Worth far more than rubies & pearls

A message to the women in my life on this Mother’s Day.
Who I want to be as a woman, as a wife, as a mom someday comes from the women in my life. These women who have set an example and paved a way for younger generations like myself, deserve to be recognized.

First to my mom. My mom has taught me endless lessons but most of all, she’s taught me how to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. This lesson is eternal. My mom has given me so much advice over the years I’m not sure what I would of done without her. I love the relationship we have built.

Oh what my Grandma Margaret has taught me. She has taught me it’s okay to cry through hard times but, it’s also okay to laugh. When I called her and told her I was moving home from college we both cried on the phone and she said “Chin up, boobies out” and I will never forget that phone call. She has taught me how to listen to others with compassion and then love them without condition.

My caring thoughtful Nana has taught me so much. She’s taught me how to serve others without the intent of recognition or self glorification. To make things out of what I have to gift to others. To always think of others before myself and go out of my way to help family. My nana has been behind the scenes helping me with just about everything I’ve ever done. From parties, to projects, to trips my Nana has always been my biggest supporter.

Cheri Alexander has taught me how to build relationships with people I look up to, how to ask them questions and how to really get to know someone. Cheri has a gift to get to know someone and make them feel valued and heard. Her love for the Lord shines through the way she serves her family and most of all her Husband. Cheri has taught me how to support Jace and how to serve him.

Christy Deaton is a strong beautiful and loving second Mom to me. She has taught me the power of love and how to be intentional about relationships. I know a number of people who give her hugs every time they see her. I doubt she even knows how much I cherish those hugs. She is always intentional to talk to everyone at events and go out of her way to show them affection. It shows she’s not focused on herself she is focused on others.

Jenny Simmons my soon to be mother in law has taught me so much over these past four years. Jenny has taught me how to be strong through trials and to serve your family no matter the cost. How to work hard without complaint and with pure joy! From watching her over the years she has taught me how to love Jace as best I can. Jace adores his mom and anyone who knows him knows this, and anyone who knows Jenny can so easily see why.

Mitsy Cheney has taught me how to invest in the lives of those around you and make anyone who steps in your home loved. Mitsy has so much wisdom that is not of herself but is from the the word of God. I cherish her and her advice.

Sue Watkins has taught me no challenge is too great with God. She has taught me that by yourself things can be impossible but with God we are able to overcome things through him.

My Aunt Kristin has taught me how to love and praise God boldly through the great times and through the storms. She has taught me how important trust is in a marriage. Kristin loves our whole family without abandon rooted in the love Christ has for her.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mothers around and even the women who are not moms. Most likely someone’s daughter like me, has looked up to you in some way.
Love,
Lex

Be Afraid and Do it Anyway

 

Just like that our trip has come and gone. We loved coming home to friends and family! There really is no place like home!

Our trip was amazing and something that we love to talk about. Jace and I have been asked multiple times how our trip has been, and honestly it is hard to answer. How do you fit all the emotions of seeing trauma and hurting beyond belief, but also the emotions of seeing God’s presence in a camp of darkness into a short couple word answer? My main answer has been, “It was sad and hard but also good.”

Going into this trip was a big step of faith for both Jace and I. At the beginning of our trip I knew I would have anxiety, and I knew what could trigger my anxiety. Knowing this, I prepared some things ahead of time to help me deal with that anxiety. Things like my favorite show, a heating pad from home, and some things I knew I needed to avoid, such as caffeine, sleep deprivation, and rooms with no windows. As soon as I got to the island all of these things were not in reach. My favorite show isn’t offered in Europe, my luggage was lost so no heating pad, and my first room I was staying in had no windows.  I ordered a decaf coffee but of course they didn’t understand and I ended up with caffeine. That first day there was so hard for me, but God knew it was coming. God was not surprised. Our first day there I was sitting in my room with no windows, thousands of miles away from home feeling pretty distraught and isolated. I felt God saying,

Yes all those things are gone BUT here I am. I am enough.

Wow God, reality check. You are enough. And this was a huge theme throughout our trip. God was with me the whole time and because of that I was not constricted to any place or routine. He was with me defeating anxiety and fear so I could serve Him.

