I am still amazed at the fact that I am writing to you from a foreign country. Looking back on my life, I never thought I would be here. Not because I didn’t want too, but because I didn’t know if I would have the courage to do it. However, God has been so gracious to me and I have my friends, family, and supporters to thank for that as they pray for me and encourage me on this adventure.
The desire to get into mission work was planted in my heart many years ago, however, I didn’t begin to take it seriously until my sophomore year of college. At that time in my life, I was at a very low point. Nothing seemed to be going right and everything that I held dear to my heart or was ever considered important to me, was slowly being stripped away. No matter how hard I tried, I kept digging a hole deeper and deeper. I guess at this time, you could say God rocked my world, but as I write to you today, I am so thankful that he did. Hitting a low point was probably the best and worst thing that ever happened to me. It was because of the trials and blessings that I am who I am today and it was how this adventure all began.
I arrived in the Philippines on January 4, 2014. Though I was not at my final destination, after being in an airplane for 20 hours total, I found myself having an overnight layover in Manila. Unfortunately, I have heard more bad than good about that part of the country and I didn’t sleep at all, which did not help trying to adjust to the time change. After a long night and meeting a Filipino who noticed I was traveling and went out of his way to help me, I boarded my next plane at 6:30 in the morning and arrived at my final destination at around 8am. I didn’t know what to expect, but as I got off the plane and walked out of the airport, the team I am working with was waiting for me with a sign that said, “Welcome to Paradise Julia!” God knew I needed that. After traveling for so long, it was good to see familiar faces (I had met part of the team earlier in the year through training) and be welcomed by them.
Since there is a 13 hour time change and it was morning when I arrived, the team worked together to make sure I stayed up for the rest of the day, or at least until after dinner. That day I moved in, went out to eat (and I tried calamari and raw fish for the first time), went to the mall, went grocery shopping, rode in a trike and a jeepney (pictures to come later) and explored the local market. It was an information overload, but the team was very understanding and caring and this first week my job is basically to adjust, learn, watch, listen, and figure out how things work around here.
Up until now, I am still learning, sitting in on meetings, being introduced to a new culture, language, and people, and so far I am thoroughly enjoying it. There have been some good moments and bad moments, but God has been such a comfort to me. I was finally able to start running and exploring on my own, I have been able to talk to my family almost everyday, and I have been able to do my devotions morning and night. This culture and the team are so caring and hospitable, they understand the hardships, the adjustments, and the joy. Spending time with the team and the Filipinos are what I have been enjoying most as they always seem to lift my spirits and they don’t even know they are doing it. I have God to thank for that as he has been blessing me all along the way and placing people in my life to come along side me. These next two weeks are going to be busy as we do a medical outreach in various cities throughout the area and move our main facility (the student center) to a new location that was just built on the local college campus. At the end of the two weeks there will be a celebratory grand opening as this center will be able to house interns, provide classrooms for tutoring, and a computer lab to help students excel in their education. There will also be a few free days for scuba diving and hiking a volcano:)
As I was doing my devotions, God’s word seems to come alive more and more. I am not sure if it is because I am in another culture or because I am desperate for his comfort and guidance.. probably both, but I am so thankful that God is meeting me where I am at. It is such a comfort and a joy.
He brought me to the parable of the hidden Treasure and the Pearl in Matthew 13: 44-46. Though I have heard this parable many times before, God provided a new insight that was of great comfort to me. I had always thought this story was about God and how having him in my life is like having a treasure or a pearl. I give up everything in my life and devote it to him or the “treasure” in joy because He is my all. However, through a bible study I am going through, it never occurred to me that this story has a double meaning. Christ is the man in the field, and when he found the treasure or pearl (us) he bought the field with his life because he loved us that much. Does that not blow your mind? I never thought of myself as the treasure in the field or a fine pearl. We forget so many times that we are worth dying for! I matter! What I am doing matters! My purpose matters! That motivates me even more to give everything to him and to serve him wholeheartedly. It is an honor and a blessing to serve a God that is worth it and who reminds me that I am worth it too…