Can’t Say Goodbye

Challenge & Revelation, Photography

Wow. The past year and a half has been quite a whirlwind! Thank you to you all who try and keep up with the small notes I have time to put up (as you can see, it’s been a while!) I’ve missed blogging about the events and people that I meet here in Africa but God has been teaching me a lot this season about living  in  the  moment.

Some of you may know but I’ll summarize for those of you just jumping into this quirky girl’s life of adventure. I have been with Impact Africa for a year and a half as an intern. My job is a bit of a catch-all but in my time spent in South Africa I have not only made friendships that will last a lifetime as well as organized trips for the orphan-vulnerable children we have at our schools in several communities and planned weekly crafts, stories, and picked up the large amount of food that feeds all (close to) 200 children! I’ve learned much about blog writing as I wrote blogs for the organization as well as leadership through leading mission teams and coming back to “guide” this year’s interns. (I say guide in parentheses because there were definitely times they were guiding me!) I’ve helped teach an English class we set up for people in the community to help provide better job options and battled through wanting them to desperately know English as well as questioning if teaching was in my future. I’ve grown in compassion as I watched people try to hold their lives together without Jesus and then turn to Him and begin the journey of learning to trust how great He truly is. I’ve also struggled with the thought of never leaving and keeping these people under my wing forever, but I know that’s not God’s plan.

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Today I am returning to the States to prepare and begin college at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Part of me can barely contain the excitement, the other can barely hold in the tears. As I alluded to before, this season has been a bit of a tricky one. I feel that every time a season ends God’s grace seems to pull back a teensy bit so you can see what living life outside of His will is like (just in case you decide to change your mind and do something else.) Even in the moments I wanted to run away from the situation at hand, God always provided strength. While I was humbled, He was exalted and that is what I live my life for: His glory.

Some people say when God shuts a door He opens a window, but I believe God gives us the choice at times. Both will work just fine, but one is closer to His heart. These past six months have been difficult, but God refined me in so many ways. He gave me the choice to come back or to go back to comfortable Ol’ America and I didn’t come back because it was easy. I came back because I knew this is what God has planned for the rest of my life: missions. In whatever aspect that may take. Thanks for journeying with me during my time in South Africa. So this is not good-bye. Missions is an overflow of the heart and that’s how I live my life now. And for South Africa? It’s just a, “See you later :)” Can’t wait to see the new adventures that await us!

Testimonies From George, South Africa!

Challenge & Revelation, Missions, Photography

Victoria Bay

Sedgefield Community

Photo Credit: Cori Bridgeford

Knysna, South Africa is a beautiful place and I’m privileged to have traveled there. While it has many accommodations much more like America’s it still has squatter camps. These were not just any type of squatter camps. Shacks built on hills overlooking the grand homes closer to the beach, the mist of the ocean waves visible from their very front door. In the three and a half months I’ve been doing ministry in squatter camps I had never seen a community so desperate for God. The very first house we visited that week, God did a miracle. We met three women, sitting outside the door and we told them about the crusade. When we asked if we could pray for them, they led us to their mother who couldn’t walk. A frail old woman, named Sarah, lay curled up in her bed, muttering a few words to her daughter which she would translate to us. It had been thirteen years since she had walked. Sarah was in a lot of pain and had many medications trying to take it away. “I believe in Jesus.” She told us, “I believe He can heal me.” Excitedly we prayed for her, expecting the God of the Impossible to do a great miracle.

When we finished praying we asked if she felt any different and she said some of the pain was gone. She walked from her bedroom to the sitting area – a walk she had not made in 7 years! Two days later we stopped by again and were able to get to know the daughter, Sophie, better. She told us of how she took care of her mother Sarah and her son who was deaf and had a type of autism. With no job, she trusted the Lord for everything she had. Selflessly laying down her own needs for those of others, the stress on her face was evident. We began to pour into her the strength the Lord has for her, sharing scripture after scripture, her countenance had changed from burdened to joyful by the time we left!

