Tag Archives: life purpose

Brazil Missions Trip – August 2017

In August, God opened the doors for me to go on my fourth missions trip. It was a bit surreal as the details all came together. I was the little girl who dreamed of going on one missions trip and here I was, getting ready for my fourth trip. God is good! One of the highlights of this particular trip was having my dad and my cousin Elisabeth join me. This trip was Elisabeth’s first missions trip and I’ve asked her to share her thoughts today. -Abbie


What is one thing you’ve always wanted to do, that always seemed a little out of reach? Ever since I was young, like 4, I have wanted to go on a missions trip – to see the world from the vantage point of people like Hudson Taylor and Isobel Kuhn. Most of my earliest reading ventures centered on these people – fighting spiritual battles to give the gospel to regions beyond. My grandmother gave me the best birthday gift a nine-year-old could get – 30 books, almost all of them about missionaries, and I read them over and over again. As a teenager, I thrilled to hear about my cousins trekking to Honduras, Jordan, and Peru. Stories of mountain climbing, growing a beard to fit in, food poisoning, and orphanages brought me a smile. Would I ever do something like that? In a heartbeat. However, certain things seemed more pressing on my finances… violin lessons and COLLEGE. I shelved the idea of leaving the country, and focused on what I knew the Lord wanted me to do for that day – cook, practice music, give lessons, go soulwinning on Saturday, and go to church on Sundays. In fact, I became so busy that reading almost entirely left my world, except textbooks; and dreaming of actually going to give the gospel somewhere else was almost forgotten.

In February of 2017, I had a really good conversation with one of my favorite teachers, and at one point, he asked if there was anything pressing that I had really desired to, before – you know, marriage. 🙂 I couldn’t think of anything immediately. While cleaning lots of bathrooms that afternoon, I prayed and asked the Lord the same question – was there anything He wanted me to do? A missions trip! That was the thing – and the thought made me very excited. I knew that if the Lord wanted me to go, there were a lot of obstacles He would have to overcome. I talked to my parents that night, and they gave me permission to get a passport. I prayed about where I should go; and checked in with friends in Mexico. At first, they were very excited about it; but several details were not falling into place. It did not feel quite confirmed that I should go there. On top of that, my mom was not very excited about the idea that I go to Mexico – especially with no one but my very dear, and younger, friend. I continued praying about Mexico; and in April, Abbie visited our house. She had just been to Honduras, and was now planning on going to Brazil in August. As she rehearsed stories, and explained details, I saw my mom getting more and more excited. The Brazil trip was already organized by a team leader, in a much more populated area, and sounded less frightening. As I prayed about the options, Brazil was it. Everything that had been lacking in the Mexico trip, was taken care of by the Brazil trip, including a huge peace that this was from the Lord.

This past summer was a huge faith growing experience for me, and I really mean that. The amount of money I needed to bring in to go was easily brought in by piano students – until they started taking summer vacations and getting sick. I had already put in the first $1000, and the rest was not coming in. Many hours were spent in praying for the job opportunity and for awakening in Sao Paulo. However, little by little, gifts from the most surprising of people trickled in, to the very last week – things like a suitcase, a backpack, hiking sandals, and monetary gifts. The very last week, I had exactly everything I needed, plus $20. God answered very specifically, and at times I especially needed it. Our God is a perfect God, and His purpose is always His glory. On top of that, He delights in delighting us, but in a way that matures us, grows our faith, and gives Him glory. What a purpose to take part in!

People prayed and prayed and prayed, and of course I did, too. I was so excited about what God would do and I still am. Everybody said, “It’s gonna change your life.” And I would always think, “Sure, but how?’

The change started before I went to Brazil – although I have long loved giving out the Gospel, I became a great deal more soul-conscious, praying more for souls to be saved, and praying to see more the world the way Christ does. God broke my heart for an area that I now get to go soulwinning in almost every week. My faith grew a great deal this past summer, as I saw in a new and personal way, God answer prayer and do big things.

