Happy Wednesday folks! We skipped a week in the series, but today we are back in business! I am excited to introduce you to my blog friend, Nikki. Translation: We only know each other through our blogs, isn't that fun? I've read her blog for about a year and have seen how God has worked in her life just by reading her posts. And who doesn't make a friend with a girl who loves Jesus, the Braves, and has an attachment to Real Housewives... just sayin'. Here's Nikki's story!
Hey y'all - I'm Nikki and I blog over at The Pink Growl! Thank you to the lovely Ms. Erin for inviting me to do a guest post in her Steps of Faith series! When I sat down to think about which step of faith I wanted to tell a story about, I quickly realized that I've taken MANY over the past 2 years. Finding a new church, my mom's battle with cancer, making a decision to tithe regularly, relationships - all of these things can be viewed as steps of faith. Some were baby steps & some were giant leaps, but all of them led me to this place. I feel so comforted by that fact. By knowing that no matter how comfortable that first step of faith may be, that God will always be there waiting for me on the other side.
The step of faith I chose to ramble on about today was my recent mission trip to the Dominican Republic. To give you the full effect, I need to lay out the back story just a little bit. Way back before November 2012, I thought I was in control and had it all together. I was engaged to be married in 5 months, work was awesome, I had more friends than I could ask for. But in the back of my mind, I always felt like the rug was about to be pulled out from under me. And boy, was it! November rolls around and my life seemingly falls apart. My engagement ended, I was so lost and sad that all I wanted to do was sleep and eat my days away, I lost a ton of weight then gained so much back, I lost so many relationships, my family was dysfunctional - everything was spinning out of control. I'm not sure I ever truly felt settled in that life. It was an easy life, and I do miss that aspect of it, but I don't think it was fulfilling me. Fast forward to March 2013, after several months of bad decision making and wallowing, I attended a new church for the first time. I was raised as a Christian and always believed in God, but my relationship with him at that time was nothing more than desperate prayers in desperate occasions and Christmas services at church. I believe that this baby step of trying a new church has been the catalyst that changed my life. Things didn't automatically become simple after that, and there were still struggles to come - but it started me down a path that has blossomed into something incredible. My life has changed dramatically, and continues to change as I grow in my walk with God.
My faith is everything to me these days. It has carried me through the darkest of days, and given me a reason to better appreciate God's praises on the brightest ones too. I've been growing my faith - one step at a time since that moment of walking through the doors of a new church. All the glory for this life change goes to God. Without Him, I would still be lost and living a life without purpose.
So let's jump back into my step of faith with the mission trip! Two short months ago, the idea of going on this mission trip fell into my lap. I already felt like God is using me to influence the lives of others, but if I'm being honest I wanted more. I prayed nonstop that he would use me in a BIGGER way, without really having any idea in my mind of what all that could mean. Enter the mission trip. I found out that my church, OneLife Church in Knoxville, TN, would be taking a small group of 5 people on our first ever international mission trip to the Dominican Republic. It sounded like something I would LOVE to do, but I worried how I would afford it and if the timing was right for me. So I prayed, and asked others to pray over this decision for me. Turns out, God wanted me on this trip - all signs pointed to yes. I had no idea how I would come up with an extra $1200 in 2 months, or that I was even spiritually ready to lead in this type of a situation. But all along, God ensured me that He was in control. And of course, he was. Friends, family & bloggers rallied around my cause and donated enough money to pay for half my trip - what a blessing that was to me! God was preparing my heart and mind as the time got closer. People were praying over me, and I was beginning to feel more excited than nervous.
Before I knew it, it was here! Last week I spent my days serving God & the community of El Carrizal in the Dominican Republic. This wasn't your typical evangelistic mission trip! This community is stronger in it's faith than anything I've ever experienced. Out of 40 families in this small community, there are less than 10 people who do not call themselves Christians. El Carrizal's goal is to have every single person come to know Jesus. As someone who lives in a pretty decent sized city, with a church on almost every corner, and still the lost people outnumber the Christians, that was pretty mind blowing to me! Once I began to meet and interact with the people of El Carrizal, it was evident to me why they have this success rate. Their faith is everything to them. Granted, they live in a 3rd world country and they don't have the luxury of material things - but in a way this is a blessing to them. They don't have all the distractions that we have in our lives, all those materials things that we begin to idolize that ultimately take us away from God. I could sit here for days and tell you stories of life change from my trip. I was so blessed by being able to experience a new place, to experience God's love spanning across language barriers, to be able to worship with strangers who instantly made me feel closer than family. For 8 days we worked with this community to help them build a greenhouse for self sustainability, we hosted a VBS & baseball clinic for the youth, hosted a women's ministry and taught them to make jewelry out of paper beads so they can sell them for profit, and we hosted a community picnic so that we could just come together and fellowship with our new Dominican family.
Since I'm still fresh off the trip, I'm still gathering my thoughts on everything. I'm not sure I even have the right words right now to properly communicate these feelings. What I can say, with certainty is, I was changed by this trip. These people taught me important lessons in loving like Jesus did, in thankfulness, in humility, in taking steps of faith. I hope that I am never the same. I hope that I remember every detail of this trip for the rest of my life. I hope I have the chance to go back and visit my Dominican family again!
I think my big lesson here was to always trust in God's purpose for my life. For many months, I prayed over Isaiah 61 and knowing that the Lord has appointed me for a special purpose. This trip confirmed that for me. I made an impact in this community. I make an impact in my own community. As long as I'm willing to continue taking these steps of faith when the Lord calls me to, then I'll continue to make the impacts he has designed for me.