One night outside of the single women’s section, I heard a bold voice of a Congolese women singing “You raise me up”. It gave me goosebumps and then made my eyes tear up. God you really do raise me up so I can do this. So I can walk on stormy seas for your names sake. Working in camp was not safe and it was not comfortable but God was with me paving the path before me. Not paving it to be safe and not paving it to be of comfort,  but paving it the way He wanted it to go.

A really good representation of our trip was a moment I had in prayer. There was a lady who was silently sobbing outside the family compound while on the phone. I asked one of the other ladies what was going on, and she said she had just gotten word that a family member had died back in Syria. My stomach dropped, but what could I do? I grabbed a blanket and walked over and laid the blanket on her, tucking it behind her. I said a little prayer in my head…All I can do is put a blanket on her God, how is this enough? He whispered to me, it’s not enough but it’s a start. Jace and I really believed that a lot of the service we did on this trip was putting an example to Jesus’ love for them. We’re building bridges between their culture and ours, bridges that lead to the gospel being shared. For a lot of these people, the existence of a God is not a new belief, they are deep rooted in their beliefs. Having mainly Christians in camp shows them the love of a Savior, that EVEN in the brokenness, you are loved.

In first Corinthians it talks about enduring for love. We would be mistreated, threatened, and ran out by a riots but we showed up the next day determined to serve and love. Jesus was mocked and beaten yet he still died on the cross for the very ones who nailed Him there, you and me.

A question we have also been asked is: Where did we see God in camp?

We saw God in the way we didn’t have to understand someones language to love them. God gave us opportunities to love in other ways.

I saw God in the comfort he provides for the refugees through His volunteers. Whether it was a smile, a joke to spur laughter, holding a kid’s hand, rocking a baby to sleep, or building a tent for a family to sleep in.

We saw God bringing the nations together in one place to share the gospel. There are over 40 different nationalities in camp.

We saw God in the challenging conversations with Muslims discussing how Jesus was not just a prophet but the Son of God.

We saw God as the light in camp. A place where you wouldn’t think to see smiles or laughter, there still is.

We saw God in the hope that we have as believers. To see that much suffering and desperation shows that our ONE hope in this life is Christ.

Conditions in camp are horrible and there were times during this trip I had a hard time stomaching some of the things I witnessed, but at the same time I didn’t want that feeling to go away. That feeling softened my heart to the refugees and drove me to want justice for these people. There were times I questioned God and had to rely on the truths of his Word. Specifically Habakkuk 1:5, “Look at the nations and watch- be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” This crisis is far from over, and God’s work with the refugees is far from over as well. There is victory found in this tragedy and Jace and I are so thankful we got to serve the refugees who are close to God’s heart.

Jace and I enjoy many ministry areas but God has really softened our heart and opened our eyes to the refugee crisis. I believe the church needs to have a biblical and active response to this crisis. It is not going away, and those willing to serve and love are needed. Don’t let your heart become hard to injustice in the world and don’t overlook the work the Lord is doing throughout this crisis. We strongly encourage you to get involved. Whether that is donating money to the right organization or going out and being the hands and feet of Jesus. If God has softened your heart to the refugee crisis, Jace and I would love to grab coffee and chat!

We can’t thank our home community enough for of the support, both financially and more importantly the support through prayer. I swear every time I would start to feel discouraged, fearful, or worn down I would receive a message of encouragement from someone at home. Also thank you for all of the congratulations on our engagement! I can’t think of a better time to say yes to a life of serving Jace and coming together to serve others than on a mission trip! We are so blessed! We love you all!

For those of you who would like to give to a cause who is on the front lines of the crisis. Preemptive Love is a great organization helping the refugees.

 

New life

As we have passed the halfway mark of our time here on Lesvos, we can’t believe how God has held us so closely to Him. We are learning so much and its hard to put these lessons on paper.

I have been on all day shifts since the last blog post and Jace has been on several night shifts (12 am to 8 am) as well as a few day shifts. During the day shifts, our duties have mainly consisted of housing, which has been good but also hard.

