Friday, December 30, 2011


I have been meaning to post a blog for a while. This semester has been so crazy. I should’ve been blogging to release some  the feelings I’ve been harboring this semester.

This is my 2011 recap blog. It has been quite a year. 2011 started out as a new start for me. It started with Passion in Atlanta, Georgia. I finally surrendered the issue I’d been clinging to for so long to God on that trip. I gave in, I let Him have it, I gave Him my life, including my love life, which I’d so desperately been trying to control. It was an amazing trip and I am so excited for this years’ trip to Passion. Here is a pic from last year:

After Passion, I started back at school, as an RA. I love my RA friends and I miss you all so much! We had so many good times that semester J I miss you all so much and really loved working with each and every one of you!! <3

As the semester continued, Spring break came and I went to New Orleans with Cassie, Amy and Lacy! It was our last spring break trip together (we have had some good ones :)! And it was so much fun!!!! Love you all!!!

 In March, my life changed again, in two ways. Firstly, I went on a church retreat with some amazing women to Pigeon Forge. It was a life changing trip for me. I grew so much closer to God and I decided to commit my life to God in a way I had never publically done before. I got up in front of the group and made a public commit to surrender my life to Him. This turned into my Baptism in May (more to come on that J

Also in March and April (and kinda February), I started talking to this boy. This boy, this boy I had known since freshman year of college. I’d always been a fan of him but this talk was different. This talk turned into the relationship that I am currently in and that brings so much bliss to my life. This boy is incredible. He is so good to me and I am so excited about our future together J

The semester ended in a very different way than it had begun. I was happily falling in love with Tripp, moving out of a dorm for the last time, and preparing for my Baptism. I was also having to say goodbye to two of my dearest college friends who were graduating. Lacy and Amy, I miss you all so much!! It’s crazy to not see you all anymore!!

I also had to say goodbye to some other amazing people, Martha (glad you’re close by girl!), Dustin Painter, Keith Marwitz. These are just a few of the wonderful people that were graduating and going on to do big things with their lives! I am so happy to know each of you! Keith and Dustin, you were my college friends before I was in college! I love that I can still call you both my friends! Martha! You're amazing! I look forward to seeing you lots more this next year, since you're so close!

Two Sunday’s after the semester ended, I was baptized. It was incredible, making that commitment to God and my church. It has been such a wonderful journey getting to be a part of the First United Methodist of Sylva community. There are some amazing people that have become such a big part of my life. I love my church family and could not do without the support and love they give me! Especially my accountability group that has become so important to me!
Also in May, I turned 21! My baby brother graduated from high school in the beginning of June!

Summer began with a wisdom teeth removal, moving in and super cleaning a house that Cassie and Emily and I moved into, and preparing for the biggest physical (and even spiritual) journey I’d every taken—the trip to Burkina Faso, Africa. I have blogs galore on this trip and pics on my facebook. This trip has changed the way I think about everything. It is just the beginning of the mission work that is in my future. I feel that God does want me to continue to do mission work and to lead mission trips and take a leadership role in being a disciple to His people. This is just the beginning.

After Africa, I jumped back into school, student teaching, life. There was a slight road bump when I had my first seizure. September 4th, at 8 a.m., I seized. My first emergency room trip is now a total blur, can’t remember much at all. My catscan and EEG looked fine. The doctors (three of them), said I was probably just too stressed, not sleeping enough. We made adjustments at my house. Tripp, Cassie, Jenny D., and so many others helped drive me places, babysat me. They were amazing and I could not have gotten through this semester without all the help! It was so nice to have my church family praying. Things got back to normal and then I had another seizure, October 4th. This time, the doctors thought something was up. A neurologist appointment was scheduled for December and I continued to adjust life. No night time driving, minimal driving of children, no long distance trips. This was a huge test for me. I am Miss Independent. I do things myself thank you very much. God was teaching me to slow down and to let other people be a part of my life and help me. He was teaching me to depend on Him, to focus on what’s important.