Now a few months later, I get it. It did change my life, my daily thought process – sometimes I’m pretty slow to get things. 🙂 I love those people in Brazil, and all people everywhere. I really truly want nothing more than I want God to be glorified and to see people saved – in places where the gospel has hardly been preached. Jesus really is The Answer – He isn’t an abstract idea that makes people feel good when times get rough. He is the Way, the Truth, the Life. There are many people who are searching for that Way, who need to know the Love of Christ.

When I got to Brazil, I saw people. To me, it was different, but more, it was the same. These people laughed and cried and married and had babies and shopped and ate and drove and carried on a human life. Their emotions were uniquely the same as every other human’s. One difference – these 150,000 people in 6 square miles had barely if any exposure to the name of Jesus Christ – let alone true Christianity. As people crowd you on every street corner, and sip their beers, or catch up on local gossip, they have no idea that a Saviour loves them, was crucified and rose again for their soul, and wants to save them from eternal destruction. That is horrific.

Brazil has a different government and a different education system. It is fascinating to me that Brazilian children are required to only learn Portuguese and mathematics, and these at a painstakingly slow rate. Can you imagine having no concept of a country outside Brazil and the United States? No concept of a round world or your nation’s history? No concept of Israel and 2000 years ago? Most of these children do not. Yet they are given hours of intensive gender-switching training daily. However, any organization can go and teach anything in any of their public schools for an hour. What an opportunity!

Music, in the classical sense, is almost nonexistent; and the children we were with in church had never seen a clarinet or a violin. They were thrilled to touch these things and make sounds.

All this, though we were in a comparatively rich area, complete with shopping malls, cars (everywhere, very close, haha!), phones, and American fashion.

We passed out some 25,000 Scriptures, and saw four people receive Christ as Saviour. Though immediate results have been bigger, this was very much a planting work in a rich city. The Word is even yet taking root in hearts; and for many, giving them a first exposure to the God of the Bible, and Christ, a personal Saviour. I am praying yet, and am confident, that God will do a great work in Sao Caetano de Sul, not because we are anything at all, but I know Who God is, and I know Him. What big things has He done in your life? 

Our last missions trip together was to Lima, Peru in 2013. It was fun traveling with him again.

First glimpse of São Paulo, early Tuesday.



Daily activities included canvassing markets and neighborhoods handing out Scriptures, witnessing, eating (Brazilian food is amazing!), and fellowshipping. 


The markets sell just about everything.

We enjoyed pastels and caldo de cana (fresh squeezed sugar cane juice) for lunch several days. Delicious!

Lee Johnson led this lady to the Lord.

The ladies of our team: Elisabeth, Abbie, Abbey, and Brittney.


I enjoy working with a local church on missions trips. The people of Igreja Batista Compaixão were so sweet!


Elisabeth and I obviously enjoying what we were talking about. 🙂

 

Sightseeing day

I tried fresh coconut water for the first time.

Our team with the missionaries. Left to right: Elisabeth Gordon, Phillip Allen, Alan Harris, Abbey Grimes, Brittney Johnson, David Meza, Allen Johnson, Abbie Sikma, Bryan and Rebekah Johnson, Jim Sikma, Elias Correa, Lee Johnson, David Johnson

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Why I’m Not Waiting for Marriage


For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a wife and mother when I grew up. I liked dreaming of marrying the Man someday. We would have a big family and life would be perfect. Being the oldest sister of 10 siblings meant I got lots of mothering practice in. 🙂 There was usually a new sibling every two years and I loved it. I liked the responsibility that came with being a big sister. I learned how to take care of the infant, potty train the two-year-old, teach the five-year-old to read, play with the seven-year-old and so on. Mom taught me to cook and clean and do laundry. I couldn’t wait to be married.

So what happens when you’re in your twenties (or thirties) and you haven’t met your Man yet? Or maybe you think you’ve met him but he’s taking his time to come calling? What happens when the days grow long and years slowly tick by without any sign of marriage? Do you give up the notion of marriage? Do you start chasing the fellow you think is “the One”?

