Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October update (and what's coming in the next few years!)

Hi there, friends!

It's been an eventful few months, and it's hard to believe we have just six weeks left before we return to the States... and then a month after that we get married!

This will (by necessity) be a long email, so feel free to fast forward to the Short Version at the end...

In September we sent our seven Discipleship Training School students and two staff leaders off to Ukraine, where they have been ministering among orphans, in schools, teaching English, speaking in churches, and generally loving on the people they meet. Since then, Geoff and I have been busy hosting friends from the States (such a blessing!), resolving visa issues, and praying about direction for the next couple of years.

Geoff's visa expired earlier this year, and two applications, a considerable amount of confusion, and about $1000 later, we're hoping things have been smoothed over. He currently has an application in place for a visa extension of 2 years, which would give him plenty of time to fundraise and apply for residency here in the UK (a long, drawn-out process, which is why we weren't able to do it this year).

Once we got everything sorted out with his visa, Geoff and I were blessed by our base leaders with the chance to take a couple of days away at the other Scottish YWAM base, a beautiful mansion on the west coast of Scotland. We did puzzles, walked on the beach, explored castles, read books, and had hours of face-to-face time to talk and pray about our future. At the end of it, here's what we decided:

We are committing to two more years here at YWAM Paisley, living in Stanely House and investing in the base during this transitional season. We've been given a couple of rooms to turn into an apartment that will allow us some privacy for these first couple of years of marriage. There are quite a few reasons why this seems like the best choice for us (feel free to ask if you'd like to know more!), but suffice it to say we are confident and excited and at peace about this, and we are looking forward to growing together and with the base in this next season.

The specifics have yet to be hammered out, but some possibilities on the horizon are: discipling young people on the yearly DTS, leading worship and teaching at our church and at the base, Geoff will continue with the men's group he has started, I'm looking into investing in chickens and a garden here at the base for a more sustainable food source, partnering with a nonprofit that mentors young artists and musicians in the community, growing in our own musical gifts, and much more!

And hopefully hosting many more of our dear friends and family when they come for a visit? We have plenty of room...!

At any rate, we're excited, thriving in our relationships with each other and the Lord, looking forward to coming home and celebrating with all of you, and looking ahead with expectant hearts to see what these next few years will bring. Bless you all!

The Short Version (or Please Pray):
- Geoff has applied for a visa extension. Please pray that it comes back with a yes on it by November 19 so we can travel home!
- We have committed to 2 more years here at YWAM Paisley, living at the base. Please pray for finances to make over our little apartment, for vision and direction for which ministries to invest in, and for wisdom in setting boundaries and living our first years of marriage well in a community context.
- Finances are still a bit tight. We have been so blessed in our support-raising, but we're still about $160/month short of our (conservative) monthly support goal. Would you consider partnering with us on a monthly basis, no matter how small? In addition, this visa renewal just about drained our bank accounts. Would you consider a one-time gift (or a wedding gift) toward our honeymoon or the renovation of our apartment?

Checks can be sent to:
Journey Church
PO Box 1016
Walla Walla, WA 99362
with a note specifying that they are for me/us.

Again, bless you and thank you all, and we hope to see many of you this Christmas!
Molly and Geoff

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mzungu wange: final reflections on Uganda

I'm in Paisley, Scotland now. Wearing more layers than I remembered was physically possible, looking out over the city of Glasgow, staying in a glorious old mansion that has been re-purposed into a YWAM base, and trying to wrap my mind around the fact that five days ago my season in Uganda came to an end. It seems impossible that it's over, and at the same time it's as if it all happened years ago.

On one of my last days, one of the neighbor children made a permanent impression on my heart and wrapped up my entire stay in Uganda in one phrase: "Mzungu wange!" or "My white girl!"

When I came to Africa, I was at first enraptured and then overwhelmed. Being white seemed an impossible obstacle to overcome, and I was so discouraged by the feeling of being an inevitable outsider in every situation. The children reminded me of it around every corner: "Mzungu! Mzungu!" "White girl! White girl!" But I pressed on, and days and weeks turned into months, and Uganda began to feel like home. After spending six weeks in Tanzania and then returning to Hopeland, I was surprised to find how familiar and comfortable it felt-- I know this place! I can do this!