Finally, in December, we learned I have juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. It’s mild and is characterized by the tremors that I’ve had for years. With medicine, I should be able to live a normal life. It will not go away and I will always have to take medicine. This was hard for me to accept. But, the news really is fairly good news and this is something to be thankful for.  I have to be a little careful with my sleep and my stress level but other than this, I will be healthy J

Another huge thing happened in December. One of my best friends, Cassie Moore, graduated. I cannot believe she is graduating and leaving the house! She has been a huge source of comfort, help and strength this semester. I have had the honor of watching her grow, as a person and as a child of God. To see her faith grow as it has, I am just beyond happy for her. I don’t know what I will do without her this semester! She has helped me with everything, dealing with Africa, boys, friends, my shortcomings and insecurities, my seizure stuff, babysitting. She has been a huge source of encouragement this semester, and such a good friend for years. I hate to say goodbye to her so I am not doing it, not until she gets a job in Hawaii or something J Love you Cassie. So much! Always here for you!!!

It’s been quite a year. This about sums it up…lots of highs, lots of lows. The future that I have thought about for years seems so close…marriage, missions, my purpose in life, my teaching career…it all seems so real, so touchable where I am at now. I feel like my grown up life is beginning.

Anyways, happy New Year! May it be filled with blessings, even if there are trials. May it be filled with new beginnings, even if there are endings.

Nothing Without Him,

Friday, October 14, 2011

Africa Part 4

Wow. This is taking me a really long time! Life has been crazy lately, with school and internship. I've also had 2 seizures in the past month-ish so that's been interesting.

But none of that matters tonight. I am back in Burkina tonight, reflecting on this crazy trip that seems so surreal now...

I ended the last blog with the morning we left Gaou, where we built the 'church.' Amazing night. Anyways, we left that morning and drove the 6 hours back to Ouga. On the way back, we stopped at a crocodile farm and sat on some crocs. It was cool :) We also fed them chickens. Neat experience.
The crocs were literally jumping of the ground. I can't explain the sound and sight of it. Crazy!
So, we got back to the guest house, caught up with the two sick girls, took showers in a real indoor shower, went to the bathroom in real toilets and got 'dressed up' for a dinner out that night. This was one of the hardest nights of the trip. We went to a restaurant, a fancy one, served better food then I've eaten in America, just after leaving those children and adults who eat maybe once a day and drink disgusting and disease infested water. How could there be a restaurant in this mess!? That's not fair. And why do we get to do this all the time? To take to go boxes and half the time not eat it later. To just leave it on our plates for them to throw away. So many go without food, why do we get to waste it? All that aside, here is a picture from that night. The restaurant was really neat, the floor was sand, so you could take your shoes off. The food was great. Just not fair.
The next day we spent resting. I woke up at 6 out of habit (and the roosters were up) went back to bed for a bit, til about 9. Took a nap at like 10:30 until lunch time. We went to the market this day where I bought the majority of stuff that I bought. Mostly gifts for people back home. It was crazy how many merchants there were. Ashlyn and I did the dishes that night, we tried to help Sam when he would let us.
The next day was Compassion day. This day was awesome. Several of the people in our group got to meet their Compassion kids. If you don't know what Compassion is, go here: It's an amazing organization, truly following God's word and changing lives.
Balkuy is where we visited the site. It was a church and a school. The kids don't go to school every day, or church. And there were kids there who weren't yet sponsored. When we arrived, we were a little late (which doesn't really matter because it's Burkina). The kids were lined up to sing for us. So completely precious. We went through and shook all of their hands. 100 something kids I think. They were so precious.
The teachers had like 4 classrooms with about 40 kids in each. It was so cool how the school worked. They taught in Moret (local language) and French so the kids could pick up on French if they knew Moret, which most did. The teachers were so enthusiastic. Clapping, singing, smiling the entire time they were teaching. They didn't discipline the kids or ask for the kids attention. They just taught their lessons about the Bible and God, manners, social skills, it was amazing. So different from American schools. They also played, a lot, which was great to see. It was amazing sitting in on the class and connecting with the kids, without even being able to speak their language.
We helped feed the kids lunch. On the floor is where they ate. Bowls of rice with one piece of meat in
The kids were so precious. We had to eat our lunch, which was almost like theirs but we had soda, bottles of water and banana bread, with kids watching us. The unsponsored kids. It was so hard to eat and not give them any or just not throw up. So hard. The kids were just so sweet though. I didn't want to leave.
We went out again this night, after the team members with kids got to go out with their kids to a park. We went to an ice cream/burger place. It was so delicious but also just so surreal. It's just crazy in the middle of Burkina, in the middle of starving kids and dirty, diseased water people are drinking to sit in a diner. And see Burkinabe with cell phones and laptops. Craziness.
The next day, some people went to the zoo. I chose to stay at the guest house, pack and pray. I had lots of thinking to do. A few other older team members stayed at the house. But as promised to a few people, I got pictures from people who did go to the zoo of elephants and giraffes :)

