I wanted to. My friends can attest that I like to be in some sense of control on our outings. Even if I don’t have to, I often like to be the one who drives. It gives me a sense of safety, not safety from crashing, but a safety that I know where we are going, and when and I have some kind of control over when we will be heading home. It is something I have battled a lot, and at times I have done well at surrendering this control, at other times I have not done so well. My friends from Hawaii are no doubt chuckling at how true this admission is.


In Africa I have to throw all of that desire for control out of the window and be completely surrendered to the unknown and unpredictable happenings of the day. For example, yesterday Whitney and I were headed to the closest town over, Noepe to attend a kind of BBQ at a friend’s house. In order to get there we had to walk down the red dirt road leading to the campus and cross the main road, in order to be headed in the right direction. It was just moments before a taxi pulled up, and at first glance any westerner would have thought not only is this toyota corolla taxi is full, its actually already overpacked with a woman in the front seat, three women and two children in the back. That does not stop African taxis picking up more passengers, and it did not stop us. Whitney joined the woman in the front and I the women in the back scooting under a woman more than next to her. I could tell she felt somewhat badly and all I had to offer her was “sa bon” it’s okay, in French. She seemed to settle which encouraged me although I could not quite take in a full breath. Her two children were with her, one standing in between our legs and the other, a baby maybe a year old sat on her lap. Of course the children were quite fascinated by me, a white girl smashed into the taxi with them. The baby had big beautiful eyes and about half way through out ten minute journey the mother, very casually pulls out her breast and begins to feed the child. I began to laugh in my head at the fuss we make over breastfeeding in public in America, while this woman who is basically sitting on my lap has no qualms about feeding her child in front of me. 

    We didn’t know quite where the house was, and accidentally got out of the tax too early. Friends of ours from the campus passed us on taxi motos(motorcycles) and since the house was not too far ahead, sent the motor back within minutes to collect us and bring us to the home. Let me tell you getting on a motorcycle with a skirt on is not easy. After the BBQ we wanted to head to the outskirts of the capitol city to the ATM and grocery store. We struggled to find a taxi, so ended up taking taxi motos to another spot where we could catch a car taxi. As we climbed off the motos I thought what luck there is an empty taxi waiting right there. We clambered in, but what I forgot is that the ti won’t leave until the car is full, in order to maximize. So we waited as the driver whistled and called out to several people, none of whom actually needed a taxi. After about ten minutes the driver managed to find one man, who took the front seat and we headed off. We decided to stop the taxi at the beginning of the road we needed in order to grab a snack. After that stop we got two more motos, stopped at the ATM and headed to the grocery store. Typically I have found that the majority of drivers in Togo ask for reasonably fair rates and don't try to quadruple the charge because of our skin color. But this particular moto driver wanted far more than we knew was fair. Whitney held her ground and called over a vendor whom we have bought fruit and veggies from in the past to help negotiate. After a price was settled on, although both parties left somewhat disgruntled, we headed into the store. On the way back, with grocery bags in tow, we clambered into another seemingly full taxi, and I joined a young man in sharing the front seat.


From my love of driving and desire for control, to having to use multiple forms of transport just to get a few simple chores done. I am being continually stretched in my ability to daily surrender. While getting around here is hard, it is doable and it most definitely is an adventure. It continues to make me thankful for the conveniences I have in the western world, though I don’t pity the people here. They are hard workers and many live good lives, their daily tasks simply take much more time and effort than ours do. More so it makes me ask myself, what do I do with the time I save when I drive myself, or go through a drive through ATM, or simply turn the oven on? Sometimes I pack that “time saved” with extra chores, tasks and activities. Sometimes I stretch that time into how many episodes of my favorite TV shows I can watch. Neither of these examples are bad by any means, and both have their place. But as I return to the US I want to challenge myself to be very intentional with my time, whether that is intentional rest, work or pleasure. I want my life there to continue to have meaning and I want to maximize the time I am given by the luxury of not having to walk for water, catch a taxi, or build a fire for dinner. 

Midwifery by Candlelight

Have you ever experienced running down an African red dirt road that slopes with constant potholes, in the dark with a headlamp while looking out for the potential of stinging ants or snakes? If you never get the opportunity to experience something like this, take it from me, it is not easy. But that is where I found myself Wednesday night as I ran, skipped and jumped my way down to the clinic. A mama had come in to the clinic fully dilated and a student had run up the hill, gloves still on and panting, an indication prior to her even uttering a word, that I should hurry. I made it down the hill unscathed and thankfully without spotting any snakes or massive ants. As I crossed the volleyball court I heard the mama’s cries while being sure to time my duck under the net correctly. I took a few moments and tried to collect myself as I crossed the threshold into the clinic. 

The birth went quickly and smoothly and with the students assisting our midwife, the job of tending baby, one I whole heartedly claim, was given to me. I can’t express the feeling of holding, weighing, measuring, and bathing that brand new life. Welcome to the world little one, you were born to be the dwelling place of the most high God. I pray over them as I diaper and dress them, for the first time in their lives.

Moments after handing this baby to mama, one of our students walked back into the birth room exclaiming that two more mothers in labor had arrived. I knew at that point, it was going to be quite a night. 

The Lighthouse Birth Clinic here in the bush of Africa consists of a small birth room, office and pharmacy (both of which are basically high functioning closets) and the main room which consists of a desk, a bench, a malaria testing desk, a bed and a cloth room that fills a third of the rest of the room and contains another bed. At that present moment our cloth room was occupied by a young 14 year old girl who had been raped. Her parents, upon discovering her pregnancy, had purchased medicine in order to abort the child and after she had giving birth to a 28-32 week fetus at home, her placenta would not come out. That is when they had decided to come to the clinic. Our team of midwives and nurses had worked throughout the day with her to birth the placenta and care for her and she was now resting with her mother.

The two newcomers, both visibly in labor, had to wait in the rest of the main room as we found their paperwork and made a plan as to how we were going to organize it all. As we scurried around collecting their paperwork and beginning assessment the power went out. A common thing here, it did not create panic but it did add to the confusion and challenge of the current events. Over the course of the next few minutes we got candles going and solar lanterns turned on and from there we shuffled the women around moving them from one bed to another as we prepared for two new babies to be born.

From around 10pm to after midnight I sat in the cloth room, a student in the birth room both of us monitoring our assigned laboring mothers. I sat by candlelight reading my book about the life of Paul the disciple and wrote down the frequency of my mama’s contractions. I couldn’t help but smile to myself at the adventure of life here in the bush, the way it constantly pushed our staff to come together and problem solve while still striving to show love to the women in our care. 

