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All to Jesus I Surrender

What is important? What is most valuable? What is worth sacrificing my life for? What is the purpose of life? Well I don’t know about you, but I have been asking myself these questions a lot recently. Trying to determine what my life is worth living for, I found an internal battle between my flesh and the Spirit. Galatians 5:17 tells us, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” My flesh turns my head to the comforts of having a nice brick house and a big backyard with a family all nicely dressed for Sunday morning. The American culture and way of life tugs at my desires. The flesh softly whispers about the ease and comforts of life swinging on a porch swing and sipping sweet tea. But the Spirit turns my eyes to people. The hopeless and lost people that are desperate for the few that are obedient to share Jesus with them. The Spirit tells me to go to them. I asked myself, “What is life worth living for?” I have had to look in the mirror and examine myself. I have had to inspect my priorities and what I consider important. I have had to survey what I wanted in life. And yet, even through all the internal battles, my flesh, and sinfulness, God remains faithful. Faithful to put me at peace, and to answer my questions by giving me the desires of truth. He has opened my eyes to what is valuable, important, and worth my life. And that is sharing Him with the world and living on mission. Living out the great commission is worth sacrificing every comfort I think I’ll have living life on a porch swing for the indescribable joy it is to see one person come to Christ. Being in the will of God brings joy, peace, comfort, and hope that can not even compare to the so-called joy, peace, and comfort the flesh promises. Shockingly, even though I’m only a sophomore in high school, I already know what my purpose in life is. But spoiler alert….. It’s your purpose too. We are all called to be missionaries. A friend once told me, “You should always consider being a missionary unless God calls you to something else.”  Whether that’s in the deep jungles of Africa, the busy city of Lisbon, the tribes in Ecuador, or the people across the road, you are called to be a light. Right here, right now I’m going to ask you to do something that might put you outside your comfort zone. I want you to come to God with a willing heart and pray where He wants you to be a missionary. Yes you, a missionary. He might answer that and tell you to be a missionary to that neighbor, or He might call you to another country. The point in praying this is saying, “Here I am God, use me.” Put your yes on the table to whatever He asks of you. I pray that Jesus will open your eyes, put a burden in your heart, and give you the faith to follow the great commission to the ends of the earth.   Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with living in a nice house and being blessed by God with the privileges of America. But I do feel like most of us get caught up in the things of the world. Preaching to myself here. Our eyes are so distracted by this world we don’t even stop and realize it won’t last, but the souls of people will. It is so incredibly easy to get consumed by what others think, the things we think we need or should do. We completely forget our purpose in life as Christians. Our purpose is to live on mission. But this is easier said than done. This world, your flesh, and Satan do not want you to obey Christ’s call. So be ready. Pick up your sword. Prepare yourselves. Obedience to a call like this means your going to have to die to self. This means you are going to have to give Jesus everything and say, “No matter what I want to serve You, God.” The only way is if you pray that God would kill your flesh and its desires. All that said, Jesus is faithful to prepare you for the good work He has for you. He is the one who does everything; all we have to do is surrender. 

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Dear Rawlinson Road Youth Group

Dear Rawlinson Road Youth Group,

As I draw near to my last few times attending youth group at Rawlinson Road this beautiful sense of grief overcomes me. It is a bitter-sweet, laugh and cry, horribly difficult goodbye. It is a goodbye to those I love, those I have built relationships with, and those I’ve created memories with. It is hard to describe this feeling but the best way I can put it is the love of a family that has to temporarily part ways. Over these past four years with you I have grown to love the days Wednesday and Sunday. I’ve grown to love the days where we come together and dive into God’s Word, enjoy each other’s fellowship, scream with excitement, laugh, cry together, probably get too competitive in games, but overall do life together. When I look back, I can see how much we have all grown together. How we have changed yet stayed the same. The way each of us has played roles in each other’s lives. How we have grown our relationships with one another and made this wonderfully diverse in personality family that no one else can claim. When I look back over these years, I can think of all those days running down the hall during manhunt. I can remember all those times huddling in small groups. I can see all those little memories at camp and strength to stand. All those little moments in time that only lasted a second yet when gathered create the amazing picture of a family of believers that have enjoyed the time God has given them together. I think God has so richly blessed me by giving me all of you as my church family. He has given me a unique relationship with each of you and blessed me with your friendship. I just want to say thank you so much for making this such a difficult goodbye. For giving me these memories and moments, I will cherish forever. For making it so difficult to let go. But thankfully, though we might not be in person with each other, we are connected by the same Spirit. This is the same Spirit that has put us in one another’s lives and gave us this bond unbelievers don’t understand. Even through distance and time we can continue to pray and encourage one another and thank Jesus for all those tiny moments we have together. Always remember I love you and am so incredibly grateful for you.