Sam made his amazing doughnuts that morning. They were so good. I think I ate three....we packed. We threw a bunch of stuff in a container to leave for the missionaries. Then, we debriefed as a team. This was hard. I think we all ended up crying. It was just scary and difficult talking about the trip, about the people we had met, the children. And we were leaving it all. How were we going to talk about it? It doesn't do it justice, these blogs and talking about it. It is just nothing like actually being there. The first missionaries to Burkina packed their things in a coffin. They knew it was a lifelong trip and they would not make it back. It was that dangerous. And I was scared to come for 10 days!? The faith of others amazes me. I want a faith like that. LikeLarry, to live there for 7years, raise his child there, take his wife. Move away from everything, get malaria 2 times a year, on average. Crazy!
It was a humbling experience. Incredible. Crazy. Painful. Tough. Hot. Exhausting. Exhilarating. Intense. I realized how weak I can be, how strong my God is. I became angry at the American church. Angry at myself. Frustrated with God at times.Why were these people living like this? I still don't have all of the answers. I am still trying to process.
Coming back to real life was really hard. I wasn't ready for it and it started so quickly. I often just want to quit and go back to Burkina. But it was truly tough being there.
I have much more to say but will leave it at this for now. This concludes the information about the trip. I want to do one more blog on just pictures. I'll save that for another night. Thanks for reading.
--nothing without Him,

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Africa: Part 3

Wow, it has been awhile since I have blogged! Let me try to finish up the Bush trip tonight, and then soon hopefully I can finish up the WHOLE trip!

So, I ended with describing what the church looked like before, that many of our team was sick, boys were doing most of the work and the kids were precious.

At lunch time, we halted work to eat. We also had to wait on one of the missionaries to return from bringing the two sick girls back up to Ouaga. He had some tools we needed. Dusty killed this chicken for our dinner:

It was very messy! At this point in the day, clouds were forming and we hadn't even started putting the tin roof on the foundations we had put up. Larry arrived with the materials we needed and we realized we had to work quickly. A lady in town offered to let us stay in her house, which was very surprising as the people were not very receptive to Christians. The children in the village helped us bring our stuff to her house.

The work for the roof just took a couple people at a time. Nick and Hannah worked on it for one side, Nick and Susan on the other.

Amazing enough, with God's help, we finished the roof with no rain. This is when my heart really started to break. Please, take a moment to think about the churches in America that you've been to. Just think about what they look like, what kind of technology was used at the services, the music. This is what their church looked like.