I heard my name called in a low whisper from the birth room and as I stepped out of the cloth room the scene before me could have resembled some kind of disaster relief. Though the only light source was a candle I could still make out the form of five sleeping people. The mama who had delivered hours ago lay sleeping on the bed alongside her baby, as her husband lay on the ground beside her. Sleeping on a cot was our young girl and beside her also asleep on the ground was her mother. In another corner of the room was the mother of the laboring mama who was sleeping between contractions behind me in the cloth room. As I stepped over sleeping bodies on my way to the birth room where two more women lay sleeping, I found myself, not for the first time, in awe of the strength, humility, resilience and adaptability of these people. 

That night Whitney and I took two hour shifts of sleeping, although she ended up championing most of the night with a mama as she battled her bleeding. Life out here is tough, but it is always beautiful. There are long and dark nights, but in the depths of the night still the truth remains that the sun will rise again. My constant prayer is that despite my emotional state or lack of sleep, they would feel the love of Jesus through every touch, every look and every word I speak to them. 

The Baby That Came Backwards

"There's a mama" is a phrase that now changes my whole day. It pulls me away from meetings, from meals, and sometimes even away from my beloved bed. Last night after a few anxious sounding knocks that phrase echoed through the screened front door of out communal living room. Being the assistant on call I threw my scrubs on, grabbed my water bottle, phone and headlight and headed out the door with Whitney. The mama that awaited us was having contractions, but not due to labor. She had PID pelvic inflammatory disorder caused by a sexually transmitted infection. As we looked through her book we could see she had been treated some months ago, but was clearly now reinfected. Most likely this means that her husband remained infected and probably reinfected here, that is incredibly common here in Togo particularly because of the abundance of polygamist marriages. This particular mother was actually a patient at another clinic, which is where we decided to send her for treatment. A reasonably uneventful experience, but a very good one to learn from. 


5am rolls around and someone is poking me. "There's a mama" Whitney half whispers at me. I get up, put my scrubs on once again, grab my water bottle and phone (no need for the headlamp since its day light) and I head down the hill to the clinic, Whitney a few minutes ahead of me. "The baby's already here" she tells me as I walk through the door, scraping the sand off my slippers as I enter. "You're joking" I think to myself a little confused. But it wasn't a joke, the mom (a different one from the previous night) had delivered at home an hour early but had been concerned about the amount she was bleeding. As Whitney checked her uterus for firmness she asked me to do a newborn exam, to which I whole heartedly agreed. I weighed, measured, inspected and checked reflexes on a beautiful baby boy before administering antibiotics in his eyes and a vitamin k shot in his thigh. The moms bleeding was fine, but we encouraged her to stay for a few hours to rest and someone would be back to check her vitals and uterus before sending her home. Again more learning, but not the birth I was hoping for. 


It was a slow day and around 4:30pm I'm working on the school's financial spreadsheet. Color coordinated and enhanced with formulas I was feeling rather chuffed with myself when another staff member walks in and utters the evening changing phrase. There's a mama. 


I take my time getting out of my African dress and decide not to put my scrubs on as it's still hot out. On go my patched up elephant pants and a black tank top, I'll probably have time to change before delivery I figure. I saunter down the hill with a quarter full water bottle, my phone and my hand fan - crucial for birth during the day. 


The moment I walked in the room, I could tell two things. Number one, this mama is having a baby tonight. Number two, I like her. She had a cute circular face and short hair with a few small scars on the side of her mouth that looked a little like cat whiskers painted on a child at Halloween. Here in Togo when someone is sick as a child, their parent will take them to a voodoo witch doctor who will cut them in an effort to "release evil spirits" from within them. 


But this mama was strong, I could tell. At 30 she was on her fifth baby which broke my pattern of delivering only  first time African mamas so far. She progressed steadily and a few hours later was ready to push. My midwife Beth asked me, a little before pushing if I wanted to do what was called a four handed catch. Both of our hands would help catch and guide out the baby, her hands helping to lead mine. As mama progressed Beth encouraged me to feel what was beginning to show. What I felt was very hard, which to me made sense as the head is hard. But Beth tole me what I was feeling was actually the bag of waters still intact but taunt creating that hard exterior as it made its way down. A few pushes later and  what looked like a large bubble larger than a softball had emerged, my first thought was that this baby was going to be born en caul or entirely in its unbroken bag of waters. But just as that thought finalized I realized how murky the bubble was, it was amniotic filled with meconium - the baby's first bowel movement an indicator that the baby could be in distress. "Grab the clamp, we need to get this bag open" Beth told me. I grabbed a clamp and tried to create a small tear in the bag, but I was nervous about poking the baby's head so the bag slipped out from my clamp. Again I bit at the bag and this time created a tear as murky water spilled out. "That's not a head" Beth stated as I realized the same. A cute little butt had greeted us as if we had unwrapped a very surprising gift. I placed my hands an inch from each of the baby's hips as the words "hands off  a breech" moved through my brain like a marquee sign. Despite my owns thoughts I asked "should we sweep the legs?" No let them come. Plip, plop. One then the other legs sprung out and the baby looked as if it was doing a strange dance with its bottom in the air reminding me a little of high school prom. This dance comforted me as it was an indication that the baby was alive and okay. As Beth swept one arm out and then the other. "Okay place your finger in the baby's mouth" she told me. I placed my finger at the baby's face, feeling around for the mouth fearful I would poke it in the eye. As I was about to give up I felt my finger sink in and connect with hard pallet. "I have it!" I exclaimed. "Okay we're going to somersault the baby onto the mothers stomach, keep that chin tucked" Beth calmly told me. With on hand in baby's mouth and the other on the baby I helped flip this backwards baby into the world. 


One minute later after vigorous drying, stimulation and two puffs from a positive pressure ventilator this gymnast of a baby let out a hearty cry. "It's a girl" I told mom, as if she could understand me, but she could see her on her daughter there on her chest. This was a source of excitement for me and the mom as we had chatted through a translator (who is also a student in the school) during her labor about her desire for another girl. Adzo will be part of the baby's name which means born on a Monday in Awe the local language, and also happens to be the mom's name! 

Puzzle Pieces

I walk down a red dirt African road towards a tin roofed open-aired dining area with a basket looped over my arm. I hold pink prenatal sheets and organize them by the mother’s estimated due date trying to recall the months of the year in French from lessons I had as an eight year old. I walk through the bush, my arm loose at my side as I run my hands through the plants along the path. I catch a beautiful brown curly headed baby girl and welcome her into the world as I hand her to her mother for the very first time. God delights over our dreams.