I have read many excellent books on singlehood and preparing for marriage. I’ve observed many young single women. I have gotten advice from older married women. And I found the answer to all of those questions. Are you ready for it?

FIND A VISION BIGGER THAN YOURSELF.

It’s that simple. And it’s that beautiful. Find a vision bigger than yourself. Turn your focus from yourself to something much, much bigger than you. Build your existence on Jesus Christ. Here are a couple of practical ways to find your vision.

1. Focus on God

  • Spend time in God’s Word. 

These single years can hold the sweetest times of fellowship with God. Because you’re not in a relationship, you can focus on deepening your relationship with your Heavenly Father. Find a Bible reading plan. Set goals for yourself. Find a Bible study book and work through it. Journal truths that you’re learning.

  • Grow your prayer life.

Practice the habit of talking to God throughout your day. Commit your day to the Lord as soon as you wake up in the morning. Share your thoughts with your Father as you’re busy at work, or helping a sibling, or doing the twentieth load of laundry in a day. Confess sin and make issues right. Pray for your family members, pray for your pastor and your church family. 

  • Memorize Scripture.

I’m going to admit here that I have not been as faithful as I should be in Scripture memory. Pick a passage and an accountability partner and start memorizing. Find a passage that has blessed you during trials. Memorize a verse that has been a challenge to you. (Send me an email if you’d like to join me in accountability for this summer.) 

2. Focus on others

  • Build your relationships with your parents.

I cannot emphasize this one enough. It is so very important to build a strong relationship with your parents. Spend time with them. Confide in them. Share your deepest struggles and your greatest victories with them. Our parents want to help us but they can’t if we’re not sharing our hearts with them. 

  • Spend time with your siblings.

Find fun activities to do with them. Take them out for ice cream. Listen to them. Did you know you can grow your vocabulary by listening to your siblings talk about their lives? With 10 siblings all interested in various topics and working in various professions, I’ve been able to learn many fun little bits of information. 🙂 (Do you know what a “roux” is? Thanks to my younger sister, I now know.)

  • Get to know the older people at your church. 

There is a wealth of knowledge that my generation is failing to obtain because we’re so busy with our work, our devices, and our good times. Take time to stop and listen to their stories. As you get to know them, compile a list of questions to ask them. What was your favorite thing to do as a child? How did you meet your spouse? Where did you work? What was an important Biblical truth you wish you had learned sooner?     

  • Find ways to serve and bless others.

Use your single years to continue learning new skills and gaining valuable experiences. Learn basic plumbing, take a class on floral design, learn a new language, expand your kitchen skills, go on a missions trip. The options are endless. As you continue to learn, you’ll increase your ability to bless others. Find a young mother at your church who could use some help. Volunteer to wash the dishes, change diapers, clean, whatever she needs you to do for an entire day. If you’re a math whiz, tutor a struggling sibling. Practice your kitchen skills by baking a loaf of bread and deliver it to a neighbor.

I’m not going to pretend that I have singlehood figured out. I still have many areas where I need to grow. But that’s one of the beauties of building your existence on Jesus. When we surrender to Him, He molds us into His image. That truth excites me! We have a God who wants to use us, His creation.

Also, before I close I should state that I still want to be a wife and mother someday. 🙂 I still like to dream about my wedding day and having a family of my own. But that’s not where God has me right now. God has a plan carefully tailored just for me if I’m willing to surrender to Him. And He has a plan for you, too. Will you let Him use you during these beautiful days of singlehood?

Guatemala Missions Trip

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I recently had the privilege of going on my second missions trip. I love missions trips! They are a crazy mix of excitement, exhaustion, and encouragement. 🙂 I love seeing God take the impossible and miraculously work through human vessels to complete His plan. It’s thrilling!