Just a roof. And some posts. That's it. We need air conditioning, huge sanctuaries, gyms, classrooms, kitchens, PowerPoint's, lights, music, sound systems. All they wanted was this roof. This small area, no floor and no walls. That's it. The pastor of this church pastors a few other churches in the area. One man, Timothy, is in a wheel chair. It takes him two hours to get to the church every Sunday. We barely find the motivation to wake up by 10 am to drive 10 minutes to church in our cars with AC/heat. And we will never have the same faith they have. We would never consider worshiping all night. Or without air conditioning. We don't need God like they do.
After we finished dinner and started worshiping, it started to rain. Everyone took shelter in the church which gave the pastor an opportunity to give a message about truly knowing God. Do you really know Him? It was such a good sermon. And it was amazing because it was barely raining, just enough for us to get in the church, but not too much. All around us, it was thundering and lightening. Satan was furious at us and at the work we were doing but he couldn't get in to stop us. Our God is stronger. He is bigger.

They worshiped all night. I mean from 7 pm to 6 am. Amazing. Humbling. Heart breaking.

That night we slept at the kind woman's house. I felt very uncomfortable in the house, it was a tight fit, so I slept outside with a few others, even though it was still raining some. This was one of the nights where I felt a taste of what it was like to truly depend on God. I didn't stop praying until I fell asleep. I prayed for no rain. I prayed for the people of that village, for all the people we were meeting. I prayed for the lady whose house we were at, with fetishes outside. I depended on Him for my safety, comfort, for everything that night and for the whole trip really. I was totally out of control on this trip, having know idea where I was or how to speak to most of the people. I was trusting Him completely. This is something we rarely have to do in America.

We packed up the next morning, my heart so broken. Before we left, it broke again. We asked the Pastor, this amazing man who runs 4 churches and who spoke with more conviction and passion than I had heard back in the States. He got on his knees so we could pray for him.

We prayed, loaded the vans and headed back to Ouaga. Back to showers and real bathrooms. Back to the comforts of beds under roofs every night. A less limited supply of water.

This is it for tonight. I'll try to finish up soon. Thanks for reading!

--Nothing Without Him--

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Africa: Part 2

Saturday of the trip is when it gets kinda crazy. We woke up early, around 4 a.m., and loaded up the vans by 5 to make the journey to Pondou, an area in the Bush where we would be attending a wedding and staying the night. It was the wedding of a friend Kevin had made years ago, Jehojakim. It was a big deal, there would be many big name pastors at the wedding, as well as at least 2 missionary teams.

When we headed out that morning, a few people on the team were already feeling sick. The plan was to go to the wedding Saturday and stay the night there and then drive to Gauo the next day to help put a roof on a church in a very unreached and dark area. We were going to a crazy place to do big work with God.

The drive took about 5 hours on roads that look like this:
It was rough driving. We got 3 flat tires total on the 3 day trip. We stopped on the side of the road for breakfast and to use the bathroom (aka the bushes). At this point, 3 people I think were sick.

When we got to the wedding, we were a little bit late. But it didn't matter because in Burkina, nothing is on time. Everyone is always late. We arrived at about 10:30 a.m. and went inside the hot church, it was packed but there was room for us. People made sure of it, because we were white. When you're white in Burkina, you are treated way too nice. People get seats for you, feed you, and are just so happy to meet you. Most of the time, not everyone is this way.

The wedding lasted until after 2 p.m. It was quite an event. People were singing and dancing. The local youth group came in (they acted like American boy/girl scouts, wearing uniforms and carrying flags in). Different people spoke and prayed, including some very high up CMA people. The couple sat down in the front of the church while people sang to them.
It was quite an experience. To be honest, it was hot and uncomfortable and I felt sick and exhausted. I thought I might pass out or fall asleep sitting there.

We walked over to the reception where several Burkinabe left the reception area so that we could sit. Just because we're white. I didn't know the bride or groom. I didn't have a right to be in that reception when that meant that some of the bride or groom's friends couldn't sit and eat with them. I felt terrible. By this point, most of us weren't feeling that great physically. But we ate what we could and then left to go set up our sleeping area for the evening. It gets dark in Burkina at 6 pm so we had to set it up before then.

We had a 'bathroom' at our place, which means we had a brick wall around a concrete floor with a hole in the middle to use. The picture above is one such bathroom. (A bush outside was almost better sometimes). We also had a shower area where we could take a bucket bath (most of us didn't that night). I set up my cot inside that night, as we had a room for some of us to sleep in.

