Flipping the Page // A New Chapter.

Now that I’ve been home for almost a month, I decided that my blog needed some kind of conclusion. Not because my journey is over, but because I have turned the page to a very different chapter in my life. I can’t put into words all the things I have learned, or the ways I have grown, but I will try to give you a glimpse of my experience, and you can take it as you please.

Maybe I should start with my journey home. I rode a bus to Manchester one morning, hoping to fly straight into Atlanta. Standby is not always that easy though, and I didn’t get on the flight, so I decided to take a train to London. Three trains actually, including the tube through the city. So I finally made it to Heathrow, and somehow decided to take a flight to New York City. By that time it was about 9:00 at night, so I got a hotel for the night, slept for about 4 hours, and was back at it. I got the sunrise flight to Charlotte, NC, which was actually worth it because I literally watched the sunrise over the NYC skyline from an airplane. From there, I finally got on a flight to Atlanta and was home at last. Quite a journey, that was.

Leaving Teesside was immeasurably more difficult than leaving home to go there. When I left home, I knew it would be challenging, and of course I missed my family and friends, but I also knew that I was following God’s call, and I would be back soon enough. When I left Teesside, I was leaving a place that will always keep a part of my heart. Its so much different than leaving after a week or two of a mission trip. This has been my life for the past year. Those are the people that I saw every single day, that I celebrated, laughed, and cried with. I am so incredibly thankful for the group of people I was surrounded with this year. From my fellow gap-year workers and our leaders, to my wonderful youth group and the kids I mentored in school, all these people have stamped my heart in such a wonderful way. Oceans can separate us, but I will never forget the people that I have spent the past year with.

My last week in the motherland was a great one. I got to help lead a team from Southcrest Church! It was so great to see some familiar faces and be able to share this experience with them. While they were here, Mike took them up Roseberry Topping and shared Ezekiel 37 and the vision for this valley to rise up as an army for the Lord. The memories came flooding back of when I was there that time last year, when my heart was broken for this place, when I first heard God’s call for me to come and serve here. And I cried, a lot. I cried tears of joy because of all the works and wonders that God has done this year. I cried tears of sadness because I knew that my time there had come to an end for now. And I cried hoping that I had done everything I possibly could to change that valley. I was once again reminded that we cannot change hearts or save souls. We can only proclaim His name and know that He has everything planned to a tee.

I know I have said this before, but God has stretched me in ways that I could have never imagined. He has brought me to a point of leadership that I would have never before been comfortable with. He has given me a passion for the nations like never before. I have always liked to stay home and be comfortable, but now I feel like there are so many places to go, and so many people that need to encounter Jesus, how am I supposed to stay in one place? Most importantly, He has taught me to rest in His Presence. This year has been by no means easy, and in the times that I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I found my strength in His Spirit. Simply sitting in the presence of God is now such a beautiful part of my life.

Since I’ve been home, my mind often wanders back to Stockton. I think about all the people that I miss, and what they are doing now. I think about Stockton Parish Church, and how much I learned from being a part of that family, and I wonder why I can’t still be there. Why does God want me at UGA?  I was in a service for one of the campus ministries last night, and the speaker was saying that we are all starting new chapters in our lives right now. If you just ended a bad time, then you get to start fresh. But then he said, if you just ended a really great chapter of your life, God has set you up for something even greater. I don’t know how this year is going to be better than the previous one, but when we are intentional and expectant, we can glorify God in any situation. I’m so excited for this chapter. I get to really define myself, branch out, and meet new people, but wherever I go, I will carry Teesside in my heart, because it will always be a part of me.

 

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

            -C.S. Lewis

 

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I’ll let you know when I discover my next adventure.

Until Then,

Angela

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Twenty-five days.

Twenty-five days. That’s not a long time. That’s how many days I have before I depart from this beautiful country that has brought me so many adventures. This has been causing me to frequently look back on everything that has happened this year, how much has changed and everything that I have been able to do.