Dreams are often like pieces of a puzzle. They build piece by piece until the picture is complete, uniquely designed for us. As a teenager the pieces of my dream puzzle were reflected in my many college major ideas. But, none of those majors completed my puzzle, all falling short of the desire I was still discovering for my life. I actually received a full ride scholarship to attend Indiana State University to be a part of their specialized pre-med program, but turned it down to attend Indiana University on an athletic scholarship. There I bounced around majors that included English, Education, Kinesiology and Women’s Health. Each held interest for me, but none captured me completely. A big piece that I knew in my heart was missing from my education at IU was my desire to work with children in the developing world, specifically in Africa. I remember expressing this desire with tears in my eyes to my athletic trainer as I rehabbed a torn ACL and meniscus. “But what skill can you bring to them?” she asked me. I wasn’t sure. I couldn’t see the full picture, not yet.


The interesting thing about a puzzle is that it is fragile. Even when the pieces fit together, they can still just as easily be knocked off the table into pieces again. My puzzle was never going to be complete until God became the glue. For, in fact He Himself had created my puzzle, He is a part of each piece of it. He took each piece and secured it to another in a perfect and beautiful harmony creating a masterpiece more adventurous and complete than I could have ever dreamed when the pieces stood alone.


I write this reflection as I sit in Togo, West Africa living out the beauty of my own puzzle. I am helping to staff a school that trains women (and even a few men) in the compassion, skills and care of midwifery on the mission field. Half of our students are Western and half are African, all with a desire to improve maternal and infant health care globally. This is the beautiful education piece of my puzzle. As I sit sweating on a bunkbed grading workbooks with red pen, I am so humbled.   Still a student myself, I continue to learn more about the human body, including the incredible intricate path a baby takes to enter this world. I get to learn from teachers and books but also by using my hands to touch, feel and at the most exciting moments,  catch. This is the piece of my puzzle that marvels over and desires to understand the human body. I get the incredible opportunity to work with students and teachers from all over the world, many whom English is not their first language. I get to help them learn my native language while I learn theirs. Another puzzle piece. Most excitingly in this season, I get to be in West Africa, exploring and wandering in the bush, stumbling upon clay huts, cooking fires, family farms and so much more. There are still moments each day when I realize where I am and what I am doing and I get a rushing sensation that I am doing exactly what I was created to do.


But God is the creator, finisher and perfecter of my puzzle, a dream that will no doubt continue to grow and change throughout my life. Without Him my life doesn’t make sense and is excruciatingly incomplete. 


For four years I have cherished a verse that was given to me when I first shared the testimony of God’s work in my life. Hosea 2:14-15 says “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.” 


My God desires to allure me. This verse was God speaking His promise of redemption to the Israelites even though they had and were currently walking distant from the Lord and in disobedience to Him. As I walk in the bush I feel the allurement of God as He draws me close to Himself. I feel the restoration that comes from walking in the fullness of the plan, or puzzle, He has for my life. I see the way He has restored the dreams had once seemed broken. I stand at the door of Hope.

Why I ask God "why?"

Does following Jesus mean we don’t get to ask why?

Have you ever been around a small child? They want to know the why about everything. “Why are tires round?” “Why is the sky blue?” “Why do fish swim?”

The kinds of questions you haven’t asked yourself in years and frankly you probably don’t know the answer or you don’t know how to explain it to a child.

I think as Christians, we often feel guilty when we ask God “why?” Sometimes I have pictured God as a frustrated parent, sick of hearing my why questions. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sometimes I fear that if I ask why, He will think I am doubting His character. But God knows me better than I know myself.

One of the biggest whys in my life recently has been the question “why am I still single?” A week ago my little sister got married, my two best girlfriends and my best guy friend - all in incredible relationships with Christian men and women, I often feel I am surrounded by relationships, like the ninth wheel. I am genuine when I say I couldn’t be happier for them and love each and everyone of them so very much, but it does leave me, at times, wondering if I missed the relationship train somehow? 

Oh and did I mention that they are all younger than me? 

I have given up everything to follow Jesus, and I say that not in a pitiful way, because I am living an adventure greater than my imagination, often that is the life God gives us when we sacrifice for Him (but that is another blog post, for another day.) I get to travel and adventure all over the world pursuing a skill that I love, it is an amazing life, but I do it, for the most part, alone. I can’t tell you how many flights I have taken alone, meals I have eaten alone and movies I have watched alone over the last few months, that is my current reality.

And sometimes I have been afraid to ask the big, ad question of “why”. 

Here are some unwavering truths, that I honestly do not doubt, if I did, I would have given up this way of living long ago. I do not doubt that God is good, that He is faithful and that He always gives me his best. Not just good, for good is the enemy of great. But sometimes between good, like a “good relationship” and great, like a “we’re getting married relationship” is the journey of loneliness and “no relationship.” God only wants to give us great, if we are willing to sacrifice and follow His path to obtain it.

Sometimes I think that if I ask why, it means that I do not trust that He is a good, faithful and a best-giving God. So I hide away my emotions, my pangs of loneliness, pretending they are non existent. But I have come to disagree with that idea. I believe that in my heart I hold those facts about God steadfast, I ask “why” because often times I simply just don’t understand His goodness. 

I found myself tonight, with my head on my pillow tears rolling silently down my cheeks (you don’t get to cry out loud when you have sleeping roommates) Asking God, why.

Why do I have to spend another Valentines alone? Why do I so often have to fly and travel and live alone? Why is there no one who truly cares about the small details of my day the way a boyfriend or spouse does? Why?

The World often tries to answer that why for us. Here are a few that I have heard:

“God will give you a boyfriend when you’re ready” I’m calling bs on that answer. I have seen multiple people go into relationships before they were “ready” and they work out and even serve the Lord together. I mean are we ever really 100% ready for a relationship, or a marriage or a family? We are all imperfect people, covered by grace. God’s timing is His own, it’s not “hit level 23 of Christianity and meet your husband.”

“There is so much you can do as a single person without having to worry about someone else” That answer is somewhat true, I get to, in a very real sense make decisions about my life around what is best for me and what I want to do. I can travel freely and even not have a plan. Yet when I look and see the amazing things that Christian couples can do when they are committed to each other and to the Lord. I know that my husband and I will serve the Lord together in adventure and love one day.

“Only God can completely fulfill you” Now this statement is true. If I look to my (future) boyfriend or husband as my only source of joy, hope and happiness then he is sure to come up short and I am sure to be disappointed. But God also created mankind for relationship, He says so in Genesis before He creates Eve. So I can, in fact, believe that my desire for relationship is not only natural, but it is God given. As Christian women I feel we are often pressure to feel shameful that we want to be in a relationship, that somehow that means we are not fully dependent on God. But I believe that just as Eve was created for Adam, I was created for my husband, to support and to serve him, and so my heart longs to be with him, I will not be ashamed of that fact.

