More to come on Costa Rica

I’m going to go a lot more into detail about all of our ministry and how God worked, I’m just going to take a break from writing.

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The Gilded Country

Hands down, France (or Nice at least) is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. I, nor my pictures could ever aptly describe it all. It truly is gorgeous…on the outside.

It has a beautiful rocky beach coastline and ski slopes under an hours drive away in the surrounding mountains that can be seen off in the distance. It’s filled with beautiful scenery, food (especially the food), homes, buildings, works of art, history, clothes, cars, and people.

At first glance, there couldn’t be a more perfect place to live in the world. But upon looking deeper, you see so much more. You see the rich unsatisfied, the beautiful people hurting and searching for something more, and the food very fattening.

Beneath all the beauty, it’s a very dark place. You look into the eyes of it’s people and no real hope is found. it’s just continuing on with life till death comes.

I’m not fully sure of the statistic, but we were told that France has one of the highest national percentages of atheism in the world. That along with one of the highest suicide rates. I believe that there is no way that the two cannot be connected.

Most French, when asked about their thoughts on Christianity, will say that its a dead religion that their grandparents tried and got them nowhere. The sad thing is how true that really is.

Throughout the majority of Europe, Catholicism is the image that has been burnt into the minds of the people when they hear and think of Christianity. While I don’t believe you can’t be a true Christian and be catholic, (In fact I know some very strong, Bible following, God loving Catholics who have got it down more than a lot of others I find in Protestant churches) I find it very easy to be a part of the catholic church and get caught up with all the traditions, worshiping the saints and pope, and making it a works based religion where tradition is the main focus and the point of Jesus coming to earth to be a perfect sacrifice and our bridge to a personal relationship with God and eternity glorifying Him and grace is completely missed. It becomes a religion and not a relationship with God, two very different things. That along with significant points in history where the catholic church has been paired up with causes such as Hitler and his seeking of power and the Crusades and their “holy” war, have left it as a very bitter taste in the minds of the Europeans. They look to it as any other dead end religion.

So that’s where the really hard part comes in. It’s said that it takes about 100 Christian influences to change the hardened atheist mind to the point where they are open to the Gospel. It’s because of this vast darkness that churches like Denton Bible Church have sent many missionaries to France to reach out to it’s people abd show them what a real relationship with God looks like, how it’s not like any other religion. Now that they have become settled into the community, the missionaries have started up two churches both under the name of Nice International Baptist Church. It was with these great men and women that we partnered up to help share The Gospel to the French people.

Our main focus while in France was to help out the local missionaries in any way we could and to try and easy their heavy load of responsibilities while encouraging them.

Our first day we went to a park up on top of a cliff overlooking all of Nice and surrounding cities and Igor, one of the missionaries from Ukraine, led us in worship as we prayed for the people of Nice and for their hearts to be opened to the Gospel.

Two of the other main things we worked on while in France was cleaning a member in the church’s apartment and helping the church get ready for their yearly VBS.

To sum it up quickly, the apartment we cleaned belonged to a man named Edwin. Now Edwin wouldn’t be considered normal because of all the medication he has to take. The way the French healthcare system solves health problems is by adding more and more pills on top of each other for whatever problems that come as side effects to the original medication. You can imagine how messed up this can make a person. Well one of the effects that this has had on Edwin is that he hasn’t noticed the cleanliness of his apartment becoming less and less over the years. Specifically, the last 10 years in which he hasn’t cleaned anything. Needless to say or to post photos, you can imagine how dirty places like the bathroom and kitchen are after not being cleaning for over a decade. Even though he had a very small apartment, this was a multiple day job that took a lot of work, but in the end we were able to make his home much more livable and less dangerous to his health. This was so much more important than just helping a guy in the church. The reason for this is that (and especially in the French church) just because he is in the church doesn’t make him a Christian. While the drugs have taken a good part of his reasoning mind away, he still doesn’t really get Christianity and still looks to things like Buddhas and other things. While I’m pretty sure it may have taken a few years off my life, it was a great way for us to show Christ love by serving Edwin and I pray that we have made a difference to him.

If you have never led one before, a Vacation Bible School takes a lot of effort to run. This one in particularly because it is one of the churches greatest outreaches because it brings in a lot of kids who then accept Christ and who then get their parents to come to church with them starts a ripple effect.