The Burkinabe people danced and sang all night in celebration of the wedding that night.

The stars were incredible that night. You could literally see the milky way. We took some neat pictures that night.

Okay, day 2 in the bush, Sunday. We woke up and went to church. They started the church service early for us, 7:30 I think, because they knew we needed to head out early that day. It was an interesting service. The people sang and their rhythm and music is so different from ours. We sang a song, Blessed Be the Name, and it sounded so weird in comparison.

The pastor talked about how God is our shepherd and leads us where need to go. He provides us with all we need. That's how the people live out their faith in Burkina.They have so little. They need Him to provide each meal, clothes to wear, water to drink (not clean water might I add). Everything comes from Him. We have no idea how to live out this kind of faith. We have our savings accounts and tons of grocery stores and restaurants to eat it. We have no idea how to depend on God instead of ourselves.

The village fed us that morning and then we hit the road. There was still a lot of sickness in the group. We drove about 3 hours to a village where we were meeting a girl named Lati. Kevin had met her 4 years ago. She was crippled and her family was starving her because she was of no use. Kevin wanted to help. He raised $800 in a week back in America to pay for her surgery. After that, she was fine. She was running and walking like other kids and her family was feeding her again. He hadn't seen her in 3 years. This Lati with one of the missionaries who is actually from Franklin.

It was such a privilege watching Kevin interact with this little girl who he loved so much, who he had given a new life. We met her brother and father in the village and we drove Lati and her brother back to their home village. It was on the way to our next stop Gauo. Lati was very fun to watch, very mischievous little girl!! When we dropped her off, she just stood at the road waiting, wanting to come back to us. It was heartbreaking leaving her.

We drove another 3ish hours to our destination. We stayed just outside of Gaou that night in the village where the pastor lived. He is the pastor of 4 churches, one of which we were roofing the next day. We drank some tea and ate spaghetti that night (spaghetti in the middle of nowhere, cooked over a fire--our cook was amazing!) We were prepped some for the next day. Two of our team missionaries who are living in Burkina (Kalen and Susan) had already been to the area we were going to. There was a lot of witchcraft and it was very spiritually dark. The people were not too fond of us white missionary folks. But, since their first visit, the people invited us to stay in their actual village that next night. This was a very big deal.

I took a bucket bath that night and I kinda liked it. I slept inside again because we weren't sure if we would have that luxury the next night. And it didn't really feel like being inside too much because the windows were just open holes and the doorway was open too.

The next morning, Monday, we were packing up to leave. Two of our girls were very sick. Kevin and Larry decided to send them back up to Ouaga that day. Larry would drive halfway and meet another long term missionary, Pete, who would take the girls to Ouaga and to the hospital. It was really hard watching them go.

A few of us headed to the work site. I was expecting to see walls and a roofless church ready for us. This is what I saw instead.

Just some poles in the ground waiting for a roof. No walls. Here is the church that was already there.

I had to bend over to get inside. And I am short. The people were definitely more shy towards us than others. We set up the scaffolding and the boys mostly worked while us girls did easy work, like putting nails in this tar stuff to use later. We also had the opportunity to talk to the kids. I know a little french so I was able to find out names and ages and ask about school and church. I also asked the kids if they like to play soccer (it's very popular in Burkina). This is Dappel. Such a cutie.

We danced and sang with the kids as there wasn't too much work for all of us to do. The four guys were capable of doing all the work. We took more pictures. Here are some friends I made.

They were so precious. All of them.

Many of our team was still sick. The sickness during this 3 day trip can be easily explained. As I said earlier, we were going to a dark place. Satan did not want us to go. He did not want us to do God's work. Sickness and hardship sometimes comes when you are working for God.

Getting the church up is kind of a story in itself so this is going to be the end of this blog. Sorry it's so long :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Africa: Part 1

I’ve been trying to write this blog since the day I got home. I just don’t know how to start. It’s going to be a long one, or a series of long ones. But bear with me and I’ll try to highlight important parts.