                                                                                    Love your student and friend,

                                                                                                                   Ava Jackson

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I Asked to Grow…and Then it Rained

Here I am sitting on my bed listening to the rain and thunder. Revelation 4:11, “Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.”  As I sit here and listen to the peaceful rain as it hits the roof and the sound of the thunder rumbling in the distance, I am reminded of God’s power and strength. As I sit here and gaze through my window at the dark blanket of clouds that cover the sky, I notice the steady flow of water drip from the roof, I am reminded of the purpose of rain.  

My spirit longs to grow deeper into Him. My spirit longs for the purpose that God has ordained for my life. I desire to be an example to others of God’s grace and His goodness. I am ready to be used by God, and accomplish His will. I am like a little seed looking forward to the time when it is a strong, beautiful tree. Yet meanwhile, I find myself trapped in sin. Chained to my flesh. Stuck in this cycle of sin and shame. Looking towards the hope of the future but discovering myself immobile and unable to reach the place I seek because of this continual chained heart. Yet, while I am thankful to Jesus for giving me these desires, I am missing the step in the middle. I see the place I’m in and directly see the place I want to be. When I look ahead to what I want my life to look like in the end, I skip over the most beautiful and important part. The part that produces the sturdy tree.  

As you plant a seed in the ground, the next day you don’t come back and see that an apple tree has grown and already produced its fruit; though we might want this. It takes time, and it first needs to die. This little seed breaks through its dead covering and begins to sprout. But this does not come easily. It takes strength to break through the ground. But as we continue to look at this sprout grow; we also see it needs rain. This rain produces nourishment so its roots can grow strong and dig deeper into the ground. This rain seems sorrowful and useless at the time, but we can see the purpose of the rain as it stays sturdy against the wind. Then the little plant gains strength and endurance through the step in the middle. If this little seed grew to a tree in the middle of the night, it wouldn’t have time to grow strong roots that penetrate deep into the ground, and without these roots, this beautiful tree will fall over with the slightest breeze.  

So here I am in the rain, rejoicing in this time that will produce strong roots. In this time in the middle, I am learning to be grateful for this rain. Jesus, thank You for giving me this privilege of time to grow my roots deep into You. Now that I am asking to grow, I am joyfully embracing the rain.  

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Our Survey Trip

            Hey everyone! So, the last time I was on here I shared about some of the difficulties I was going through. But I really wanted to update y’all on our survey trip we took back in early October of 2021. This survey trip was such an answer to prayer and helped bring me out of the state I was in which I talked about in the previous blog.

            So let me start at the very beginning so you can get the full picture. On October 2, 2021, me and my family geared up as we dragged three huge suitcases, five carryon bags, and not to mention all the emotional baggage of trying to get a family of five across the ocean without a mental breakdown. As I sat there at the gate waiting to board the plane that would take us to Munich, Germany, I was nervous to say the least. I sat, and squirmed, and fidgeted my feet. But finally, the time came to board the plane, and all was well. We flew from Charlotte, to Munich, to ultimately arrive in Lisbon.  Thankful that the traveling was finally over, I eagerly grabbed my bags and was relieved that we were finally on Portuguese soil. My family was welcomed by some of our team members that we would be working with, and they grabbed our stuff and loaded us in the car to take us to where we would be staying for the next week and a half. As we pulled out of the airport a strange feeling came over me. The Portugal that I had heard of was beautiful and historic, but everything around me was tall mountainous concrete buildings and graffiti. This was not what I was expecting. Once we arrived at the apartment, we were staying at, the same feeling hit me again. I thought the apartments were supposed to be colorful and beautiful, but to my surprise it wasn’t. After all our friends had left, I got on my bed, wrapped up in a blanket, and cried.  My mom soon came in and talked to me. I can’t remember what she said, but all I know was that after she left, I decided that I was going to look at things differently by walking towards the cross and not away from it. From then on, I can just remember looking at everything not from the view of my expectation, but as a new lifestyle to embrace.

            The following days we traveled around and got to see all the gorgeous places that Portugal has to offer. From the fantastic view of the western most point in all of Europe, to the amazing historic beauty of the castle and monastery. I got to try so many amazing foods and walked off every pound I gained from them too! We really got to know our team, which I enjoyed so much because they felt like family. We ate, laughed, talked, and enjoyed fellowship with the people we would be doing life with.