Moria is one of the darkest places at times; there have been many days where we witness horrible horrible things. These people have no hope and their desperation takes a toll. If Jace and I are being completely honest, there are some mornings where we wake up and we feel like we can’t go back to Moria. This is where God has revealed to us that He calls us to serve even if it is not always going to be fun, comfortable, or safe. No matter how Jace and I feel about the work we are doing, we have so much confidence in that this is where God wants us for this season. We are firm in our beliefs that God has brought us here for many reasons. And he is revealing these reasons slowly as we go on.

Moria is a dark place but the Word of God is alive it cuts through the darkness bringing hope to the lost and vulnerable.

Life is being born in Moria, both spiritually and literally. On one of Jace’s night shifts, a baby was born in one of the giant rub halls. The dad from my next story is the one who came and got him to find help. On one of my housing duties, I got to go tell families they were moving into a better camp. One of these families was that husband that came to get help for the other family and his wife with five children. They had twins that were 2 months old. I got to climb into their blanket tent that was about 8’ by 6’ and sit with them for a little while. They were so happy they got to leave Moria and those babies were so precious. Moria may seem dark but life is being born in this place. God used those precious babies to point out to me to not look past the fact that new Christians are being born in Moria as well.

I-58, another organization with Eurorelief in camp, has a church plant on the island. It’s amazing to see God work through that. Seeing refugees gathered in camp waiting for a bus to church is a scene you can’t explain. God is saving the lost and bringing hope to the hopeless!

Part of the confidence I have in being here, is even when I am scared or feeling like I can’t handle the chaos in camp, I reflect on

Matthew 25:35-40

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

This is what I was created to do. The specifics in this verse are exactly what we are doing in Moria, feeding the hungry, housing strangers, clothing those in need, loving the sick, and visiting those in prison so that they may see the Love of Christ.

Thank you for the continued prayers from home. Our prayer request is from a notecard Heather Cobb sent with me,

“Spirit of love, make me like the loving Jesus; give me his benevolent temper, his beneficial actions, that I may shine before men to thy glory, The more thou doest in love in me and by me, humble me the more; keep me meek, lowly, and always ready to give thee honour. -“Christian Love” The Valley of Vision

We get to love you

We got our first day off today, March 14th. We have worked five shifts in camp so far, each being nine hours.

The first few days we worked RIC gate, which is the the gate that protects the vulnerable families, unaccompanied minors, and single women. Nobody likes to do it but for some reason, Jace and I don’t mind that job toooooo much. The few people that aren’t nice don’t compare to the other refugees, who are so helpful and kind. There have been times where I have had tears well up in my eyes out of frustration working the gate but I know the job is important. You are the only one in between vulnerable people and the rest of the 4,000 refugees. “No” is your most used word at the gate, so sometimes it is hard to make friends.

We have also worked in the clothing warehouse, where we packaged clothing for new arrivals. We had 400 new arrivals over the weekend, thanks to the sunny weather. We enjoyed this job because it felt like a bit of a break. We have also worked info booth, which contains many jobs in itself. We really enjoyed it.

Though the jobs are physically taxing at times, I think many days it is more emotionally taxing.

Between working RIC gate and other miscellaneous jobs, I have managed to make a few friends. One friend named Shareen, showed me the lack of power a language barrier has. She spoke very little english and I, of course, speak like zero Arabic. We were sitting outside of the family compound together during one of my evening shifts. At this point, I was feeling a little discouraged after some troubles at the RIC gate and a little frustrated we couldn’t have a full flowing conversation. That’s when tears filled her eyes and she told me how she lost her three children in Syria and she is in Moria with just her mother and her sister. The language barrier didn’t stop me from seeing the ache in her eyes. She cries the same tears as me but with a lot more hurt. The language barrier couldn’t stop my hand on her back as she sat silently crying. God reminded me that past those gates are families that are hurting and reminded me of why we are here.

This blog post is not about any miraculous story and the blog of this trip may never contain those kinds of stories. God is showing Jace and I how He is present in every little situation. Whether you stand for eight hours guarding a gate or you comfort the widowed mother, we do everything for Jesus. This trip is all about service. That service may look small or unimportant, but then God comes in and reminds us that what we are doing is for Him and gives us the encouragement we need. 