Actually, a lot of things have changed in the past month or so. My friends Sarah and Kayla have both returned to the States. I hate saying goodbye. Good thing Christ-followers only have to say “see you later.” Still, I’ve watched some of my best friends leave the place that they love so much, but that couldn’t possibly prepare my heart for having to leave myself.

I have to say, I much prefer British summer over a bitterly cold winter. The sun now sets at about ten, and rises again maybe sometime around four. I’m not usually up to see it, but I was this morning! Last night, the Youth for Christ gap-year workers joined with the summer interns and some of our leaders for a full night of prayer.  We are praying for God to raise up an army of THIRTY gap-year workers in Teesside next year. “The harvest is plenty but the workers are few.” This is so true in this valley. We can see people yearning for salvation, and I have complete faith that God will put His perfect team here in September. So we prayed from 9:30 last night until about 6 this morning. I made it with the help of four cups of coffee. What an amazing experience it was though. To join together with people who share my passion for the Tees Valley, to pray intentionally for all the ministry that we are doing and what will be done in the future, and every couple hours to worship the Almighty Savior that has intertwined our lives for this time and purpose. Throughout the night there were shouts of joy when we heard that another person had signed up for a gap year, or had asked about the possibility. I won’t soon forget that night.

While the end of this adventure keeps getting closer, I am realizing that it won’t be an end at all. I just finished reading Radical by David Platt. I regret how many times I have looked to my future with hopes and dreams that are essentially selfish. The book put it this way:

God’s design for taking the gospel to the world is a slow, intentional, simple process that involved every one of His people sacrificing every facet of their lives to multiply the life of Christ in others.

I have given up certain things to be here this year, and it has been challenging at times, but let’s be honest, I get to enjoy a lot of comforts here. That’s not a bad thing, it just makes me realize that I have so much more that I can sacrifice in my future endeavors. I don’t really know (aside from UGA) where life is taking me next, but I do know that I never want to be comfortable enough to grow numb to the reality of how many people need the unfailing love of my Savior.

I am going to make the very most of the rest of my time here, and I will continue to rest in His joy wherever I go next.

Blessings,

Angela

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The Life of a Nomad

A lot of times life decides to go by so fast that I don’t even realize the lack of blogging that has happened in the last two or three months. Consequently, when I finally try to blog my brain explodes with thousands of thoughts because so much has happened since the last time I committed memories to this blog.

I got the wonderful blessing of having my family come visit during our Easter half-term. I’m so glad that they got to experience where I live and work. They got to meet all the people that I get to share life with while I’m here. We tried to show them the highlights of Teeside during their short stay here. Then we ventured to London for part two. We got to ride the London Eye and see the show Wicked, which I am now obsessed with. I’m sure we looked really American trying to work our way around the city. I have to say, it was really weird having my parents in England. From my perspective, this is my world, I have my life here, and then I have my life back at home. It was definitely a collision of two different realities for me.

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I decided to take the opportunity to check something off my bucket list while I’m here. Bungee jumping? Why not. The idea was to do it to raise some money for Youth for Christ. I’ll let you know how it goes. If you’d like to see our clever preview video, please do so.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwCrNCLfp7k

I only have about three months left of this adventure. I really can’t even imagine going home, leaving all these people and this town. I seriously considered staying another year, because my heart dropped whenever I thought about leaving all the kids that I worked with. I was scared that I hadn’t done enough to affect this place, I was scared that I hadn’t changed anyone’s life yet. Then I realized that I was never going to change anyone’s life. That was never my job. God is the only one that can pierce into someone’s soul and change it for all eternity. All I can do here is live in His will, allow as much of His light to shine through me as possible, and hope that it can help someone find Him. But its not my light, I’m just an instrument. As much as He has used me here, I pray that He will multiply that wherever I go next.