Before y’all start to think that this was just a vacation, we did actually visit churches and got to meet with some of the Portuguese pastors! It was awesome to see what these churches looked like. It wasn’t some fancy buildings; it was sometimes two rooms at the bottom of an apartment. This just goes to show you that when two or more are gathered He will be there also. I also really enjoyed the worship service while we visited a church there. It was so beautiful to hear this different language being sung that was glorifying Jesus. The only thing that was difficult was the language. We sat through a two-hour service having no clue what was being said. But let me just tell you it gets really awkward when everybody in the room starts laughing and for all you know they could be laughing at you! But even through the language barrier, I still enjoyed it when we visited the Portuguese churches. One other thing I was really looking forward to, was being able to visit the school I would be attending! I met some great people and I can’t wait to start my tenth-grade year there! (Lord willing)

            Thank you all so much for praying for me and my family! God has changed my heart. He is the One who changed my heart to love Portugal. He has been so good to me. I can’t even put it in words of the grace and mercy He has given me. He remains faithful once again.

            I thought that I should probably add a little section and tell y’all about all the culture shocks I encountered! I hope that some of these awkward and stressful moments will make you laugh as I now do, looking back on them!

Germany:

  1. In the bathrooms instead of having paper towels, they had communal “self- sanitizing” towels. (Note to self: stop trying to pull it out of the wall, it’s meant to stay there so EVERYONE can use it.)

Portugal:

  1. There are two toilets in the bathroom..yay…
  2. I have no idea what I’m putting in my hair while I’m in the shower because I can’t read the label on the bottle (I really hope this isn’t body wash!)
  3.  Let me be completely honest here… It is soooo incredibly stressful trying to figure out how to flush the toilet because it seems as if each one flushes differently
  4. Trying to order McDonalds is way more difficult to order over in Portugal than back in the States
  5. Pea and cabbage soup are some sides at McDonalds (why can’t I just have extra fries?!?!)
  6. The elevators are extremely tiny
  7. The driving is INSANE
  8. It’s not odd to find people walking their dogs without leashes  
  9. There are no stop signs or red lights, it’s all just go, go, go  and round-abouts
  10. Illegally parking is common. If there are no parking spots, then just pull up behind somebody
  11. All the desserts were great, but I mean really guys, who puts jellybeans in a chocolate bar  

Ava J

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“Because He Can”

Hey everyone! So, in my last blog post, I mostly talked about how excited I was to be a missionary kid. But let me tell you the truth, there is so much more that everyone doesn’t see. When most people ask how I feel about moving to another continent, I put on the church smile and say how much I anticipated the new journey of living in Portugal.  But there is another side that is painful and full of sorrow.  For the past year, after saying our first goodbye to our home, and finding peace with letting the comforts of this world go, I had convinced myself everything was fantastic and that everything would work out fine. I ignored all the heartache and pain, slowly trying to suffocate it within myself, but pain is a very real and raw emotion that cannot run from.  I had focused on the fact that God had changed my heart towards missions, and because of that I was now ready for all this change. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to look on the bright side and all the wonderful things that would come out of this journey, but when you only look at the positive things you hurt yourself in the end.