This years theme is Panda-monium and while I don’t know anything about the material, we needed to decorate the church to look like a bamboo jungle. To do this we spent a full day cutting down bamboo. After letting it dry for a day we latched it all together to form what resembled a bamboo fence to then secure to the walls of the church and other places. Others from our team worked on drawing jungle animals to be cut out and hung from the ceilings and other similar projects.

After a full day the church looked just like a rainforest, and smelt like one too. The VBS starts this Monday (today) so it would be great if you could be praying for it as well.

Overall I really loved our time in France. Not to say I didn’t love playing with orphaned children or smuggling Bibles across borders, all of which I want to do more of, I would say France was my favorite. While all the modern conveniences and the familiarity to my own culture made it a bit easier and more comfortable to get used to, I would not say that is was why I enjoyed it most by any means. The reason I loved it so much is because it was so close to what I feel that God has called me to do, and that is to work in a church (probably behind the scenes in administration) and by just being able to be a part of one for only a short while, I found so much joy in doing so and has strengthened this desire to do so after schooling.

France has really confirmed in me wether or not I really would ever want to live in a foreign country for a long period of time as a missionary or not. Where I once struggled, I now feel I would have no problem in doing so (outside of being far away from and missing friends and family).

So now it’s seeing to where God calls me and when. Previously I felt like it might have been China, but now I feel that that may have just been a calling to get me out of the U.S. because going to China was the whole reason I wanted to come on this trip. So I would really enjoy if you could be praying for me that God would place somewhere on my heart (and that could be multiple places or even just staying in America). I’m willing to go wherever, now it’s just the waiting and allowing God to grow and prepare me for it. I appreciate the continued prayers.

For His Glory
Josh

Indian Wedding Dance Party

Here is a slightly random video that I just wanted to get up for kicks.

The story goes that we were walking down a street on our last day in India and we came across this giant parade in the street.  We found out that it was a wedding ceremony (for the little girl on the horse, I believe an arranged marriage which is pretty sad) and we were more than welcomed to join in on the dance party.  The men particularly enjoyed having Luke, Blake, and Travis join the celebration.  Watch and enjoy.

Uganda

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Sorry for the lack of posts while in Uganda. We didn’t have many chances to get online and when we did the computers and Internet were very slow.

As I’m writing this by trying to catch up on journaling, our team is flying over Kenya on one of our 3 connecting flights to France. Our stay in Uganda was truly amazing. It was very structured and thought out (which was to my liking) thanks to our missionary contact, Natalie, who has worked at Lulwanda Children’s Home for the past 5 years. The past 10 days spent here seemed to unfortunately fly by. Unlike the orphanage in India, we were assigned tasks such as painting instead of being with the children the majority of the time. Each day, we would arrive and work on painting either the boys dorms, girls dorms, or the nursery school. Most days we would have some free time to play with the kids when they were done with classes and studies.

I really enjoyed this type of ministry. It was much more service oriented and more behind the scenes which I kinda prefer. And being task oriented, it was nice to have laid out what needed to be done, by when, and how much time we had to finish and then to do that. By painting and up keeping the buildings, we no online brightened up the living and learning spaces of the children, but also saved Lulwanda a good deal of money that it would cost to hire professionals (unfortunately our amateur painting skills showed in our work but thankfully much more good was done than harm). Now that money can be spent more efficiently towards the children.

While i enjoyed the painting, what really brought me the most joy was playing with the younger kids from the nursery on their break. It would occasionally turn out where we would be between waiting for one coat of paint to dry before applying another and the nursery schools play time that we could could go out and play games with kids and just have a good time and laugh with them. Seeing them laugh and smile brought so much joy to my heart.

It didn’t really hit me how much pain and suffering these children have gone through till I ended up reading their bios that were in the office. After flipping through the pages of story after story of these children’s parents dying of sickness or having a parent abandon them to the streets when the family could not afford to feed another mouth literally brought me to tears. One particular story of a little girl named Marrion Neboshe really burdened my heart. Her story begins with her father drowning when their car fell into a river in 2008. The widowed mother at age 25 had no skills or way of employment and resorted to prostitution to try to provide for her starving family. This still did not provide enough to feed the full family. As typical for most African families in poverty, being the youngest child (around 2 years old), Marrion was placed last among her siblings and did not receive adequate nutrition or attention and was then recommend to be placed in Lulwanda by an official. All of the children had a similar heart wrenching story that all ended in pain and depravity. These were now not just stories on paper of some child I’ve never met. These were the real lives of kids I was just tickling and lifting onto my shoulders just moments ago.