When I moved to England, God so clearly pushed me out of my comfort zone, I knew I had to lean on Him completely. I have grown more this year than any other time in my life, as a person as well as closer to the heart of God. But now England is my comfort zone, as crazy as that may seem. I’m scared to go home, because I don’t know what the next steps are for me, or how I am going to work for the Kingdom when I’m a student at the University of Georgia. For me that means that I will have to lean completely on God once again. As soon as I think that I can handle things by myself, God pulls me back to Him, closer each time than the last, so that I know that my relationship with Him will grow more and more every day. In the wise words of C.S. Lewis,

In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth.

There is no limit. There is no destination on this earth. I’m just a nomad.

no·mad [noh-mad] (n.) – a member of a people or tribe that has no permanent abode but moves about from place to place; any wanderer

My dwelling is not found on this earth, but in Christ. That is why we must fix our thoughts on the things unseen. Anything that we can perceive as humans is nothing in comparison to His eternal promises. Humans have this perverse sense of ownership in this world. I’m guilty of it as well. I’m not talking about just material possessions. Our time, our talents, and our treasures. If we’re not glorifying God with them then we’re doing it wrong. Take this world and give me Jesus. As long as the Holy Sprit dwells in me, there will always be another adventure, because God will not be finished with me until the day I get to be with Him forever. So why would I want to settle down when I could live the fascinating life of a nomad.

Countless Wonders

He counts the stars and calls them all by name. How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension! [Psalm 147:4-5]

There are some moments after which one cannot help but be in awe of our Creator. There are some things that, as a human, I will never be able to fully comprehend. And there are some experiences that I will never be able to fully describe with any words. One of the many advantages of being on a gap year are the amazing opportunities I get to experience more of the world, and this weekend, it was Scotland.

14 people, 1 minibus, 4 cities, 21 hours, and countless unforgettable moments. I don’t know how many people have attempted to tour Scotland in less that a day, but I was more than impressed by our effort. We hit Edinburgh, St. Andrews, Aberdeen, and reached our final destination of Fraserburgh. Originally, this trip was planned as some crazy attempt to see the Northern Lights. Although that didn’t happen, it was an unforgettable and very long day.

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I have to say that I have been blessed beyond belief with the team that I am surrounded with. I absolutely love the fact that God hand-picked us from so many different places, knowing that we would all end up working together in northeast England, all with the same passion to further His kingdom. I love that we get to do life together, and have these insane experiences. Most of all I love that we all challenge each other in our relationships with God, because we can all be honest and learn from each other.

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There’s one picture missing. I don’t think many of us even attempted to capture the moment on camera. Let me tell you about these stars. I’m from a pretty small town, and I thought I knew stars. Go to the northeast corner of Scotland, near the coast, where there are no big cities around. Then you will know stars. I have no words. Actually I take that back I have a few. I have never seen anything like that in my entire life, to the point where it gave me a new understanding of the infinite magnitude of our God. So there’s all of us, standing on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, of course its freezing so we’re all in this backwards huddle staring at the sky. So then all we can manage to do is voice the ways in which our God is indescribable, and sing praises to our Father.

I pray that to some degree, you can all have an experience this week that causes you to pause and consider the awe-inspiring greatness of our indescribable God. So let me leave you with a quote from Louie Giglio and Matt Redman’s book, Indescribable.

We are surrounded by grand and glorious cosmos, heavens beyond our comprehension. Just how big we do not know, but we do know that even in light of humanity’s great inventions, the stars have a way of drowning out our fuss–reducing our earthly clatter with their sheer immensity all while heightening a sense of mystery and wonder within our souls. You don’t have to be an astronomer or have any scientific interest to be suddenly swept away by their vastness and beauty. All you have to do is look up.

In His Name,

Angela

New Year, Same God

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and please excuse my lack of blogging. The past month has been absolutely packed full of wonderful events. I’m now back in the UK, it is a new year, and I am so ready to see what God has in store for England in 2013.

