Open Slots: Haiti, Belize, Rwanda Oh My!!

Friday, May 30, 2014


So a few days ago, I wrote a post called Open Slots. You can go back and read it in two minutes here.

I was supposed to finish it that night, (or so I thought) but on the way home from dropping my kids off at school that day I had something that jarred me to write a much different post and I haven't had time to write much since then, or how about it just wasn't time.

Now is time.

And I love how God plants things in our hearts without giving us every single piece of the puzzle. He gave me the beginnings for Open Slots, He pressed into my mind the connection between this photo {by the lovely Kim Deloach} but He didn't give me the rest.

Now it's so clear, so abundantly clear. I know just what God meant when He gave me Open Slots as a reference point to write about! He was also giving them to me to live in.




So here it is friends... I have been praying BIG prayers to be used as of late. Like ridiculous ones. I had a flame reignited in me through our Noonday Ambassador Conference and the IF:GATHERING. I have been contacted by strangers and I've reached out to them. God has not only answered but answered by flinging open doors, pressing me through them and showing out by allowing these little prayers of mine to begin bearing fruit well beyond my ask.
 


I've put myself and my words and my dreams out there with fear and trembling. I asked God only one a few things. I asked Him to use me through my gifts to lift heads and grow the Kingdom in such a mighty way that there was no other way to explain it except Him!

He delivered! Here's the skinny-ish...

So first things first I did pray for an opportunity to go back to Haiti. I prayed for God to use my gifts of photography and storytelling to grow the kingdom and further weave the threads of two lands I love so very much! I prayed to be able to hold my sweet boy again in my arms. Alfarado, the little round faced bundle that stole my heart!

Well, God heard and He answered, quickly I might add! I'm going to Haiti in June with Help One Now. More on that and my new fried Chris Marlow soon! I can not wait to tell you how that opportunity came to be! Talk about a crazy reach.... That was crazy!


Secondly, I was approached by a man in our church who wanted me to go to Brazil for 12 days to photograph their mission trip! I do not know this man and he had only heard of me via other folks around our church family. God literally sent me another opportunity within a matter of weeks! People, I am going to Brazil to photograph and document a mission trip with my church!  I have never been to Brazil and I didn't know a soul on the team so I know this is God asking me to trust Him as He puts me outside of my comfort zone in so many ways I could loose count! I'm shaking a little, but I am excited! And when I said yes, I was headed to Brazil without any of my people! In fact there was no one within 20 years of my age bracket I don't think!! But now, thanks so much to the Holy Spirit I am taking TWO of my most favorite people with me! Sara Martin and Amanda Arledge prayed and prayed and said YES!! It is their first mission trip out of the country and I am so excited to get to have this experience with them! God is so into details and I can't wait to see how He changes us through them. And I am super excited to have some youngens with me!
You have probably seen my campaign for that lately via fb! To catch you up on that quickly, It is finished!!! Thanks to a sweet group of friends and a scholarship from my church, my trip is completely funded!! THAT is a crazy, awesome miracle! I never doubted but I sure was wondering how in the world it was gonna happen so soon. 


And then, wow!! I don't even know. I've tried to cram all this in one post for a week and it just never felt right! I wanted each slot provision to have it's own little space. I wanted to string together these amazing analogies and make it so special but here's the thing. These things are already crazy good. So I am just saying it in real words so we can move on to the fun details!

So are your ready for it..... 


Friday night I got the most random message ever... An opportunity to go to Rwanda with Noonday in July!!!! Yes, there are multiple exclamation points, yes there was that much shock and even more tears. And then there was reality. A $3600 reality on top of a $2300 reality. On Friday night my Brazil trip was still not funded. I was still in the same financial bracket as I was on Thursday and that amount of money was nowhere in sight....

But God.
 
After my heart regained a normal pace Friday night I made a big decision. I decided to keep doing what I have been doing. Seeking, writing, reading, waiting and listening. I went to sleep after lots and lots of prayer and lots of questions to God and lots of guarded excitement. I woke up the next morning and went to my quiet time like every other day.



This was my journal from Sat am. I'm studying a lot of stuff right now. Joseph and his dreams, his faithfulness and Daniel and his consistency to pray and seek God and how they were used first in consistent obedience and only by those things on a larger scale. As I wrote this and was asking God for the next steps, I got TWO donation messages for my Brazil trip that I had already verbally committed to. Just the timing of two friends sowing into the Kingdom through me while I was at that moment seeking God for answers just solidified something in me. I knew I was going to Africa.