The last night I saw Sophie at the crusade with a little girl who had been with us since the crusade had started earlier that week. We all knew her well, seeing her and playing with her so often. “This one is a soup-kitchen child.” Sophie told me, “I gave her a piece of bread.. I have my own problems!” While this woman had compassion she seemed quite irritated, still holding the little girl. When I asked where her parents were she responded saying the father was dead and the mother had disappeared. “Is she staying with you?” I asked. “No!” “Where does she stay then?” I asked. Sophie continued to talk about the soup kitchen and all I could think about was how this four year old girl had no family and was apparently getting food from the soup kitchens.

There are children who have no homes. Who don’t know where their family is or where their next meal is going to come from. This trip not only made me grow into the faith God gave me for his healing but opened my eyes to see the deeper reality that these people live in every day. Please be praying for the seeds sown in our times of ministry and that the Lord would continue  to work on their hearts!

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The Sweetest Birthday Gift

Challenge & Revelation, Life updates, Missions, Photography

I wake up to my favorite girls surrounding me, singing happy birthday with a plate of eggs, cinnamon pull apart bread, along with coffee made just the way I like it. I spent an hour in the Word and dressed for the day, doing my hair and make-up all in enough time to be out the door at 8:30. It was the last day of Holiday Kid’s Club (VBS) at Impact Kids and I helped run it with a few of the other interns. I was exhausted by lunch and the day wasn’t even half over! Rich and Michelle Franzen (founders of Impact Africa) surprised me with a triple chocolate mini-cake and all the kids sang happy birthday to me, I felt so special.

But that wasn’t all God had planned for my birthday.

That afternoon we visited a children’s hospital. What I saw was gut wrenching, jaw dropping, and tear spurring.

Row after row of cribs resembling cages full of children connected to oxygen tubes, many with stitches on their head and broken legs. While in America we would elevate your leg, South Africa is drastically different. With the kids here a bracket is screwed into each child’s knee to keep it elevated, restraining them from most movements a child would want to make. The extra crib piece on top holds the leg elevated but restrains from a parent reaching to hug their child, only a hand can be held. As we gave them simple toys and gifts their entire face lit up like Christmas morning for many of your children (or sometimes how you feel yourselves.)

Children's Hospital

These photos barely scratch the surface of how I felt that day. I hope they move you as much as they moved me to take them.

My favorite part of the day, though, was meeting a little boy whose name is so long and mispronounceable I will simply name him Samuel. This little boy looked at me with the biggest droopiest brown eyes, moaning as he breathed. I stuck my hand through the crib and rather than grabbing my finger, he clutched onto my arm. I couldn’t leave this little one, this was the reason I was here. I approached a nurse and asked her if I could hold him, she quickly replied, “Of course!” I turned around and picked this little boy up, his eyes lit with hope. I held him close to me and his arms wrapped around mine, I’d never felt a clutch so strong from someone so young before. He reached up and stroked my neck and his eyes began to droop. How long had it been since this little one had been held? Before we left I fed him, the other nurses tried unsuccessfully and nodded for me to try. I picked up the spoon, scooped up the food just the same as them and Samuel opened his mouth, willing to receive from a loving hand. Having the opportunity to pray over Samuel’s life and speak into it was the best birthday present I could ever have received. I know that this little one’s life was changed, but so was mine.

Celebration in South Africa!

Life updates, Photography

Last weekend one of the girls, Alexa, turned 19! Her favorite color is pink so we went all out and bought heart shaped candles and made her breakfast, just spoiling her to show how much we appreciate her. One of the girls made her a flower crown {which she absolutely loved}.

Birthday Girl Spot!

As the festivities continued we played volleyball and jumped on the trampoline – a normal weekend as interns. A few nights before, we had a rough storm where a tree was struck by lightning and mud was washed into the pool in our backyard. What once was blue and clean, was now grimy and brown. We joked with Alexa about a “refreshing mud bath” and she laughed.

