Thursday, October 1, 2015

becoming a Californian

I can’t believe I’ve now lived in California for over two months. I’m practically a Californian.

Mom and Dad helped me drive my car out here in late July. We made a road trip out of it, stopping by the Badlands, Yellowstone, Craters of the Moon National Monument, Boise, Idaho (to visit my boyfriend Ryan’s family), and Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.

Mom and Dad then stayed in California with me for a week. We took one coastal trip to Trinidad Beach and Redwoods National Park, but otherwise we stayed in Redding and they helped me out by doing things like Dad oiling our squeaky doors and Mom ironing all my clothes crumpled from the move. They also visited Bethel Church with me and absolutely loved it as much as I do.

Once they left, to be honest, settling in was hard. The Lord provided an awesome roommate for me who I already knew from Kingdom Life, the church I attended in college, and she “just happened” to arrive to Redding the same day as me! (God totally knew I had no idea how lonely I’d be and that I needed at least one familiar friend!). But I still felt the reality of starting over - in friendships, job searching, a new church community, an entirely new city, and the first few weeks were rough. Though somehow, I never questioned whether I should be there.

My other two roommates are from Sweden. I connected with them on Facebook back in May, we Skyped, loved each other, and decided to be roommates! I feel so connected to them already it can only be because God put us together. I’m so thankful!
Me and my Swedes, Victoria and Jennie, first day of classes
For all the applications I did, the only place I got an interview I also got hired on the spot, for a Starbucks in a Target store. When asked if I like it, I reply with something like, “I’m thankful to have a job.” It’s not The Bridge CafĂ© I worked at in Upland, but jobs here are really hard to come by and I’m truly so grateful I was able to get one so quickly. I’m working about 20 hours a week.

I love Bethel Church. I love it. It is incredible to be in a community of believers, many of whom moved here specifically for this church. It’s unreal to be led in worship by leaders such as Jeremy Riddle, Brian and Jenn Johnson, and Kalley Heiligenthal on a regular basis, who lead with such excellence that it’s not about them at all, but they help lead us straight into connection with the Father. I’ve been listening to Bethel podcasts for a couple of years, and yet actually hearing Bill Johnson, Kris Vallotton, and Eric Johnson preach as a member of the congregation brings an even greater level of impact for sure.

Praying for healing is a very regular part of church here, and people are healed at almost every single service. At services I’ve attended there have been healings of everything from eczema vanishing, to bones that stuck out going back in place, to perpetual pain experienced for decades leaving in an instant, to full movement being restored to limbs. Leaders have also shared testimonies of even more drastic healings taking place, like a child healed of autism and a quadriplegic receiving full restoration of movement and running around. While I know God can do anything, I’m being so challenged to believe he actually wants to do extravagant things for us, to demonstrate his love! There is no limit to what Father God will do for his children when they cultivate an environment of extreme faith and power in the Holy Spirit!

This is a place where the Word is preached, but not just for the sake of gaining head knowledge. We are continually challenged to activate our faith, even during services. Almost every service we are led in going after breakthrough in specific areas, taking a stand to demonstrate our intention to change (whether it’s to stop believing a lie, stop living in shame or sin, to step out in faith in a specific area, or embrace a truth or opportunity), and surrounding those who are standing for change in order to lay hands on them and pray for them (whether we know them or not). Ministry team members and church leaders continually make themselves available to pray with congregation members, as well.

So after a couple of weeks of working and a visit from Ryan, school started in early September. We’ve had class Monday-Thursday from 12:30pm-5:45pm for four weeks now! We have revival group once a week, which is like a home group. Each group has a pastor, and mine is an Australian dad in his 30s (I’m guessing) who carries the love of the Father so strongly that I sometimes want to cry just from his hugs. I’ll also have a small group and one-on-ones with third year student interns. This year 47% of first year students (in total around 1100) are internationals, the biggest percentage they've ever had! Pretty awesome. I have neighbors from Norway, the UK, Germany, South Africa, Portugal, and of course the USA.