During my trip to Guatemala, it was exciting to see God work in so many different ways. He enabled us to distribute over 48,000 copies of Romans to the people of Guatemala. As a result, 175 visitors attended the special services at Iglesia Bautista Fundamento Biblico. Throughout the three services, we saw 51 people accept Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. Praise the Lord! We ministered in two different schools and reached hundreds of children, teenagers, and young adults with the Gospel. Over 25 people were saved in the schools. A young man from one of the schools came out to the services and accepted Christ.

We walked for miles every day. Sometimes up steep streets, sometimes through crowded marketplaces, and sometimes through bad neighborhoods. Our feet blistered, we got sunburned, and our shoulders ached with the weight of our backpacks. It was exhausting work. We had some early mornings and some late nights. But the discomfort and exhaustion was worth every minute as we saw 10 individuals accept Christ on the streets of Guatemala City.

I came home encouraged and humbled. I was encouraged to see the nationals passionate about sharing the Gospel with the lost. I loved watching the young people of Iglesia Bautisa Fundamento Biblico open a Bible and declare the Gospel during the invitations. It was a blessing to work with other Americans to spread the Good News. Souls were reached for eternity because 18 people chose to follow God out of their comfort zone. God delights in using His children to accomplish His plan. I am humbled to think that God wanted to use an English-speaking girl to spread His Word in a Spanish-speaking country. As I used my few phrases of Spanish to hand out the Gospel and invite lost souls to church, God used me. There is nothing special about me; it’s only Jesus.

If you ever get a chance to go on a missions trip, do it. It will be an experience you will never forget. After I got home I shared with my cousin in a text, “I came home with a renewed love for lost souls, a deeper hunger for God’s Word, and a desire to learn more Spanish so that I can communicate better.” Missions trips will change you. They will change your perspective on life and eternity. They will change the way you interact with people on the street. They will change your walk with God.

“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, here am I; send me.” Isaiah 6:8

School Outreaches

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So many of the kids wanted selfies.

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Street Outreach

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We walked through so many markets like this one. At the busier ones, you could easily hand out several hundred Scriptures.

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Church Services

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Fellowshipping in the courtyard after church.

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First-time visitors received a free Bible.

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Sightseeing in Antigua

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Yes, that is an active volcano.

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The streets are all cobblestone.

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Fellowship and New Friends (Most of these pictures are from other team members.)
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Frisbee in the church courtyard.

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Pastor Garcia and his wife, Stephanie

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Mrs. Philbrick and I were partners for the week. We had a great time together. 🙂

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Brittney and Abbey

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This picture of our entire team was taken at 4 a.m. on the morning we came home. Left to right: Mark and Tammy Philbrick, Jon and Kristi Nothstein, David Lord, Nathaniel Johnson, Chris King, Brittney Johnson, Hunter Philbrick, Luke Philbrick, Dema Johnson, Silas Philbrick, Allen Johnson, Abbie Sikma, Abbey Grimes, and Alan Harris.

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Saying “goodbye” at the airport.

Because He Lives

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“He is not here, but is risen.” Luke 24:6a

This week as I have spent some time meditating on the glorious truth of Jesus’ resurrection, I’ve been reminded of the beautiful lyrics to the song, “Because He Lives”. It’s because of Jesus that I have forgiven sins. It’s because of Jesus that I can face an unknown future. It’s because of Jesus that I will spend eternity with Him. And it’s because of Jesus that I can live each day knowing that He has made life worth living.

This weekend, I encourage you to take some extra time and ponder the victorious truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Because He Lives

God sent His son, they called Him, Jesus;
He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!

And then one day, I’ll cross the river,
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain;
And then, as death gives way to victory,
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives!

Chorus
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

The King’s Blooming Rose | Review and Giveaway

The King's Blooming Rose Giveaway

Last year, I was introduced to the delightful magazine, The King’s Blooming Rose. Edited and published by homeschool graduate, Sarah Bryant, The King’s Blooming Rose “offers quarterly encouragement to Christian girls.” KBR encourages young ladies to “become delightful cornerstones at home, under the guidance of their parents according to Titus 2 and Proverbs 31.” Each issue features themes such as abiding in Christ, contentment, femininity, and Scripture memory.