How was Africa? I keep getting asked that question. And so many thoughts come to mind. Humbling. Incredible. Intense. Hard. Life changing. Crazy. Enlightening.

I’m just gonna start with day 1 and see what happens.

Monday, July 25th. We left Franklin together, the team of 11, on a bus headed to the Atlanta airport. Our flight was at like 5 or 6, leaving ATL and headed to Paris. I was mostly excited, a little nervous. As I sent my last texts for the next 12 days, I realized how much I would miss everyone. But I was too excited to care too much.

We got to Paris at like 8 am Paris time. Our flight left after a couple hours and we stopped in Niger on the way to Burkina. Flying over the Sahara desert was really cool. I have always been fascinated by deserts.

The airport in Burkina was crazy. The plane doors opened to the outdoors, to stairs leading straight down to the landing strip. A little bus took us the 500 feet to the airport. It was crazy in the airport, especially coming from Atlanta and Paris. There were ceiling tiles out, not much air flowing, not really terminals, no stores of any kind. We met up with the missionary who would be with us for our trip, Larry. He lead us outside where a bunch of Burkniabe (people from Burkina) were trying to sell us hotel reservations, eggs, all sorts of things. All French speaking, very overwhelming.

We get in the van and head to the guesthouse where we would be staying for most of the trip. The guesthouse is the upstairs of Larry’s house. Larry lives with his wife and 17 year old son. They have been in Burkina for 7 years.

The roads were absolutely insane. There were women in dresses and heels riding around on motos and bicycles right next to the car, like 2 feet from our windows! It was insane. There were markets set up all over the streets. People everywhere, so many people! The clothes were very diverse. People would walk up to the car to try to sell us stuff.

We made it to the guesthouse and introduced ourselves to Larry. We met our cook, Sam. He spoke English and French and cooked the most amazing food. He made American stuff for us but it was so different since it was made with products that weren’t processed like American food. We had tacos the first night.

There were 6 girls in the room I stayed in. Thankfully, we had air conditioning which we were allowed to use at night. We had a sink and a shower, but no hot water, which we didn’t need anyways. We had to brush our teeth with filtered water from our water bottles/cups and we couldn’t open our mouths in the shower. This was sometimes tricky to remember. One night, one of the girls put her toothbrush under the faucet twice! We had to boil water to clean it in.

The sun went down at 6 and we were all tired from flying so soon after dinner and introductions, we went to bed.

The next few days we stayed in Ouagadougou, which is the capitol of Burkina. (Call it Ouaga for short). We worked at an Elementary School that had been established by the church. We only worked half days and that’s really all I could work. The sun was so intense and I am apparently super weak. That was one thing I realized on this trip—I don’t do manual labor enough. I can pay people to mow my lawn and other things like that so all this outdoor labor was difficult. Which is ridiculous of me.

And the kids. They worked so hard. It was incredible. Who knows how much they had to eat that day but they were out there, taking our tools and working way harder than us. It was crazy and very humbling.

They also chased our vans in and out of their villages. Every time we drove up, they would chase us. I sat in the back most of the time and there was a ladder on the back of the van. The kids would try to climb it and I had to tell them not to. Heartbreaking.

On one of the days in Ouaga, we took a tour of the city. We went and saw the rich parts of town, which exist. Embassy members, government officials, business men and their families live here. The presidents house had four street lanes as his driveway. We then went to Sector 30, where people were living in huts. There was a giant hole of trash and mud. And so many children. All just running around, no parents in sight most of the time. This just blew my mind. I kept thinking, what are they doing all day? But what else were they to do but run around and play and try to find food to eat. They have no toys, no tv, no school some of them.

Their houses were the size of a dorm room. No bathrooms for some people, just holes.

I think that's all I can do right now. Part 1 of the trip. Saturday of the trip, it gets crazy. That's going to be a whole blog in itself, those few days in the Bush.