I cannot possibly, in one update or a hundred, express the depth of love, the friendships, the challenges and blessings, the heartbreaks and highs, of my six months in Uganda. How the red dirt became a comforting second skin, how the blue sky and hot sun placed a blanket of familiarity over every day, how the rain smelled like lemon and mint and filled my soul. How the sticky, dirty hands of the sweetest children on Earth ministered to my heart and left indelible marks on my ukulele. How the rhythm-- slow, consistent, repetitive, and so dear-- of friendship and conversation and work and community worked its way into my very being. How my heart felt that last hour in the Entebbe airport: broken, alone, and incredulous that it happened at all and that it was over.

I gave Uganda my everything, and it made me its own. "Mzungu wange!" I'm still white, but I belong. I am beloved and adopted and known-- and now, missed. I am Uganda's, and Uganda is mine. Across continents and seas and seasons until I return again, I carry it inside me, and I am changed for good and for the very best.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Mumford & Psalms

I listen to a lot of Mumford & Sons in seasons of transition. There's something epic, sojourning, traveler-esque about Mumford that I find comfort in-- if my heart is broken and my life is in upheaval, it's on a quest for something great and vast and worth it. I have spent a lot of time in the past year leaning my head on the window of a moving vehicle, listening to Mumford.

Today I discovered the perfect cocktail: Mumford & Psalms.

So give me hope in the darkness that I'll see the light
'Cause oh, they gave me such a fright
But I will hope as long as you like
Just promise me we'll be alright
-Mumford & Sons, "Ghosts That We Knew"

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
At an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.
-Psalm 69:13

I'll kneel down, wait for now
I'll kneel down, know my ground
Raise my hands, paint my spirit gold
And bow my head, keep my heart slow
'Cause I will wait, I will wait for you
I will wait, I will wait for you
-Mumford & Sons, "I Will Wait"

Be to me a rock of refuge,
to which I may continually come.
I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
-Psalm 71:3, 14
There will come a time, you'll see, with no tears
And love will not break your heart but dismiss your fears
Get over your hill and see what you find there
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair
-Mumford & Sons, "After the Storm"

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
God settles the solitary in a home.
-Psalm 68:5-6

For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
We went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.
Come and hear, all you who fear God,
and I will tell what he has done for my soul.
-Psalm 66:10, 12, 16

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What you are, what you have, is enough

There's a bit of insecurity and social awkwardness in me that comes out from time to time, especially when I find myself anticipating transition. Regardless of how far I get in life, how many positive experiences I have in new places, and how many times I successfully begin friendships, preparation for moving to a new place inevitably finds me nervously trying to figure out who I am. Or who I'm going to be in this new place. I'm a twelve-year-old girl moving to a new junior high school, looking for the opportunity to reinvent myself.

I'm heading to Scotland in a few weeks' time, hoping to volunteer with a YWAM base of intimidatingly hip and beautiful musicians and lovers of Jesus, reaching out to other intimidatingly hip and beautiful musicians and artists. And I've spent the last six months showering by sticking my head under a tap, shaving my legs on a bimonthly basis, putting on three or four boldly and differently patterned items of clothing in the morning, looking in a four-inch-wide mirror and thinking, "Hey, not bad!" I'm not sure I remember how to be Western anymore, leave alone hip and beautiful, or if I'll even be able to understand people with Scottish accents in the first place.

At least, that's how I feel when I'm being irrational.

So this morning, I came to Jesus, and He reminded me of the same thing He told me when I came here six months ago. "What you are, what you have, is enough. Your experiences, your relationship with Me, your heart itself... you don't have to be or do anything. You are enough."

And I remembered that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and my story is unfolding in a fearful and wonderful fashion, and I am loved by and in love with a fearful and wonderful God. And the same is true for all of the hip and beautiful musicians and artists, and everyone else that is wondering how to inhabit a world full of hip and beautiful people. We are, all of us, fearful and wonderful bundles of flesh and blood, heart and nerves, spirit and soul and history, sharing a world with each other, being Christ to one another, glorifying Him by our very being. We are fragile and vulnerable and wide open to dangers, and we impact each other for better or worse, and when we love each other, we bring His Kingdom and see His face.