Everyone started to head inside to cool down for a bit and she unconsciously walked beside the deep end of the pool. With one timely push, she splashed into the pool. {those of you who know me understand I like to joke around.} She squealed and squinted her eyes at me. I ran, knowing what she was thinking. Only she didn’t run after me. The guys did! It was my turn to shriek, running as fast as I could around our yard with just enough of a distance they couldn’t grab me and throw me into the pool, too.They finally stopped chasing me and I collapsed on the ground to catch my breath. Sneaking up on me, they grabbed my arms and legs, dragging me towards the pool. I yelled, tugged, and fought until they stopped and asked, “Alright. Do you really not want to be thrown into the pool?” I didn’t answer fast enough so they picked me up once again while I continued to yell. Alexa ran up and told them it was alright, providing grace rather than seeking revenge.

The next day we were out in the squatter camps for ministry and by the time we arrived home, it was pouring rain. Cori and I looked at each other and ran to jump on the trampoline. We laughed and danced in the rain, enjoying God’s peacefulness after an exhausting day under the sun and out on ministry. As we headed back to the house, Alexa yelled for Cori to watch meand make sure I didn’t shove her in the pool, and if I did to pull me along with. “I don’t care! I’m wearing a swimsuit so I won’t get wet!” I yell back, boldly and arrogantly, confident no one was strong enough to push me into the pool. Just as I come around the tree I see one of the guys on our deck fixing the grill so we can make dinner. “What was that?” He says and I quickly bite my tongue, “Nothing!” I reply. Like a bullet he shoots after me, focused on throwing me into the pool. I run but can only avoid him for so long. He picks me up as I yell, only I know the inevitable is about to take place. I make one last attempt to twist out of his grip and SPLASH! I’m in the pool. I swim to the surface and open my eyes to see the biggest grin on his face. I knew it was going to happen, but I certainly did not expect it to happen today.

As I was sitting in my towel, drying from the escapade the Lord reminded me of a verse. Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall.” While the situation is funny, the Lord reminded me of how arrogant we can be in our faith sometimes. It will come through, God will take care of it. He’ll shut the door if I’m not supposed to do it. We were never meant to sit in our lazy boy recliners and wait for God to bring us what He wants for us like a butler. He works through our faith and steps of action. It may not be easy to make that decision, but when you know it’s of God and you trust the Father will provide for you, it is so much easier than fighting it till you’re blue in the face. My three weeks here in South Africa has honestly been the best time of my life. God has taught me so much, opened my eyes to so many things, and moved through me in ways I never expected. Cannot wait to share so many more stories with you and tell you so much more about South Africa and my time spent here!

{Senior 2013} Jennifer Carlson

Photography

I’ve known Jennifer for over 2 years now. Through the years she’s only become more gorgeous and stronger in Christ! We went on the South Africa missions trip together – This girl is great with kids (and one awesome roomie!) I had so much fun traveling with her. Jen, you are an amazing girl, so proud of you!

Jen just started playing the guitar and we decided to incorporate it into the shoot. We woke up pretty early to catch the sunrise but it was worth it! Here are a few of my favorite shots 🙂

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Brittany and Greta {2013 Seniors}

Photography

I had an absolute blast with these girls for their senior shoot. They’ve known each other their whole lives through mutual family members. We were out shooting early on a fall morning, capturing the last bit of color left in this season! Brittany plays softball, Greta is looking into a summer internship in Haiti! We had many laughs and a great time capturing this special time in their lives. Thank you girls for asking me to take your senior pictures!

The Palmer Family

Photography

I had a great time taking the Palmer’s family pictures, so glad we were able to incorporate the fall colors! They arrived color coordinated and flashing their pearly whites. Mrs. Palmer even had some fun ideas (love when that happens!) to incorporate and we had a great time. Thanks for letting me take your family pictures, here are my favorites from our shoot!

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