Before I headed back to the U.S. for Christmas, I got to take a slight detour to London with my best friend. We had this great idea that we wanted to see the city at Christmastime, and the fact that we actually got to go was amazing. From experience, I can tell you that it is impossible to see all of London in a day and a half, but we hit the high points and had an amazing time.

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So after that short adventure, we headed back to Georgia! It was so good to see my family after four months away. The only way I can describe it to people is this: I feel like I have been living two different lives, and that one has just been on pause since I left. I came home in the midst of Christmas madness, and I was running around like crazy trying to see people and buy gifts and everything else. All of my friends were home from college on break, and I was so excited to see them. You know you have true friends when you can go four months without seeing each other, and when you finally do, its like no time at all has passed. It was so good to have a few weeks to relax and catch up with everyone.

My Christmas was great. I got more gifts than I needed, but I’m so thankful to have so many people that care about me. I don’t know if it is living in England, or just a new understanding, but I just realize how unnecessary all the “stuff” is. Some people are so content with so little. It breaks my heart how everyone is obsessed with what they are getting and giving at Christmas. I won’t deny that I never feel like that, but I just want to re-evaluate my priorities here. Being home with my family was enough for me this holiday season.

I couldn’t think of a better way to start 2013 than the Passion Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. We’re talking about 60,000 college students coming together to worship our indescribable Creator. I can’t put it into words. I got to experience some amazing speakers and worship leaders that poured into us and brought me so much closer to God. After teaching and leading kids here for four straight months, that is exactly what I needed. After worshipping with a stadium full of people, we get into community groups with seven other people. I’m amazed at the people that God hand-picked to be in my group. We bonded instantly and opened up to each other so well. A few of us have hearts on fire for missions, and it is so cool to hear other people’s stories and ideas. I was so blessed to have this experience before heading back to the UK.

Throughout the conference, Passion was working to raise money and awareness for human trafficking and slavery. Did you know that right now, there are over twenty-seven million slaves in the world. That’s more than any other time in history. That’s men, women, and children around the world forced into unimaginable situations where they are sold like property and forced to work against their will. If you would like to know more, I seriously encourage you to check out enditmovement.com and help us be the generation to make a change for these people.

This picture is 60,000 college kids holding candles, shining a light on modern slavery. We’re in it to end it, and just during that conference, we raised over $3 million to fight and prevent slavery around the world.

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After Passion, I said goodbye to the States for seven months. I plan to come back at the end of July when school ends here, and start at UGA in the fall. But for now, I am back, and more ready than ever to see lives changed in the Tees Valley. I have built some amazing relationships in my time here, but I am ready to see young people committing their lives to Christ. I ask that you continue to pray that I can be a light and that God will use me in whatever way He sees fit. My team got to attend the national Youth for Christ conference in Coventry last week. It is really encouraging to see how God is using people all across the country to shine for Him. 

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We’re calling for revival in this place.

God Bless,

Angela

Light in the Darkness

I can’t believe its November, and even November is almost halfway over! Time flies when you’re doing what you love; and I do truly love this, with every bit of my heart. I’m actually living in another country, sharing God’s love as best I can every single day. I don’t think it gets much better than that. Also, since its November, I have officially started counting down to Christmas. Without Thanksgiving, the British have pretty much jumped straight to Christmas. I love it. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I think the countdown is 42 days. I apologize for my excessive enthusiasm. This also means that I will be headed to the USA in a little over a month! How exciting is that.

But there is a lot of work and discipleship to be done before then. God has continued to open up so many doors throughout Teeside. My Stockton team has now started working in another school, which brings us up to four, so far. It has been such a blessing that the schools have been so receptive to our work and what we want to achieve. After more than two months of work, I have built so many relationships with students. They look forward to seeing us each week, and I am always excited to see them. We continue to pray for opportunities to share our faith and to be positive influences. I have to say that my favorite kids to work with are the ones that most consider “hard to love.” I know that so many of these kids have been through more than I could imagine at such a young age. I just want to be there in any way I can, even if it is just putting a smile on their face. I love when kids ask me why I came all the way to Stockton. What awesome opportunities to share my story and my faith.