My heart burdened, I put down the binder and walked out into the main room I came upon the children singing “You Are My All in All” and the opening line of “You are my strength when I am weak”. Seeing these young children worshiping God with smiles on their faces and knowing their histories, I was then reminded of what a truly beautiful thing that has been going on in this place. God has been changing the lives of these children by picking them up out of darkness and freeing them; giving them a hope and a future.

Realizing that I really haven’t given much details about the Children’s home, I would like to do so now so that you can get a better image of the wonderful ministry that has been set up here.

Lulwanda Children’s Home was established in 2005 and is the plant of a church in Texas (I think in Katy). It is solely supported by American churches and supporters. Currently it is the home to 92 children who have been orphaned by some relation to HIV/Aids (meaning that either one or both parents either has the virus or has died from it, along with a few special circumstances). None of the children are HIV positive though. Lulwanda houses, feeds, and educates the children all while teaching them in the name of Jesus. Along with the 92 orphans, Lulwanda brings in another 90 or so children from the surrounding impoverished families in the community to educate them and give them one meal a day that their families could not afford to give them. It is run by full time staff such as administration, teachers, cooks, and other workers that care for the children. Every child that steps through the gates of this place is taught and shown the love of Christ.

God has shown me so much on this leg of the journey, not even mentioning our hike up mount Elgon which was so beautiful but I am too tired to write it out and I am sure you have read enough. Summed up, God is such a beautiful creator and that mountain was probably the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. More pictures soon to come. Thanks for the continued support and prayers.

For His Glory
Josh

Leaving India

Currently our team is sitting in the Dubai airport awaiting our connecting flight to Uganda and while we still have access to WiFi, I wanted to get a quick post up.

After vising the Taj Mahal on Saturday, we came back to the orphanage to say our last goodbyes to the children and staff.  What I didnt expect was for them to have a going away ceremony for our team.

In this they sat us down at the front of the church and they sang worship songs (with hand motions, I’ll get a video up later), prayed for us, then came up to us with cards that they made saying they will miss us and will be praying for us. After that they gave us coffee mugs with a picture of us with the kids on the front.  While I dont drink coffee, its one of the greatest gifts i have ever been given.

After a few last rounds of swinging the younger kids around, lifting them onto my shoulders, and a tickle fight, I said my last goodbyes to all the kids.  I was honestly ready to leave India but I did not ant to leave that place and those kids

Every time one of my roommates or I use this mug (which should be often because were in college and we dont have an excess of cups) I will be praying or these kids, for them to have an undying passion, for wisdom and knowledge, and for their futures;  That God would raise them up as leaders and send them all throughout the lost nation of India to spread the Love and saving message of Jesus.  I ask that whenever you can remember that you lift up a a prayer for them as well.

For His Name

Josh

What Has Been Accomplished

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Now I’ll start this off first by saying that when I say accomplish, I dont mean in a sense that it was by our power any of these tasks were completed.  While it may have been us doing the physical work (partly), it was God in us that Gave us the desire to do so.  I dont take any sense of pride in what we did because it wasnt really of me desiring to do it.

Outside of just loving on the kids and teaching them songs or games, we (and a lot of that being with the help and financial support of our sponsors because otherwise we wouldnt have been able to afford it) were able to do quite a lot in the short time allotted in India.

-We took the kids to a KFC, something I’m pretty sure none of them have ever experienced before.  I’ve never been hugged and thanked so much before in my life.  This has created one of my favorite memories of all time (not because of the thanking but the ability to be a part of bringing that much joy over something I take for granted).

-We took the kids to a Theme/Water park.  Yet again, there was so much joy found in being a part of giving the kids and staff an opportunity that they could never have otherwise.

-Helped in the building of a new church.  The orphanage was knocking down and rebuilding their church and we were able to help by knocking down bricks for a door and windows and bring in dirt to level out the ground level for the floor.  (Dont get the image that we built the church, we were just able to help out where we could)

-Gave medical treatment to a child named Sirgreave who had an infected, fluid-filled cyst on his back.  We were able to fund taking him to the hospital and treatment plus medication.