School has been amazing. It’s stretching, definitely not comfortable all the time, stuff God wants to work on and heal in my life is being stirred up, but I’m learning so much. Really, even just spending an hour a day in worship is bound to change you! We’ve already read two of Bill Johnson’s books and have Bible reading assignments each day as well. (I'd highly recommend both of Bill's books, When Heaven Invades Earth and Hosting the Presence.) I’m really looking forward to beginning our elective classes and city service projects next month. It's such an empowering and loving culture, from registration day our interns and pastors have been praying over us and prophesying over us, unafraid to believe the Father has huge things in store for our futures. They want us to be our absolute best, to become more and more who we were created to be, and their sole purpose as pastors and interns is to help us become that! It's pretty amazing.

I already have a lot of notes from teachings that I want to share, but I wanted to get this blog out first just to give an overall summary of where I’m at.

Stay tuned!

Monday, June 2, 2014

week 1 update

Here I am, sitting in a Starbucks in Etiler, Istanbul! I have now been here for one week. It's crazy how with time it can feel like I've been here forever while I also can't believe it's already been a week. Was I really at Taylor just last Saturday? Huh.

After an 11 hour flight or something like that, I arrived at the airport and searched for my name on a sign (you always see that in the movies, but I never thought I'd actually be the one doing it!). This man didn't speak English, but held the sign with my name so away with him I went! He was a man from my host dad's work, and I knew ahead of time it would be him, but it was still a little freaky, taking off with a stranger in a new country who couldn't talk to me! Thankfully he took me straight to my new home :)

The little boy I'm caring for is named Ates. He is 3 1/2 and a really sweet boy! He is of a more gentle nature, not one to run around or play sports or be rambunctious, which is a relief for me! He was really shy at first, and he is seriously adorable with the biggest eyes and long dark eyelashes, as you will see in later pictures. I immediately loved him and really like my host mom as well! She and her husband have been extremely kind to me and welcoming, helpful, and forthright with communication and expectations, which is great. 

 You know I'm a nanny when I carry around Ates's Thomas the train backpack even when not with him... My host mom and I decided it would keep the creepers away ;)

 They live in an apartment flat in a complex. It is very nice and more spacious than I expected. I live in a district called Etiler, which is on the European side of Istanbul this time (Istanbul is part Asia part Europe, split by the Bosphorus strait which connects the Black Sea and Aegean Sea, which is part of the Mediterranean.) It's really nice to be on the European side this time, because it is where the city centers and most sight-seeing is. I am well-connected to public transportation, and it's inexpensive.

My daily schedule goes something like this: Wake up at 7 and get ready for the day, Ates gets up around 7:30, feed him breakfast and get him dressed and ready for school which is from 9-1 on weekdays. While he is at school I have free time. Go with host mom to pick him up at 1, have lunch together, play all afternoon until dinner, have dinner around 7, give him a bath and put him to bed around 8:30. Each day is quite a long day!

 Wednesday was my day off, and I took the opportunity to visit some of my favorite sight-seeing spots from last summer...

The famous Blue Mosque

Beautiful Bosphorus boats and coast

I stopped for an afternoon snack of hummus and pitas before going into the Grand Bazaar.

This was the view from outside the Istanbul Modern Art Museum, which I visited since it was my favorite museum last summer.

Fishermen here have the longest fishing poles I've ever seen! And there are lots and lots of them.

The famous Haggia Sophia

This cutie is Ates. Look at those big eyes!

This is the view outside our apartment windows. Yes, there are tennis courts just below.

We went to a fish restaurant with his grandparents who told me it has the "best fish in the whole Mediterranean." I'm not sure about that, but they were delicious!

Corn on the cob is a common street food which Ates LOVES. I told them that I would also be eating corn on the cob if I was at home which my dad grows, but I didn't tell them that our homegrown corn is at least 5x better than this stuff :)

This is somewhat of a classic Turkish breakfast. Cheeses, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, olives, and bread. Usually we have hard-boiled eggs and sometimes nuts as well, and other places I've had it they usually also have deli meats.