There are many more reasons the world may try to explain our whys to us, and for some of you reading there might be many more you have heard that come to mind right now. But the truth is that the world may never be able to answer our “whys”. Most of the time the world’s explanations fall short, because there is no way this broken world can predict what an all-knowing God is doing.

But that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want to hear our “whys”.

The one thing that God couldn’t stand was a broken relationship with us. He sent His son, a piece of Himself, to be tortured, killed, sent to hell and raised from the dead so we could be saved. Saved from sin, yes, but … why?

Why save us from sin?

So that we could have healed, restored and fulfilled relationship with Him. That is what He was desperate and willing to sacrifice such a great cost for, intimacy is what He died for! Not so we would be afraid to approach Him, hiding behind our mask but so that we could be real and raw with deeper intimacy and relationship with Him than with anyone or anything else. 

So ask Him your whys today. He knows your heart and it won’t be too much for Him. Be real and raw before your maker. You may not know the answer to your whys for many years, or even ever at all. Yet I know that on my wedding day when I look into my husband’s eyes I will say “Thank God I waited for you, it was worth every day I spent alone.” 

To be honest with you, tomorrow is valentines day, and I am very likely to cry again as my heart aches for my future love. I will most likely once again ask God “why” but I believe He would rather me ask Him, than anyone else. He may not answer me tomorrow, or they next day of for a long time, but He will have my heart, my intimacy and my relationship none the less, and I will know that despite my unanswered whys, He is so, so good to me. 


God Has Not Called Me To Know

Since February I have been fairly convinced that this would be the year I attended the GO Midwife School on the Big Island of Hawaii. In May the Lord confirmed that in my life and I began a waiting season.  I began to wrap things up from my time on Oahu with a heavy heart. I knew that most likely I would never move back. My three and a half year on Oahu with Surfing The Nations were incredible as good brought my life into a season of redemption then training followed by servanthood. I made incredible friends, that I know will be lifetime friends but it broke my heart to leave them behind.

In August I spent an amazing three weeks at home where I focused mostly on my quiet times alone with God, my fitness and health, and time with my family. I got to spend a fun few days with my sister before she left to teach in Haiti and a crazy few days with my brother as I helped move him onto the IU campus I had once lived on. Being black in Bloomington feels a lot like passing a billboard on a highway. I see it in the distance but when I reach it, it passes by so fast it feels like a blur. I always arrive back in Hawaii with a bit of a surreal feeling, it all seems like a bit of a high speed blur.

I planned on being back on Oahu for a week in order to be at my friends'  wedding and to ship my car over to the Big Island, my new home for the upcoming six months. But somewhere along the line I had messed up the start date of school and ended up being on Oahu two weeks longer than expected. Graciously a friend on the North Shore let me live in their storage shed, which functions as a bedroom and I also spent six crazy days on the wild island of Molokai. During those six weeks at home and on Oahu I longed for structure, a schedule, and a closet. But I knew that a few months in to school I would no doubt once again desire to live out of a suitcase, with no plan for the day except whatever came along.

Well after three weeks of school I cannot say I have hit that point yet. If anything I have thrived under the schedule, disciplining myself to wake up early and enjoy the peaceful quiet of the morning before my roommates awaken. I have studied harder than ever before, challenging myself to invest in my homework rather than simply answering it as fast as possible, and I am working on training my mind to be focused during long hours of class. Everything I learn, every piece of information I read, and every answer to the (many) questions I ask, will all one day be crucial at some moment in my work as a midwife. I want to be as spongelike as possible, soaking up the wisdom and knowledge of the women around and above me. 

As a planner and a dreamer I crave knowledge but sometimes to my downfall. I want to know, know, know and I place my security too often in my own knowledge, particularly in my knowledge of what is to come. I want to know exactly what our international outreaches will look like, I want to know where I will be apprenticing come summer and I want to know what I will be doing after apprenticeship. But God is not calling me to know, He is calling me to surrender and believe. In my heart I plan my course, but the Lord establishes my steps. Proverbs 16:9 is my constant reminder that it is not in planning that I fail, but it is holding onto those plans with such fists that God has to pry open my hands to access them. I continue to learn to plan my future, to be excited for it and pray into it, but to hold it in open hands and let God establish my plans, change them, or take them away. 

There are still times when my desire to place my security in the knowledge of my future arises, but I am learning more and more how to surrender. How to live with plans in my hand and watch God mold them and bring them to life. I do not know where I will be in five months time but I know that God is good and I know that he has called me to this journey of midwifery! 

Waiting, Love and Presence.

Flying has been a part of my life since I was very young. At three weeks old I had my first passport and at 14 months old boarded my first flight. The deeper into ministry I get, the more frequently I seem to fly and the longer flights seem to become.

To my family and myself flying comes with, if not enjoyment, at least ease. Because of this ease we all have a tendency to wait until the last minute to board. I remember my mother, queen of puns, always saying “Why hurry up and wait?” People are often in such a hurry when their boarding group is called that they rush into line, to rush past the counter simply to find themselves waiting on the gangplank. 

“Hurry up and wait.” I often feel like I am trapped in a vacuum of waiting. There always seems to be something I am anxiously waiting upon, whether to go on a trip, go home, get married, or the worst waiting to finish a conversation or interaction with someone so I can get on to whatever it is I would rather be doing. 

This spring I decided to begin walking down the path of becoming a licensed midwife, who specializes in practicing in third-world rural communities. What do you think of when you think of birth? Pain, blood and guts, a babies head crowning? Maybe it is something you simply prefer not to think about, and I wouldn’t blame you. But what I didn’t think of when I thought of birth was the waiting because I like action.

American Football is often made fun of by non-football fans because for every 3-5 minutes of time there is only maybe 10-40 seconds of play. It’s those seconds of play, the sounds of pads hitting and passes connecting that we football fans live for. We sit through hours of waiting for those seconds and we love it.

Birth in comparison to football is, how we say in Hawai’i “same same but different”. Compared to the nine months spent waiting, there really isn’t a lot of “action” (although I wouldn’t suggest saying that to a mom who is in labor for 12+ hours). 

A large part of birth is a waiting game. Waiting for your baby to develop, for contractions to start and increase, waiting for the moment where you get to hold your child for the very first time. Waiting can be frustrating, but it is also essential to life. If we didn’t wait nine months for the baby to grow and develop then there would be no life at all. Learning to be good at waiting is lesson I keep on learning. But what does being “good at waiting” even mean?