Though our days have been long and hard, God is merciful and we have had so many fun experiences. On one of my jobs, I was so busy and feeling like I needed to get a move on, and that’s when a family of four invited me in to have tea with them. I took off my shoes, reminded myself this is what I am here, for all my jobs can wait. I climbed into their Iso box and they poured me a cup of tea. The son spoke great English so I was able to talk to the family for thirty minutes or so. They were one of the families that was packing up to head to Athens! They were hopeful but nervous. The son said, “We hope Athens is better” all I could say was, “I hope so too”… I know Athens can be even harder for some; it is a lot different than Moria. I’ve been praying for them and can’t help but feel sad because I know for some Athens is worse.

Jace and I’s favorite experience so far, has been getting to eat Ethiopian food in camp with some of the Ethiopian refugees. It was SO delicious and SO much fun. They invited us for lunch. Our team leader Kim had bought all of their supplies that morning and brought it to them so they could get cooking. At lunch time Kim, Jace, and I headed up to level one and sat on their floor as they brought out one big tray of a sauce with chicken, peppers, onions, boiled eggs, and other stuff that I can’t remember. We all dug in and shared the same plate and ate with our hands. We all had grease dripping to our elbows and grease all over our mouths. It was such a fun experience that I will never forget. They fed me till I could not eat anymore.

Overall, we have loved working in the camp, we are exhausted but our rest day should get us all ready to go again.

We GET to love these people and not from our own source of love, but rooted in the love of Christ.

Thank you everyone for the encouraging messages we have received and prayers! We have such an awesome support group at home.

p.s. We will never have pictures of camp or inside of camp because it is illegal and there are stories of volunteers being detained by the military for taking pictures, so we won’t be doing that haha. As soon as I find a link that is an accurate representation of the camp currently, I will link it.

Tragedy to Triumph

 

 

What we’ve been learning through preparing for this trip and from my last trip. 

Through the preparation for our upcoming trip and some thoughts from my last trip to Greece, Jace and I have been learning a lot. We sat down and wrote out some of these things. Although it’s a bit random, it is evident to see God’s hand in our preparation.

First, we have learned about the Christian response to the Crisis and just what that means. This is the biggest humanitarian crisis in all of our history. Over 60 million people have been displaced, half of Syria alone has been displaced or killed. Mothers, fathers, and children all fleeing for their lives.

God is turning the tragedy of  forced migration into the victory of future salvation.

Have you seen this picture?

Alan_Kurdi_lifeless_body.jpg

We have learned that upon seeing the heart wrenching pictures like this one of Alan Kurdi, we don’t want to look away. It is so easy to just change the channel or leave the picture on your phone and become numb to this tragedy. I know this breaks God’s heart, so I want it to break my heart no matter the cost.

We have learned that God cares for the outcast and refugee. We want to reflect this.

We have learned that God loves them so much that he comes to them. These people are coming from a country that it was extremely hard and dangerous to share the gospel. Christians are being persecuted in Syria. And these people are coming out of that place to a place where we can share the gospel. This is an open door; do we realize the enormity of this? God loves these people and sees the movement of them. 

God is everywhere and sees everything. The refugees are not abandoned or forgotten. And they feel this way, they’re stuck somewhere without a say if they can leave or even how long they can stay. They feel silenced. But we serve a God who cares. 

We have learned how far we are from giving sacrificial love. We all have sacrificial love for someone. We ALL do. Ourselves. But would we have that kind of sacrificial love for a stranger, for a refugee? 

We have learned the importance of faith over fear. And we will continue to learn this. Yes going is risky. A lot of time Christianity is mistaken for comfort and that it is void of risks. Since when did our comfort become more important than the advancement of the gospel?

Self is no longer our God so comfort is no longer our concern. 

We have learned the importance of being intentional. God’s work and the love He has for His people is not confined to be shared in the missions field abroad. These lessons are for everyday life and we don’t want to wait to live this out until we are on a trip. Our everyday life is also our mission field.

Lastly we have learned how temporary this Earth in. We see these pictures of suffering and we go and we see it in person and our heart breaks. That’s when it is so evident to us that this place is not our home.