It all started a couple Sundays ago… Like normal I went to church and told everyone how excited I was to be a MK, which I truly am, but that night I experienced a spiritual attack that left me with swollen eyes from tears that didn’t seem to stop.  The five-minute drive back to my Nana’s house, felt like five hours. As soon as my Nana saw me, she wrapped her arms around me, and in that single moment…in that single hug, I felt peace.  As she let go, suddenly I felt a tsunami size wave of reality come crashing upon me.  I realized that I was going to have to say goodbye to those I love, and I would be leaving the place I felt at peace.  That night as we were going back to the lake house, I just broke down. My heart shattered… I began to cry, but it was a strange cry that I hadn’t known before. As these emotions of grief overcame me, a spirit of anger and frustration also came over me. “How could anyone understand what I was going through! Nothing that anyone could say would ever take this feeling from me!” As I was thinking these things all I wanted to do was blame everyone, cry, and scream. I have never in my life felt these emotions before. As I laid in the bed that night, I felt as if I physically was not capable of getting on the plane and leaving for good. I mean you must be in a pretty bad place if you feel as if you are physically incapable of doing something because the emotion is so overwhelming. But that’s how I felt that night. The next day I woke up still numb from the night before. I had been punched over and over, beaten, and left lying on the ground.  My accuser had stripped me of all my joy, laughed at my bruises, and left me lying there helpless. I was unable to get up or move. That’s how I felt and anything that anyone said made me want to cry. My heart was wounded, and every encouraging word spoken to me that day only felt like salt burning deep within the cuts. It was one of those days where all I wanted to do was curl up in a blanket, eat ice cream, cry, and watch a movie. That same day our family found out that we had just reached 100% for our one-time fund, but it was like I had no emotion left to feel. I wasn’t mad, I wasn’t excited, all I felt was numbness, and in that numbness, was this overwhelming sense of confusion. I had no idea what I felt, and I didn’t know what to do next. I still feel this sense of confusion, and honestly, I’m not sure how long I’ll feel like this. I don’t know if this is how I am going to feel from now on because my eyes have been opened to both the good and bad. I don’t know what to do… but I know that the right thing to do is go back to God’s Word and prayer. It might feel like eating a stale cracker but at least it’s food. But I can say this with great joy, He has provided everything I need to get through this. Psalms 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” He has provided His Word, prayer, goldy parents, and friends that I can lean on. I am trusting that He will get me through this… because He is the only one who can.

Ava J

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I Would Gladly Say No

Being a missionary kid is quite different than any other experience, and most people can not claim to be associated with this group of people. As a missionary kid, I had to move from the town I grew up in, to my grandparents’ lake house, which was a lot more painful than it seems. While my family is raising support, we are traveling to many different churches. This is the start to a long road of feeling uncomfortable because it’s not my normal. Different and uncomfortable are typically two common words used as a missionary kid. Being a MK means eventually accepting a new culture, language, and lifestyle. I attended some conferences…and all the advice given to me is great, but I won’t really know how I will respond until I reach the field. Confusingly, I ask myself “Does all of my family and friends look at me differently now? Do they look at me the same? Is this the group I once felt like I belonged in?” Different is probably the best word to describe this new identity that I would have never imagined myself being. “Giving up” many of my comforts are my main struggle. Meeting new people, and visiting new places are my biggest, most uncomfortable obstacles. Learning to accept the unknown is the one thing all MK’s share. Another thing that changed for me was my spiritual life. When I first found out, I blamed God and was mad at Him. I figured that He called my parents, and I was forced to be dragged along. But through time, God opened my eyes that He was calling me too. The main outcome of this was the way I looked at everything. It was not a horrible thing at all, in fact it was probably one of the best blessings that came out of this! It was like God placed a pair of eclipse glasses on my eyes. If you’ve never looked through a pair, all you see is black and darkness. You’re moving your head all around to try to detect anything. Then you finally find the sun. That’s all you want to look at because everything else is dark and lifeless in comparison to it. God opened my eyes that He is the only thing that matters and without the Son everything is dark and pointless. Most of the time we think of different and change being awful but truthfully, it’s a great thing. Missionary kids go through many different changes, but God has worked, is working, and will work it out all for His wonderful plan.
Being a missionary kid is an excellent experience and honestly if I had a choice to travel back in time to change things, I wouldn’t. As a MK I get to explore a new culture and examine how diverse people are. Also, one thing that I’m excitingly waiting for is trying all kinds of different and unique foods! Visiting new places and meeting new people who I can build relationships with are some of the things I’m looking forward to. One of the best blessings that came out of this new journey in my life was meeting my MK family. It’s quite a funny story how God showed me that if I would trust Him, He in the end would bless me with all these wonderful people. Hopefully I’ll be able to share that story with all of you soon. Gratefully I know that these people will be my life-long friends. Because of all these changes, my spiritual life has grown and made me rely more on Christ. Like my Mom always tells me, “You can either let it drive you to the cross or away from it.” Jesus has helped me realize that He is so much more comforting than my comforts, He is so much more reliable then my normal, and that He is so much wiser than my plans. Sometimes I pray that God would use me in ways that scare me. You are probably wondering why I would ask for that. Well, here’s the answer, because I’ve seen Him do it. Through it all, I’ve been blessed, and I have grown so much deeper into Him. Being a missionary kid is awesome because I get to see firsthand Jesus’ name being proclaimed to the world. Missionary kids (kids of missionaries), as I am identified as this, I think a better term would be kid missionaries. We have the privilege of being used by God just at an early age. Jesus has molded me more into a person who now has such a deeper relationship with Him; so yes, if you asked me would I change things I would gladly say no.

Ava J