My sisters and I were gifted with a year’s subscription by a sweet friend and we have thoroughly enjoyed each issue. In fact, we’ve loved it so much that we ordered all the back issues. So, to celebrate 100 posts on The Blue Tree House, I want to give away a year’s subscription to one of my readers.

To enter this giveaway, just leave a comment with your first and last name. You can enter additional times by

1) Pinning the top picture
2) Sharing on Google+
3) Sharing on Facebook
4) Sharing on Twitter
5) Sharing on your blog

Leave an additional comment for each entry with your name and a link, if possible.

Giveaway closes Thursday, March 26, 2015 at 12 P.M. CDT. Winner will be announced Friday, March 27.

Acorns, Races, & Sin

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“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” Hebrews 12:1-2a

It was a beautiful fall afternoon and I was leading my siblings in our daily exercise time. The sun was shining, leaves needed to be raked, and everyone had lots of energy. It was a good combination. I decided to bring some fun into our afternoon activity. A few of us raked a complex path/racetrack through the leaves.

After some footraces in which various siblings competed, we positioned ourselves to begin a relay race. The three youngest siblings would begin by running half of the track and handing their baton to their assigned sibling, who would then finish the race. I was paired with my youngest (and smallest) brother so I shed my socks and shoes in favor of bare feet. I needed all the speed I could get. When the baton reached me, I took off running. Unfortunately, I failed to remember all the acorns that covered my path ahead. As I was running, I stepped on one of those tiny, sharp acorns. I felt the cut but continued running anyway.

When I reached the finish line (second place), I discovered that the acorn had caused a rather deep cut. I couldn’t clean it completely and had to wait until my EMT brother got home. He was able to fully clean and bandage the wound and it is now healing.

As I was thinking over this event, I was struck with a few truths.

#1: As Christians, our lives are like a race (Hebrews 12:1). We began the day we were saved and we are running toward to the Ultimate Goal–Jesus Christ. Each moment, each day is step closer to our Goal. Godly parents and mentors have passed the baton to us and we are to be running toward Jesus.

#2: Sin can be like acorns. Though I knew the oak tree stood there, I failed to adequately prepare myself to run. As fallen human beings, we sin every day. We see sin and its’ effects all around us but how often do we forget how powerful it is? We sin but fail to confess. We can continue limping on in our race but the power is gone.

#3: Confession of sin is like cleaning a wound. Getting my foot completely cleansed of all dirt was painful but necessary. Had I skipped cleaning the wound, it would eventually have become infected and caused much bigger problems. When we fail to confess our sin, it weighs on our hearts and minds. It festers and slows us down in our race. We can only obtain full cleansing and freedom when we confess our sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

If God is Good | Book Review

Thought-provoking and inspiring, Randy Alcorn’s book, If God is Good, addresses the problem of suffering and evil. Mr. Alcorn presents logical arguments for the coexistence of an omnipotent God and evil. He draws from numerous true life stories and Scripture quotations to show that the God of the universe has a perfect plan and that He can use suffering and evil for good. In the chapter, Why Doesn’t God Explain His Reasons?, Alcorn states,

The God of providence weaves millions of details into our lives and into all the lives around us. Maybe he doesn’t have one big reason for bringing a certain person or success or failure or disease or accident into our lives; in fact, he may have hundreds of little reasons. In order to understand God’s explanations, we would have to be God.

The 512-page book is divided into sections such as, Understanding the Problem of Evil and Suffering, Problems for Non-Theists, Divine Sovereignty and Meaningful Human Choice, Evil and Suffering Used for God’s Glory, and other topics. The book, though theological in nature, is written to be understood by the everyday Christian. I highly recommend that every Christian read this book. It’s not a quick read but it is an encouraging read. If God is Good will cause you to view suffering through new eyes.

Disclaimer: Blogging for Books sent this book to me in exchange for my honest and thoughtful review.