-Fixed and set up a volleyball/backgammon net and court and we gave them a volleyball to play with (they are surprisingly very good for not playing before)

-Paul, Blake, and myself were able to fashion an old basketball goal to the orphanage’s water tower so the kids can play basketball.  (This was quite difficult because our only supplies were what we could find on the ground on the property.  Thankfully there were 3 old steel cables that we were able to use to fasten it to the concrete pillar).  The hoop lacked a net so I used their old torn volleyball net to make a net for the goal (that I was pretty proud of)

-We paid for Vickram’s (one of the amazing guys on staff) first year of college.  We heard that he was trying to raise money on his own to go to school but with his salary at the orphanage he wouldnt ever be able to afford it.  Knowing that his heart is truly for God and that whatever he is given he will use for the Glory of God and His kingdom, we wanted to pay for his first year of school through correspondence (which came to able $80 US).  This brought him so much joy and Im so thankful I could be a part in it.

-One of the moms sent in some money specifically for one of the women workers named Cookie.  We call her that because we cant pronounce her name correctly and she is the cook.

Through us, God brought so much joy to the great people that we encountered in India and I know he made a lasting impact on their lives.  Im so thankful that I was able to be a part in it all.

Short Update on India

The orphans here have truly melted my heart.  Its been just 4 days and already I love these kids and Im not looking forward to leaving at the end of the week.  At the orphanage, there are currently about 80 kids ranging from ages 2-17.  As soon as we arrived, we were greeted with 7  of the youngest kids bringing leis  made out of bright orange flowers and then they set them around out necks.   They are so adorable and tiny for their ages and as I said, they have truly melted my heart.

3 times each day they meet up and have prayer time which consists of about 20 minutes of singing praise and worship, prayer, and someone sharing a testimony of Gods work in their life or a message from the Bible.   The singing brings so much joy to my heart, not only because it is absolutely hysterical to watch them dance along with the songs that are sung in either hindi or broken english and muttered noises when unknown lines come up, but because they have so much joy in it and they mean it (especially the older ones. It is such a blessing to see their passion and devotion at such an early age).

These kids have very little.  They have a a few sets of worn clothes, some over used sports balls, a board game, and little else. They live in rooms without a/c or running water (at least from how we are used to it in the states) and all live in the same room (boys and girls separated).  But the lack of material possessions doesnt matter.  They love each other as their family and they love God and passionately pursue Him.  They have so much little materially compared to the vast majority of America, but have so much more spiritually or of what really matters. They love each other as family and treat each other with so much love.  The little ones will get into petty fights occasionally, but its easy to see how much they care for one another.

They eat all their meals at the orphanage and rarely get to leave it.  We were able to take them to a KFC here. Fast food places here like Pizza Hut and KFC are fancy sit down restaurants that are only for the upper-classes.  This was like a dream come true and literally an answer to prayer for these kids (pretty cool story that I can share later about the answered prayer).  I cant describe how much joy it brought the children just to take them to a fast food restaurant.  They could not stop thanking and kissing us the rest of the night.  That night was one of the best nights of my life

Yesterday, with the great help of support from our followers, we were able to take the kids to an Indian Theme/water park for the day.  Similar to the KFC, we wanted to take them to something that they would never be able to do otherwise and they enjoyed it and were so thankful for it and the time we spent with them.

I cant tell you how much these kids desire love from a parent type figure.  They always come up to you and want you to hold their hand, whenever your sitting down they want to sit in your lap, and whenever your standing they want to be on your shoulders.  They want to be held and hugged and to know that they have worth and are loved.  It has been such a blessing to have these kids climb all over me, pull my hair,  have their dirty bodies rubbed up against mine (which is now equally as dirty, Its the dirtiest I have ever been in my life), to have them cry on my shoulder when they fall down, or to run around with them when my body is exhausted, to pray with them, to read God’s word to them, to show them how much God loves them.  I love these kids

I have pondered the thought before of adoption and have really considered it but have been unsure.   If God blesses me with a family, I am now sure that I want to.  I pray that I have the chance to love some hopeless, abandoned child and to show them the love of God by making them apart of my family and loving them as my own.

I cant recommend a better way to humble yourself and to see the love of God than to go love kids at an orphanage in a third world country.  If you ever get the opportunity do it.  God has grown me so much in such a short time for it.

For His Name and His Glory

Josh