For me it means being present. It breaks my heart to think how many days I have probably spent where waiting overwhelmed my ability to be present. Back in college I would wake up, usually before 6am, for practice and I would look at my watch and calculate how long it would be till I could nap or return to bed. I woke up each day so tired I couldn’t wait for bed. We have all had meetings, classes etc that we can’t wait to get out of, it’s understandable.

But what truly breaks my heart is the times I haven’t been present in a conversation. Where the person who sat talking to me only had a fraction of my attention because I couldn’t wait get away to do something else or speak to someone else.  What that tells me is that I am still lacking the ability to truly love others more than myself. If I truly loved the person talking to me, whether a stranger or a closest friend then I wouldn’t mind waiting for my next activity, I could be present and truly listen to them.

When asked what was the most important commandment Jesus responded: 

    ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

That is huge. Jesus is basically putting into the simplest terms possible, the meaning of life. The first commandment is to love God, should be the one thing that directs everything in our lives. “Love others as yourself”. There are so many ways to love others, so many actions we can take but the risk is that sometimes actions and giving can still come from a place that is not love. Jesus talks about loving your neighbor though out the New Testament from giving them the coat off your back to carrying their pack an extra mile. In my life, I find those kinds of actions come more naturally to me and don’t demand the same kind of love that is needed to really truly sit and listen to someone and be present before them.

I need to constantly ask myself am I listening to the story they are telling me? Or am I so impatient for them to end their story so that I can tell my somewhat-related story or advice, that I am barely listening. Am I present? Being present in the waiting times even as simply as waiting as someone shares their story and in the action is something I am striving for, and for me a big part of it comes from first truly learning to love. There are small things you can do the next time you have a conversation with someone that can help you be present, such as turning your phone on silent and putting it away, making a list of all you need to do before you meet them so those things are out of your head and on paper and no doubt many more tips. But until our hearts and in the right place and we truly learn to love they will simply be tips. Does someone walk away from a conversation with you feeling like they were the most important thing on your mind during that time? If they were the most important thing during your time with them then they will feel that genuine love.

My prayer is that God will continue to give me the ability to love others and that I will keep practicing listening and being present. I pray that waiting won’t overwhelm me but that the love of God with overflow from my heart and onto those I come into contact with.

I challenge you to be present in your own lives this week, to practice truly loving the people all around you and to become an expert at waiting.

Stories from Wahiawa: Nebi Silk

Praying for Nebi and her girls

Praying for Nebi and her girls

Less then a week ago we tragically lost a former Ulu Pono Kid, Jay Nihoa Baird. Jay was only 14 years old and his death was alcohol related. Over the past days so many emotions have spiraled through me; anger, sadness, guilt but also a spurring to share the incredible, but too often heart breaking stories of the people I work with here in Hawaii. The story of Jay is still too raw for me to write about quite yet, but it has encouraged me to share the story of others.


Two years ago I jumped into the position of Ulu Pono Director at Surfing The Nations. Taking on this role began me on a path of deep relationship with many of the local people. I vaguely remember meeting Nebi Silk, Marshallese mother of six for the first few times when I would pick up her then 9 year old Bryant, 4 year old Akiko and 2 year old Queeny for Ulu Pono. My first distinct memory of her was a Wednesday some time in February 2013 when I first noticed an unusual bruise looking mark covering half of Queeny’s midsection. Immediately assuming it was a bruise, and knowing her boyfriend, Queenny’s father Alex had been known for being violent in the home, I burst into tears and sought out Jeremy, my department head at the time. We visited the home and asked Nebi about the bruises and she laughed at us. I was fuming, how could this mother laugh when we asked her about this bruise, didn’t she know how serious this was. Jeremy and I prayed for many hours together in the office that night. We prayed for the family, for Queeny and Nebi and we prayed about contacting child services. Over the next week we monitored the mark, which never changed and when we were finally able to speak to Alex he explained it was a birth mark, one Queeny has to this day. But why did Nebi laugh? A resentment grew in my heart against her for this, a resentment that wasn’t eased by her mess of a house, poor parenting skills and all over lack of responsibility.


Nebi and Queenny

Nebi and Queenny

But I also wasn’t ready to give up on her. I started spending more time at their house, basically inviting myself in, playing with her kids while she sat, she really didn’t seem to do much else. I would chase her kids down when they ran out of the house, pick them up when they fell head first off of a chair all while she sat...and sat. But after months of sitting on the floor with her and trying to talk with her in her non-existent english there was one thing I realized, she laughed when she didn’t understand me. So all those months ago when she had laughed when I had asked about the mark, she simply hadn’t understood me and that was her defense mechanism. When she didn’t understand, she would laugh. 


But even after months of sitting with Nebi, I still felt a wall between us, one that I just couldn’t seem to clamber up and one she seemed to have no intention of taking down. Sometime over the summer Nebi and her family moved out of their cousin’s apartment and in with another Marshallese family. Jemity, the mother of this family had grown up with her grandparents in America and spoke fluent English. Because of this we were able to communicate with her with obvious ease, and began spending much more time in their home learning all kinds of stories about the Marshall Islands, their traditions and cultural  differences. 


In September of 2013 my year long commitment on staff was up and many of my friends and classmates were moving on, but I felt God prompting me to stay and I will always be so thankful for deciding to follow His prompting. It was as if, by making the decision to stay longer than my commitment, so many walls began to crumble. My relationships with the families and specifically Nebi began to grow and grow. Nebi would come and hang out at our apartment and I remember so many amazing and joyful times of drinking tea, watching Bollywood movies and “talking story” with her. Her girls began to spend the night with us and go to the beach with us as Nebi began to trust us more and more. Nebi began to be more responsible and even began to dream about the possibility of her and Alex having their own home. I would encourage her to get her youngest daughters in pre-school so she could get a job and help make this dream a reality and she would laugh and say maybe later.


Brittany, Kirsten and I with Nebi and her daughters Queenny, Jina and Akiko

Brittany, Kirsten and I with Nebi and her daughters Queenny, Jina and Akiko

By the spring of 2014 the family had moved about 40 minutes away to live with Nebi’s parents and then moved again to live with cousins. I was so disappointed for them to be so far away as we began to see them less and less. In the summer we began to see a change in Nebi, she seemed heavier and lazier than before. We would arrive at their house for a visit at 2pm and she would just be waking up. We began to wonder if she could be pregnant, but every time we asked she would deny it, laughing.