For both trips I would basically need to raise just over $2,500 by middle of May and another $3,000 by June 3.
 
I'd committed to Brazil already, yet the part of me that had been praying Ephesians 3:20 over my life since January saw this as one of those "immeasurably more than I could ask or imagine" moments... The leap of faith, the learning to give God my YES and trust Him in accomplishing more than I could ask or imagine. This was not a stretch, it's a straight up leap of BLIND faith.
 
Africa has been in my heart for as long as I can remember and just this week I posted several things about the Rwanda genocide. The timing again spoke volumes to me. I couldn't shake it, yet I couldn't imagine it either.

Noonday Collection began because Jessica, our founder was trying to bring her son home from Rwanda. She was desperate, God answered her prayers with Jalia and Daniel in Uganda who made paper beads for her to sell. Now she's given back to a group of women there, who to her, represent Jacks birth Mom. Noonday ambassadors gathered together with Matilda Jane and Noonday Collection to start a sewing group in Rwanda last year. These women make the most beautiful bags with traditional African print fabrics. They have a new beginning, a new hope, a new voice.  


I could easily take the money I will raise through my tribe of amazing people and send it there and it would be well spent. But, I also believe that God created us for relationship. I believe He gave me a gift of connection and affirmation. I believe that He gave us the opportunity to speak life into one another and I believe we are to use our lives to unify the body of Christ. I can not wait to see these amazing people, to hold the hands of women who I admire so much, to speak life and empowerment and  encouragement over them. It's my dream and God has opened yet another slot and just like with Haiti and Brazil, I am sure He will open more to get me where I need to go. He already is as I type this. Four photography jobs came to me on Tuesday, two of them small weddings! Friends are hosting Noonday Trunkshows, friends are using their gifts to sow into this good soil that God has prepared and it is absolutely incredible to watch! It's a small start, but every opportunity for me to work counts! Every headband made, show held, yard sale had, or donation counts!! Part of me is in disbelief and the other part is just rolling with it because I know my God is so ABLE!!

You can bet I want to be obedient because I know my God blesses obedience even when we can't see what the final picture looks like. I want to be brave. I want to be faithful to just ASK the next thing, to take the next step. I want to pave a way for others to lift their heads to Him. I want to help others find out how it is they are to be used and I long for my gifts to bring people to the kingdom unseen and to bring glory to the One who has taken so much time to draw me close.

So friends! There you have it! 


In January, at the Noonday Conference in Texas, this little girl had a fire lit deeply in her soul and she started praying and believing Ephesians 3:20 every day! In fact, I called my husband from a little cabin in Texas and told him to get ready because if he thought I was on fire before he had no idea what was coming.... I could tell you what he said back, but I won't... 


In February, He allowed me to host the IF: Gathering in my church and in my curry with my people. It was incredible as over 7 churches and 65 women came together! Another dream, another answered prayer. Through nearly every speaker the verse of Ephesians was quoted! It was a weekend of affirmation and pressing of us into the dep waters.

God knew of my open slots all along. He had prepared a way for me way before I even had my flames fanned in Texas and through IF.

Haiti, Rwanda, Brazil

I am gonna write more on each trip and how you can help and the details of it all but I wanted to share it with my people, especially to my faithful and loyal and kick butt Noonday lovers!! I am going to hold the hands of the women we have grown to love so much, the women who we see in our minds every time we slip on our jewelry! I am going to take your stories and your pictures with me (prepare yourself). I am taking your support and encouragement and your love for Jesus and justice and hope and I am going to lavish those 14 women with it!

Thanks for hanging in there for this long post! I could not do ANY of this without the love of my family here. The family God made especially for me. The people who dare greatly and fight bravely for others. The ones who speak life and dream big! The people who bare their souls every Wednesday night circled up tight. I couldn't do it without my husband who has all but thrown me into all of these things before I even had the chance to say yes! To have someone to believe in you and trust God with you that much is a crazy blessing! I would not be living my dreams without him. I am just a little girl from Simpsonville who has decided to give it all I've got. I'm asking BIG and I am trusting HIM to equip me as I go because I am no more qualified than anyone else. I am just broken and willing and I know my God is ABLE!


What are the slots that are open in your life? What slots do you want to enter into? PRAY BIG! ASK BIG! Give God your YES and watch Him blow your mind and speak life into dry bones!

Much Love and Many Blessings,

Manda

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