Needless to say, I am thoroughly enjoying being back in the beautiful city of Istanbul! I also feel very safe and happy with my host family :) Yesterday I got to attend the Every Nation church which the Lord blessed me with a connection with before coming (I wrote about that in my previous post), and it was so, so refreshing! The church was quite small, but had at least 10 other college-aged girls and guys there, and I am so excited to become friends with them! Worship was basically food for my soul, and I felt the sermon may as well have been written for me, all about how the Lord delights in perfecting His power in our weakness. Day to day life isn't all easy for me here, but I am so thankful that the Lord will give me through His the power the strength and abilities I do not have in myself! t's really apparent to me that fellowship and worship both with God and other believers are essential for my spiritual and total well-being while I am here. I really am so excited to see how He will continue to deepen my relationship with Ates and give me opportunities to show His love while experiencing the beauty and wonder of His creation in a place so different than anything I've known growing up :)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

istanbul, round 2

It seems that my life with the Lord is to be full of unexpected adventures, and I'd have it no other way.

A little over a month ago if you asked me what I was doing with my summer I'd have said I was planning to do an internship with Samaritan's Purse. I applied early, have relevant experience and studies, had great interviews, positive and encouraging feedback, yet the final date for when I would find out kept getting pushed back, and at the beginning of April I got word that I didn't receive the internship.

You might think I was hurt, frustrated, and upset, but honestly all along I'd been praying for the Lord's best for me, whether or not that involved the internship. So, when I found out I didn't get it, I trusted in faith that it was because the Lord had something better in store for me. I didn't expect to be an au pair (cross-cultural nanny) again this summer, because it was late notice and families who would actually pay me enough to make it work were almost non-existent. But in a matter of a couple of weeks, I had a Turkish family contact me wanting to know if I'd be their au pair for the month of June in Istanbul. They have a precious little 3-year-old boy. They offered to pay me a comparatively very high weekly salary and for all my flight expenses. I still had a lot of doubts about it until we skyped, and when we did I just really really liked them! Soon after I committed to the month of June with them and began asking the Lord about the rest of summer.

When I mentioned my situation to my friend she said, "I'm moving into my off-campus house in July - I'm sure you could just move in with me!" So my plan is in late July to move in with her in Upland and find a job that I can continue to work throughout next school year.

The beauty of this whole thing: I get to go abroad, back to Istanbul. I love the family and think we will mesh super well. I still get to go on vacation with my whole family in July. I get to live in Upland for part of the summer with my best friends, living an hour from my sisters, and go to my beloved Kingdom Life Church and fellowship with my dear friends there. I'll make money working a "real job" for part of the summer.

I am in awe of how this has all come together! Seriously. How do I ever doubt God's goodness to me? He gave me all my desires meshed into the perfect scenario I never could have come up with myself. I am convinced that this is how life lived in submission to God, trusting him for his best, is supposed to look.

I tell all of this certainly not to boast, but for two purposes. One, to give testimony to the faithfulness of God and his desire to bless us far beyond what we even imagine. And second, because I'd love for you people to follow my journey back to Istanbul. A lot of things will be different this time around, but many things will also be the same - the realities of going alone to a foreign place, doing life with a non-Christian family, learning from people in a culture that God has made so beautifully different than mine, continually being able to shine the light of Christ where he is otherwise unknown... It is definitely not going to be easy, but it's going to be amazing.

If you know as I do that God moves and works in response to our prayers, please pray for me through this. In reality, this is a public blog and I will not be completely free to express all my thoughts and struggles. If you will pray for me, and I am asking the Lord that he would compel some of you to do so, please email me at so that I can send you my personal requests and go more in detail about my experiences.

I'm so eager to have this new experience and to be able to share all my stories and pictures with you all!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

prague, vienna, and budapest with taylor sounds

 At the start of this year, I thought I'd be spending my spring break with the Taylor Sounds in Puerto Rico. That was the plan, but over the summer as Taylor tried to make connections and plans with people in Puerto Rico, nothing was happening or working out. It was in that state that our director, Dr. Rediger, got invited to direct a European Honors Choir in Prague, Czech Republic, which "just happened" to be planned for the same dates as Taylor's Spring Break! Ultimately, our plans as a group shifted, and we concluded that the Lord had ministry prepared for us in Prague, Vienna, and Budapest instead of Puerto Rico! When we received this news, to say we were ecstatic would be a huge understatement. Honestly, if I could have chosen anywhere in the world to go on a ministry tour, I likely would have chosen this area!