But she could only deny it for so long and a week before Christmas she told us she was 8 months pregnant, although she hadn’t seen a doctor yet. She also told us that when the baby was born he or she would be given to a cousin. I was crushed. All that time and trust I thought we had built seemed to have taken a big step back. Why had she lied to me for so many months? I still don’t have an answer to that question. Maybe she was ashamed that she hadn’t visited a doctor? Maybe she didn’t want us fussing over her? I don’t know if I will ever understand, but on January 6th Nebi gave birth to her seventh child, daughter Tarlia Marisa. She was born in Nebi’s mother’s home and given to Nebi’s cousin, who is married with her own home and one child of her own. We visited Nebi just a few days after she gave birth and she seemed tired, a little disconnected emotionally but overall well. She had visited a doctor after her birth and even been put on a five year birth control method, an amazing step towards not having her eighth child. 

A few weeks later we visited her again and she seemed more energized than I had seen her in a long time, which makes sense now that we know she had been pregnant! I was asking her about Tarlia and how things were with Alex when she interrupted me to excitedly tell me that she had gotten a job! For the past week she had been taking the bus on a two hour journey to the mall to work as a cleaner there after hours! I could barely believe what I was hearing when she tells me she had actually really enjoyed working and was disappointed because she may have to stop as there was no-one to take care of Queeny and her 2 year old Natasha. Even though she may have had to stop working I am insanely proud of her and feel so blessed to have been an influence in her life in encouraging her to work and take responsibility for her family. A week ago Alex called me to ask me to help them find their own home, preferably in Wahiawa. I am not really sure how I can do this, but I hope and now truly believe that one day they have their own home!

Please continue to pray for me and my relationship with Nebi and her beautiful family!


God's Peace Amidst Turmoil

It was a regular night just like any other. I lay in my bed trying to figure out the medical mystery on House faster than the doctors, some clue in the first few minutes must give me some insight....BRIIIIIIIING I jolted out of my focus as my phone rang. To be honest I'm terrible about answering my phone, especially when I'm trying to relax, but I felt urged to answer this time. I wouldn't say I felt an overwhelming sense of God's spirit pushing me to answer, but looking back He was definitely already moving. 
 "Katie, some of your girls (from the kids program) are crying down the street saying their cousin sexually molested them."
 I sat up abruptly swung my leg out in one swift motion and jumped off my bunkbed before she finished the sentence. I was down the street in a matter of minutes, nothing could stop me not even Victor yelling after me that I shouldn't be walking alone. 

Two cop cars. One boy already inside. "What's going on?" I asked the first person that I knew. Crowds had already formed, it seemed like everyone on Ohai street was on their porches or on the street watching the nothingness that followed the action. After gaining information on who the girls were I charged down the street. I'd barely known one of the girls two weeks but when she saw me she ran to me and my arms were ready to embrace her. "What's going on?" I asked her and through tears and whimpers she began to tell me the story of being cornered and touched against her will behind some parked cars right here in the neighborhood. Then she told me the names of the two boys. My heart sank faster than an anchor at sea. I knew them both. The older I had known well for years and he and some friends had watched a movie at my house just earlier that day. The younger big, his cousin had immigrated from the Marshall Islands just nine months earlier and I learned he was the boy in custody. 

After further talks with the girls and their mothers and as many hugs and reassuring words as I could think of, I headed back down to the boys house. I walked inside the families home to a grim scene. Heads down held in hands, somber faces. I talked to the dad who's son was currently in custody and he told me the police had told him he was not allowed outside as a fight had broken out earlier when the angry uncle of the young girl came after him. I told him I'd go to the police station and find out what I could and that if the older boy came home they must bring him to the station, it would look worse if he ran. 
As I walked to the police station my colleague and friend Aquila and Mitchell picked me up. We drove the rest of the way and received no information other than the father would be called when he could pick up his boy. We decided to begin to search town for the older boy, the one we knew so well, the one we had loved and mentored for years. I was determined to find him before the police did or before her made a run for it. We searched the park, the grocery and were headed somewhere else, we didn't even know where yet when I got a text from my roommate "He is at our house" Keep him there, I told her and the moment came when I was going to have to make one of the hardest phone calls of my life. 
"Wahiawa Police Department, how can I help you?"
I explained to them what was going on and that the boy they were looking for was at my home. "Will he run?" They asked me. I didn't think so. "Bring him outside and we will be there in a moment." I've never wanted so desperately to stay away from my house. Yet I had to walk in. There he was sitting on our couch, no idea of what was about to happen. "What happened tonight?" I asked him. He tried to deny, tried to ignore, never making eye contact. I told him the police were on their way, an anger sparked in him and he jumped up and I thought he might run. "You must be brave" I told him "and above all you must tell them the truth!" We walked outside as the police exited his vehicle. They immediately cuffed him and sat him on the ground. He tried his best to act tough, act like he didn't care. I had to write a statement and after two cops cruised by with bright lights shining in his face in order to identify him he was formally arrested and placed in the back of the car. "Please, can I speak with him?" I asked the police. They agreed and opened the car door for me. I saw that anger spark for a moment again as I leaned in toward him. "I love you buddy, we all love you. Nothing you could do would make us stop loving you. I know you're mad and don't understand why I had to do this. But please trust me. Please be brave and tell the truth! We love you" his eye twinkled with tears he would not let fall. 
As the car drive away I walked in the other direction towards the boys' house to update the dad and other boys step mom. I feared they would be angry with me but they understood.
The next day we went to visit the boys. Again I feared he would be angry at me for calling the police. But I didn't mind his anger because I knew he'd see that I cared. But there was no anger when we arrived just a mask of fear and a genuine lack of understanding. We talked it through with him what court might be like, that he needed some nice clothes and that the reality was he might go to Juvi. We talked through the events although it took us about an hour to get to the truth. He had done what the girls claimed he had. We told him he had to be brave and tell the court and the judge the truth. 
As I walked away I waited for tears to come. I thought I would cry at some point. But through it all I felt God's peace above all. I was so thankful to be placed in such a special role in this boys painful life. It. Doesn't mean I wasn't sad and broken but those emotions were held at bay, cradled by the peace of God that told me I would make it through. He said Katie I have equipped you with the love you need to conquer this battle and stand by this guilty boy in love. Without God I would be nothing a mess amongst a messy situation, lost in grief. He is victorious. 

Please pray for the youth of our country. Sexual assault amongst peers is most often started when a youth is sexually assaulted themselves by an adult. Pray for the boys and girls that I work with and pray for overwhelming wisdom as I live life in and amongst these desperate people. 

Joy !