Girls’ bible study continues to be one of the biggest blessings. Last week we were literally overflowing the little lounge that we meet in. We have more than doubled the number of girls that we had when we started. A couple weeks ago, I actually got to teach one of the girls how to navigate a bible, because she had never done it before. That was so humbling. I have taken that for granted, because I have had the privilege of using a Bible since I learned to read. We are growing together as a group and also growing in Christ. So many of the girls have started bringing their friends. One brought a friend that didn’t know much at all about God, and we got to share Him with her.

The weather is starting to get colder as the weeks go on. Nothing unbearable yet, although it did snow one night a few weeks ago, but it didn’t stick. There are very limited hours of daylight. As much as I enjoy watching the sunrise as I get ready for school in the morning, I am not a fan of walking home at 4:30 when the sun has already set. The darkness is a little depressing, but there is still prime time for ministry after the sun goes down! My schedule has been pretty crazy, but I love every second of it. I couldn’t do it without my awesome team and my wonderful host parents. I have been seriously blessed to be surrounded by such great people. They make challenging days so much easier. 

A few shots of a perfect autumn in the UK:

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I ask for continued prayers as our work has seriously just begun. I have met so many lovely people here, but so many are living without Christ in their hearts. I feel drawn and called to this place more and more every day. Coming here was the best decision I have ever made. My heart is heavy for the people that do not have God’s love. Ephesians 1 verse 18 is my prayer for them, and I hope it will be yours too.

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called – his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

As daylight becomes increasingly scarce, we have a even greater opportunity to shine with a passion for God. We want to be light in the darkness. I pray that people’s hearts will be softened and flooded with light, so they can find that there is something so much greater than what they have right now, and all they have to do is receive the free gift that Christ has offered us. This is a dark place in more ways than one, but Christ can provide a source of everlasting light.

Until next time,

Angela

Amazed by His Faithfulness

Well, England must be keeping me pretty busy since I haven’t written for nearly a month. I am continually amazed by how fast the time has gone. I think that means I must be enjoying myself, but at the same time, it is all going by too quickly! So much has happened. God has done so much for us. I still have to pinch myself sometimes to decided whether or not I am actually here. Being away from home has been a challenge, but there is no better comfort that knowing that I am living in God’s will.

Fall in the U.K. has been quite nice actually. I found a Starbucks nearby so I have had my pumpkin spice lattes. The leaves changing colors here are absolutely beautiful. Also, I have to say that England has some of the best sunsets I have ever seen. I have had to pull out my coat a few times, and there has been some ice on the windshield some mornings, but the weather has been decent. It hasn’t rained too much either to be fair. A few weeks ago it rained for almost two days straight. There were a ton of roads flooded, but I was assured that it was not normal. There is limited daylight now though. I wake up while its dark, and it is dark again before seven. Apparently, it is going to get much worse as we get into winter.

We have been pretty busy during the week. Our Stockton YFC team, which includes me and five others, works in three schools each week, and we have been invited into two more. Basically we are there to build relationships with the students. We sit in loads of different lessons, talking to kids and helping them with their work. I absolutely love the work we get to do in Rosebrook Primary School. I worked in that school when I came with the Southcrest team in July, so it had been such a blessing to be able to go back. So many of the kids remember me, and are so excited that we are going to be there for a whole year. On Tuesdays we run an after-school club for some of the older kids. They seem to really enjoy it, and I love their enthusiasm during the Bible lessons. I think it is so awesome that the schools let us come in and be involved, and I can’t wait to see what God does there.