Dr. Rediger and two music major students got to go to Prague several days before the rest of us, so our group arrived the day of the honor's choir's last rehearsal day. We arrived in Prague at 9AM after almost 24 hours of travel (Prague is 6 hours ahead of us here in the Eastern Time Zone). Here are some pictures of Prague:

Old Town Square
This famous astronomical clock first installed in 1410 has a figure of one of the twelve disciples come out at each hour and also includes an astrolabe, a zodiacal ring that indicates the sun's position, and a form of calendar.

 After an afternoon tour of Prague, our group went to the Christian international high school in Prague where the honor choir rehearsals were taking place. We got to meet the high schoolers there, have dinner with them, and have a talent show in which our group performed some of our 50s repertoire from our Valentine's concert, and they performed some of their favorite songs from their high schools. Christian international high schools from Russia, Turkey, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, and elsewhere all had students participating in this honors choir, and many of them were missionary kids. I was so pleasantly surprised at how open and eager to connect with us the kids were! I absolutely loved getting to spend time with them - they were truly amazing kids. I was shocked to find that a guy named Kurt Siegel, who had gone to my high school in my tiny hometown, was in the honors choir (his parents are missionaries in Russia)!!!

The next day (Sunday) we got to attend a service and sing a few songs at the International Church of Prague.

I honestly felt so at home at this church - the worship was so meaningful, the people so loving and encouraging, and the sermon impactful. I loved meeting missionaries and visitors there, connecting so easily as all part of Christ's Church! It was so neat how we were able to encourage the congregation, yet we left probably even more blessed and encouraged by them! For Sunday lunch we got to have some traditional Czech food. When we ordered we had no idea the meat we had coming to us...

On the left is a huge knee of pork on that turning skewer thing, in front is my 1/4 of a duck, and to the right is a knee of lamb! It was all really delicious even though we had to wait like 2 hours for it to come, ha! After lunch we had a little bit of time to explore the city, and then in the late afternoon we went to a beautiful cathedral near the center of Prague and watched the honors choir's excellent final performance! We joined them for a few of the songs we also knew, and the acoustics were amazing to sing in.

In the morning we rode a bus about 4.5 hours to Vienna. I tried the classic Wiener Schnitzel (Weiner is Vienna) which is a fried pork tenderloin, and it was great! Then we had the privilege of seeing "The Magic Flute" opera! Operas are so commonplace in Vienna, it only cost us 12 Euro for balcony seats, yet it was a phenomenal show! Unfortunately it was all in German with no subtitles, but appreciating the incredible musicians and voices was more than enough to keep me entertained! In the morning we headed for Schonbrunn Palace and took a tour of the inside (no pictures allowed) and explored the gardens outside:

Next, we headed for the International Christian School of Vienna. We performed almost all of our repertoire there, and the high school students who had been in the honors choir joined us for the songs they knew, which was really cool! The audience was mostly students, parents, and some teachers. The students absolutely loved our performance, grinning and expressing their excitement so much throughout. I thrive on responsive audiences, so I loved that.
Marie Engle, a good friend who graduated with me from Pettisville High School, is studying abroad in Vienna for the year (studying opera), and she came to our concert then gave me a night tour of the city center and the main buildings - all lit up, they were so stunning! I stood in front of basically every place she took me with my mouth hanging open... We also shared some of the famous apfelstrudel in a cafe and thoroughly enjoyed catching up as it had been almost 2 years since we'd been together! :)

 The next morning two missionaries to Vienna who were Taylor grads gave us a mini-tour of some of the main sites of Vienna, then we split into smaller groups...