For the past two years I have been working directly with families almost exclusively from the Micronesian, Chuuk and Marshallese islands. Most of the parents have come over here as adults sometimes bringing their children with them, sometimes leaving them with family back on the islands and then sometimes birthing children here in the states. With them come their different backgrounds, culture, parenting style, foods and many other things. Sometimes it is very hard to understand but we strive to do our best to learn about the families specific island and stories.

Many of the families are very blended and live together or apart like puzzles built out of many random pieces. Sometimes there is abuse and neglect within the homes and other times there is much love and loyalty. There is one family I have grown particularly close to that is very blended, and I don't think I could even explain it if I tried. But one of the daughter/cousins that I will call Lily for this blog, is a particularly sweet one with a sad but redeeming story.

Two years ago when she was around eight years old she had gotten her hands on a lighter somehow and while playing with it she broke it and spilled lighter fluid on herself. Somehow in the moments after she was able to start the flame of the lighter and the fluid that had soaked her clothes went up in flames. These injuries resulted in third degree burns that covered more than 30% of her body including her entire upper legs and torso. 

Obviously the weeks she spent in the hospital were horrifically hard and painful, and the two years to follow were as well. For a year she was on a restricted diet to make sure her new growing skin did not rip and she became very thin. She was also never allowed in the water, although she would often sit by the waters edge with us building sand castles and getting her feet wet.

This Wednesday she had the all-clear from the doctor to go in the water! So when we took her to the beach her little body shook with excitement and some hesitation. She was obviously self conscience of her scars and had title desire to be fully exposed. She also had no swim ware as it had literally been years since she could be in the water. Thankfully thanks to many kind donations we had a nice one piece swimsuit and some shorts she could wear. Nervous but excited she walked down to the water hand in hand with Brittany and slowly waded in, to her tummy, her chest, her neck before dunking her entire head under. Coming up from the water she proclaimed "This feels like a dream" and continued to say things like "It doesn't hurt, it doesn't hurt!" and "God is so good! I love Jesus for healing me!"

Learning how to float again!

Learning how to float again!

It was a beautiful thing to see the joy in her eyes! Tonight at Jesus Saves our Youth Group for local kids we talked about "Joy" the second of the fruits on our series of the fruit of the spirit and she shared with her small group "I felt God's joy when I went swimming!" 


Over the past year I have begun to ponder the imagination. Can one simply develop their own imagination or does it at some primary level have to be taught to a child?

My little sister turns 21 today. Unbelievable. Being two years older than her I have known her for as long as I can remember and our childhood was full of the imagination. From playing house with Playmobile or American Girl Dolls, to building forts and playing rock band it seemed we were always using our imagination. I have also always loved to write. I remember writing a story when I was probably around six about a girl that was sucked down her bathtub as it emptied and landed on a pirate ship. Around nine I began to read the Harry Potter series which quickly became an obsession of mine. I remember sitting in the drawing room for hours reading the newest books and desperately waiting for the next book to come out! In high school my use of imagination and writing was somewhat stifled. But in college my love for writing and using my imagination came alive again with creative writing and Shakespeare classes. Throughout my childhood I always had parents that supported and pushed me into using my imagination. My parents would help me build forts, buy me toys to play with and help me with my English assignments. The imagination was something that was encouraged and rewarded.

But something that I noticed with the children I have worked with over the past few years is their lack of imagination. They like to play, and are often found riding bikes and playing with balls, but what their playing has in energy it lacks in imagination. They don't play house or animals, they don't have many toys to play with and their parents are not very involved with their playing. I have seen this lead to such a lack of imagination within the children. They can't even imagine their futures, or what they would like to be when they grow up. That breaks my heart.

Yesterday we took 8 of the elementary aged children from our street to the Hawaiian Discovery Center a small science and discovery center in Honolulu. The first half hour of our visit they demonstrated their lack of both fear (bordering on bullying other children) and attention span. They ran from station to station literally knocking down anyone in their way spending just a few moments pulling on levers and looking at lights before they ran off to the next station. About 45 minutes in I sat exhausted watching them pull on and rip off costumes in the small mock theatre. Still there seemed to be no imagination, no taking on the persona of the character their costumes portrayed just spastic running around the stage screaming for more attention then myself or my two other staff girls could give them. But after the theatre station we broke into groups, mine consisting of 4 year old Miracle and 5 year old Toddrick. We made our way over to the mock kitchen where they donned chef coats and hats and began to play around with plastic food and pots. 

All of a sudden I saw the imagination begin to break through. Carefully they placed the food into the pots, turned the dials and wait for the food to "heat up". Then they brought the food to me, carefully to wear their mittens and poured the "hot" food onto my plate. They busied themselves around the kitchen for almost 20 minutes putting things in and out of the oven, stove, fridge and plate. Finally I made them move on to the next station so a scared but adorable little girl with pink glasses could have a turn. We continued on to play doctor and they checked my heart and took x-rays for another 20 minutes. 

It was a beautiful thing to watch their imaginations come alive. I love the Albert Einstein quote "If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Yesterday watching the beauty of imagination and the way it bred learning within the kids stirred me to continue to read them fairy tales, build forts  and encourage their imaginations. I am so thankful to have had a family who was committed to taking the time to give life to my imagination and I hope to be someone who encourages the imagination of kids wherever I go.

Bangladesh: Story One

25 days. 14 team members. One nation. 

How could I possibly sum up my trip to Bangladesh is one blog post? It is a feat that is completely impossible no matter how hard I would try. Having been home four days I have barely begun to process the stories, memories, new friends, new passions and heartbreak that were all a part of my trip. But as I try to break down the trip into specific memories meaningful stories appear and I will do my best to share those stories.

Ou first day in the city of Cox's Bazar was full of action. The morning started with a surf session, which is a succession of adventures. From wearing boy's board shorts and dark baggy tshirts, to hailing a rickshaw, paying the rickshaw, carrying our boards down the beach, paddling past many staring men to finally catching some small but very fun, very warm waves in the Bay of Bengal. Next was the adventurous trip back to the hotel and then breakfast as a team with many street kids in tow at Poshe, a local restaurant. After a Bengali breakfast we headed to the fish market, the former working place of our Bengali STN Staff Member Aziz. As we walked around we marveled at the swift work of the men in the market. Fish were flying everywhere in some kind of organized chaos like a choreographed dance happening all around us. The men were pounding large chunks of ice into smaller chunks and carving the skins off of eels. As we watched the men work, staring in amazement and trying to hide any expression that revealed our feelings about the fish stench the men would notice us, our white skin and fair hair and stop and stare. Like some kind of strange show, we would look at them, and they would look at us. 