My favorite part of the week by far is the girls’ bible study that I lead on Tuesday nights. I started going a little over a month ago, and there was about 6 girls that went regularly. It has more than doubled in size since then, which I think is amazing, because coming to a bible study outside of church is something that these girls choose to do. We have great conversations, answer some awesome questions, dig into the Word together, and have loads of fun. We are growing so much closer, and I know that God will work through these new friendships. I want to see this girls ministry continue to grow, because it is something that I really have a heart for. During my time in my high school youth group, I was blessed to have an amazing mentor, who I could go to for anything, anytime. I can only pray that these girls will begin to rely on me in the same way that I relied on Lauren for four years of my life. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without her, and I want to give these girls the same opportunity and a chance to find true life in Christ.

I have been so blessed by my new church home, Stockton Parish Church. The staff is absolutely amazing; they are so supportive of our work and our ideas. The congregation is unlike anything I have ever experienced. The people are literally from every corner of the world, yet there is a sense of family that is absolutely undeniable. Anyone is welcome, and you can feel that as soon as you walk in the door. These people have some awesome stories of radical faith. Although the congregation is smaller than what I am used to, that has been such a blessing because I get to have a personal relationship with everyone. Don’t get me wrong, this church is continually growing and opening up new doors for God’s love to flood into Stockton.

I run the youth group there along with Sam (my new brother/teammate/partner in crime). I have loved getting to know all the kids, and everyone has been really receptive. Honestly, the idea of leading a youth group still makes me nervous. That is not something I saw myself doing. I want so badly to make an impact on the lives of these kids, and be a role model through my own lifestyle and relationship with God. This experience has already stretched me in more ways then I could ever have imagined. I have no sense of my comfort zone anymore, because when God leads me to do something I just have to dive in and do it. I try not to get nervous about anything, because if I do it to the best of my ability, God will take control.

I could talk for ages about all the great things God has done since I’ve been here, but I can’t stay up all night because I have school tomorrow. But I will say this, today I was thinking about how much need there still is in this place. Even the ministries that are here are growing too fast to keep up with. During our church staff meeting, we were searching for a solution to our growing pains. We have too many groups of people meeting on a Sunday morning. What an awesome problem to have! We are also about to launch a new cafe church on the High Street in Stockton. We are continually presented with new opportunities to share God’s love, and it is unbelievable. I can’t think too far into the future, because it is hard to imagine going back to America and leaving this place, so for now, I will seize every opportunity.

Believe it or not I have had a little free time to do some sightseeing. I went to York one Saturday with Sam and our incredible host parents, Steven and Carlie.

 

They just don’t make cathedrals like that in the States, probably because this building is far older than our country.. It was a great day, so if you’re ever in England and have some free time, I highly recommend it.

I also got to go to Saltburn for the day. Its an adorable little town on the coast, and it was probably one of the best days I had since I have been here. I spent it with my best friend Kayla and Mary, the lady that we stayed with while we were here for a week in July. It was so great to be able to catch up, and the town was absolutely amazing. It was one of those days that makes you appreciate the little things in life, and I saw what I believe was the most breathtakingly beautiful sunset I have ever seen in my entire life. Of course my camera died about an hour before the sun went down, but you couldn’t capture that beauty in a picture anyways.

 

I am so thankful that my best friend is a part of this adventure. We don’t get to see each other too often, but just knowing that she is here is such a blessing. I never would have imagined that we would have been doing this together, and I love that God works that way!

I’ll end with an incredible truth that God continues to amaze me with. I have been reading through the book of Leviticus, which has not been easy. Its a lot of laws that are hard to understand, but somehow I always seem to learn something that applies perfectly to my life. In chapter 17, Moses is writing a law explaining why the Israelites were forbidden to consume the blood of any animal.

For the life of the body is in its blood. I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the Lord. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible.

How incredible is that truth when we applied it to the blood of Jesus, shed for us. Moses wrote this so long before Jesus was even born, yet it describes exactly why he had to come and die, to make us right with God. He lost His life so that we could be purified. He filled the void and provided the missing link. The life of the body is in its blood, but my eternal life is in the blood of Christ. That is the news that I want to proclaim in this place.

I appreciate your prayers and support more than you know. I promise I won’t take so long to write next time.

Cheers!

Angela