 This beautiful mosaic of the Last Supper had tiny square centimeter tiles, and was displayed in a smaller cathedral which was away from the main touristic sites. It was so refreshing and peaceful to go to a church which was not full of picture-taking, souvenir-seeking tourists, and to actually take the time to sit and just bask in the presence of God that was so tangibly in that place.

The group I walked around with ended up being Abigail who is in Sounds and is from Budapest, and our director Dr. Rediger (middle) and her husband. It was quite special :)

 Next we drove to the city that quickly became my unexpected favorite of the three, Budapest, Hungary. Here are some sight-seeing pictures:

Although you can't really see it, this is the treasure of the St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest, St. Stephen's arm. They even parade it around once a year...

This became one of my favorite cathedrals I've ever been to.

Most of my favorite memories from the trip, especially of ministry, come from Budapest. Originally our director was only going to ask a few members of our group to go to the Christian International Budapest high school in the early morning (6:30AM is already way too early for me even before jet-lag!), but when she asked who would go we all were practically begging to go, so we all ended up going! I really appreciated this about our group, we all really were there for the ministry above all else. So we got to join the high school choir two mornings, singing with and teaching them. We also got to sing in two of the school's chapel sessions, share cafeteria lunch with the kids, and perform an evening concert at the school, as well. We also got to perform at a church and a Korean cultural center - I loved it all!

Something I noticed and thought about a lot on this trip was the huge difference in the state of my own heart when we performed, especially compared to my Freshman year in Chorale when I remember being really frustrated with how little I could actually think about what we were singing because I was so focused on just getting everything right. This trip I knew I needed to be very intentional about maintaining my own times of fellowship with the Lord on my own each day. For much of the trip I did this, and what a difference I felt! I carried an awareness of the Lord's presence with me, and felt especially equipped and joyful as we shared our music. Each time we performed I was so full of joy! While we sang our director would usually begin each song and then sit down and stop directing, because we could continue on alone. This gave us opportunity to look out at the individuals in the audience while we sang. I was blessed again and again, seeing everything from smiles, to closed eyes and hands outstretched, to weeping, to awe. I felt deep connection with individuals as I shared with all my heart our songs' stories and declared the truths they contained. I would pray that God would highlight people to me as I looked out, and then I would have opportunities to speak with them after performances. I met so many incredible people and found that we performers and our audiences were mutually blessed and encouraged each time we glorified God through our music. He came and touched so many!

We also had one impromptu performance that meant a lot to me while in Budapest. Our whole group walked to a small convenience store one evening from our hotel to buy snacks. A Hungarian man and woman pair were running the store, and they spoke almost no English. Yet they were kind to us, and even gave us some free cakes to try. As we left, I gave the woman a CD of our recorded songs from last year and tried to communicate to her that it was us singing on it. Then someone asked if we could sing for her then and there, and we did! She so listened so intently and mouthed the words as we sang, trying to figure out what we were singing. She loved it. We said goodbye and started to walk out, only to find the man of the shop outside standing by his car with the door open, playing the CD I had given of our singing. The song playing was called "Without Love," taken from 1 Corinthians 13. He was standing there with a look of awe on his face, and continued to do so as members of our group began to sing along. He looked so grateful as it finished, and he shook our leaders' hands, pressing them to his forehead as he said what must have been many thanks in Hungarian.

Our final day in Budapest was such an amazing way to end. Some of the high school students led us like tour guides from the top of the castle hill, all the way down the hill, overlooking the river and city, and then across the river as the sun set and evening came:

We said our goodbyes to the high school students, then enjoyed two more amazing treats, a Hungarian Folk Music and Dance show, then dinner on a boat on the Danube River.

Finally, here are a few pictures of our group that a guy named Andras Kim, one of the high school students, took for us:

I feel incredibly blessed to have had this experience which combined three of my most favorite things: Europe, music, and ministry. I come away with enriched relationships, new friends, memories and photos of some amazing places, and most importantly, knowing that God was glorified and worked in the hearts of many (including my own) through our music ministry.

If you supported me financially or with your prayers as I was on this trip, I thank you yet again! You have partnered with us and with God, and he has done some really awesome things with that partnership :)