I realized that this must not have been too different from the fish market that Jesus would have visited. Were his disciples much different from the men who were looking up at me? When Jesus walked in and said "follow me" what made them leave it all behind. These men were no doubt working just to stay alive. Too keep food on the table and maybe their kids in school, if they were that blessed. How many would walk away to follow the savior. That takes guts.

Sometimes I envy the disciples, they were able to walk and talk, dine and rest with the son of God, savior of the Earth. They were there when he healed and there when he was crucified. But as I walked over past the men pulling in nets and stepped down into a wooden boat I was sure was going to sink I realized that the moment they walked away from the fish market took more guts than maybe anything else they'd ever do in their life. They left behind their family, their guarantee of financial stability, their life's work and their friends. All because one man beckoned them. I want to be that brave. To know the voice of Jesus and leave everything behind when he beckons me. It's scary to leave your family, it's absolutely terrifying to have no financial stability and walk away from all you know, but look at what the disciples got to experience. Look at where God has taken me so far, to Hawaii and then to Bangladesh I wouldn't give up those adventures with God for anything, and I hope this is just the beginning. 

Don't worry: more stories to come!

Ohai Family Festival

Do you remember your first piano recital or football game? The weeks of practice and the butterflies in your stomach. Do you remember looking up into the bleachers or squinting from the bright stage into the dark crowd. And there they were. The people who had pushed (maybe slightly forced) you to be there. They looked at you with love and pride, trying to mask their own anxiety for you. They were yours, belonged to you, your parents.

I remember many moments like this growing up and I long for those moments now living thousands of miles away. But the kids I work with don't ever get moments like that. Maybe mom and dad are too busy, or gone completely or just uninterested. Many of the kids have never been to a soccer practice or a ballet class. The street is where they spend their afternoons. The street and the Ulu Pono Kids Program. They may never hear their parents tell them how proud they were or that it was okay that they dropped the final pass. Often times it just isn't a part of their culture. But that doesn't mean that we can't tell them we are proud of them! So this weekend that is exactly what we did!

The Ohai Family Festival was a dream that we had cultivated for over a year before it came to pass. Many hours of dreaming, hoping, wishing and planning came to life in a beautiful afternoon. For four hours last Saturday everything was about the kids. The games, the prizes, the music, the shave ice. All because we were proud of them and we loved them. 

Half way through the afternoon, we awarded each child from the program a "Character Award" they were called up on stage in front of everyone and amazingly there were even some parents in the crowd. They got a hug, a certificate, encouragement and an affirmation by different staff members. Most of them got really shy about it, red cheeked and squirming they got on stage and while they acted like they wanted to run off the stage, I know them better than that. They love, love. Don't we all?

It's hard to gauge the success of working with kids. How do you measure "getting into less trouble" or "headed on a better path!" But today, three days later, I went to pick up a 5 year old boy from his home. I know his parents well and his mom had come to the festival. I walked through the living room that consists of several mattresses and barely enough room to walk and picked up his baby sister out of the crib. That's when I spotted it...his purple certificate pinned amongst the mess up on the wall. My heart swelled with pride and I choked up as the reality that his parents had taken the time to make sure his award was hung really sunk in. That is the kind of "success" I want to see. The kind that transforms an entire family from the inside out. 

Freedom Skate Club

Aquila David is an amazing man of God. I get the pleasure of having him as a part of the Ulu Pono team! He has more energy than anyone I know and that's just half the reason he is so good with the kids. His passion for skate boarding overflows into everything he does and he is truly changing the lives of the kids in the Freedom Skate Club.

"Go Big"

24 days.

I can hardly believe I have only been home for 24 days, in some ways it feels like I never left.

I traveled to the mainland with a very thorough and well-planned schedule. Yet almost every day turned out to look different than I expected. Thank goodness all the glory in my life goes to God rather than myself because His plans for my trip home were much mightier than my own. Some highlights from my trip were: visiting my grandparents in Washington, visiting my aunt, uncle, cousins and sister in California, spending amazing time with my family snowed in over Christmas, sharing about my life in missions and raising monthly support and visiting family and friends in Illinois.

It is amazing how many people I got to see and visit with despite the frigid temperatures and heaps of snow! I am so thankful!

But it is also great to be home in Hawaii! I could not have had a sweeter homecoming than having the kids waiting for me at home ready for hugs and love after a long six weeks away. At Surfing The Nations our motto for the year of 2014 is “Go Big!” and I am excited to go big in both the work and personal sense over the remaining 11 months of this year! The last 24 days have already proved to be very adventurous. Some highlights have been trying new Hawaiian food, singing kareoke for the first time, going late night bowling at a very “local” Hawaiian bowling alley and spend EIGHT HOURS at a Marshallese Church service!

There are many more adventures to come and today I would like to share about three!

First: I have been invited to help lead the Internship Program’s inter-island 10 day trip to Maui. I am so honored and excited to be invited to lead, and to return to Maui which is the island where I did my Internship Trip. I will be responsible for all finances and church connections on the trip and am excited to be stretched and grow in both areas! I will also be helping lead outreaches, organize food and housing and planning day to day activities. It will be an exhausting but fun 10 day adventure and I am sure I will return home with many stories to share.

Second: In April I will be heading to the beautiful and broken nation of Bangladesh on a three week missions trip. This is a trip I have hoped to go on for two years now and could not be more excited about if I tried. In Bangladesh we will be connecting with the local surf clubs, experiencing and learning the culture and giving back to the people in any way we can. My personal goals while there are to show God’s love to the very oppressed women of this nation, empower and encourage the girls to surf and enjoy the ocean and teach swim lessons to the young children. It is really exciting to basically take all the things I do here in Hawaii and do them in a very different and challenging culture. In order to go on the trip I need to raise $3500 in funds. Raising funds is one of the most terrifying and thrilling things I have ever experienced! It is so encouraging to have someone invest in you with their personal finances but it is terrifying to ask!

Third: My hope and desire is to be able to buy a car this year. I really believe that I am called to be here in Hawaii and I am committing to investing into my life here. In order to live sustainable and have the opportunity to travel and bless the children and women of my community in a greater way I need to invest in a vehicle. I am so excited to see how God pulls this one off. I believe it is God’s heart for me to have transportation here in Hawaii, but in my mind it seems like such a great expense it seems impossible! But I serve a God who works in the impossible and miracles are everyday occurrences in His kingdom, so I can’t wait for he day I write a blog all about how God blessed me with a safe and reliable vehicle.

I have no ability to “Go Big” on my own, but God is a big God, beyond our understanding even! So join with me in going BIG in 2014 and praying BIG and bold prayers!