And so now I'm less intimidated by the mysterious people and more in awe of how this all works and how I get to be a part of it and how He walks through it with me. I'm excited to go to Scotland.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

On loving deeply

Thursday, August 16, in the London Heathrow airport on the way here, I wrote: "It's worth it to love, even when it makes the goodbyes harder. It's worth it to take a risk, even though there's that moment of limbo before the path becomes clear. It's worth it to go full-tilt after the dream."

And now, a full cycle later, here I am. I have mourned the goodbyes, felt overwhelmed in a new place, and decided anyway to invest in relationships without counting the cost. I have tested the waters, taken risks, asked questions, opened my heart, pressed on through conflict and confusion, shared joy and sorrow and anger and apathy. I have opened up a space in my life and allowed others to occupy it. I have loved deeply.

Is it worth it?

Every day this week I have said goodbye to at least one person and at least one piece of my heart. Every day this week I have cried. Every day this week I have begun adjusting to life without someone, only to say goodbye again.

Is it worth it?

These past few days I haven't quite known how to live. I wake up in the morning with a hole in my heart. I laugh at the ever-present reminders of all the shared jokes, but there's a hollow ache when the jokes are no longer shared. I go through my days viewing every person as a potential goodbye-- better keep my distance, this one's just a matter of time.

Is it worth it?

It would have been a lot easier to stay closed-off and safe, sporting a grand "no-entry" sign. It would have been easier to disengage and walk away the moment it became difficult. It would be easier now to bury myself in work and dreaming and even Jesus, all things I can count on never to leave me. Even now, it's a choice.

So is it worth it?

Pieces of my heart are missing, but they are not dead. Pieces of my heart have come alive, broken off (yes, it's painful), and taken flight to the corners of the world. Those pieces of my heart continue living, blessing, transforming their environments, safeguarded within the hearts of those I love. And bits of their hearts have taken root in my own. My heart has become mosaic, colorful, vibrant, diverse, growing, wise, and more alive than it was six months ago. It is part of a bigger system, a network, vines interwoven and interdependent and only really alive through connection and contact. It is messy, it is complicated, it is like a system of nerves that allow me to feel both a sting and a caress.

But it is worth it.

And I will do it again.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

1/13/13 UPDATE: DTS... here's to you.

Cheers to the furrows on our brow,
to each hard-won victory.
Cheers to the losses that grew us up,
killed our pride, and filled our cup.

Cheers to the friendships well worn-in
that neither time nor distance alter;
here's to the sleepers we'll see again,
fine company in memoriam.

Cheers to the passing of our youth
and the death of lust, not wonder;
a toast to the lessons not yet learned
and to the trials that will teach them.

Open your mouth and sing out your song;
life is short as the day is long.
I can't leave you my body, but I'll leave you a tune...
This is my legacy;
here's to you.

-Brooke Fraser, Here's to You

I love Brooke Fraser for many reasons, including that her music often seems to express my heart exactly. After five long, arduous, joyful, packed, challenging, life-changing months, the DTS is over. We arrived back from our outreach locations of Dar Es Salaam and Arusha (my team), Tanzania, on Tuesday morning after a blessedly uneventful bus ride (with the exception of a few exciting baboons on the road) and watched the few days fly by too quickly until our graduation and the inevitable but dreaded goodbyes. Yesterday we celebrated thoroughly, and this morning I was up at 5 to see off some of my dearest friends as they headed back to their home countries of Congo, Tanzania, and Kenya. My heart absolutely broke as we all wept in each other's arms and said our farewells, but as the day has gone on I've been able to reflect and thank God for the miracle of the last five months. We've transformed from a random assortment of young people from 10 different nations and 43 different life stories to a family, united in love after months of living, laughing, fighting, mourning, and facing each day together. Praise God with me, will you? I have learned to love deeper and through harder obstacles than I ever expected to know how, and I have gained true brothers and sisters all over the world. I know that God brought us together, united us in His love as He brought us to and through each trial, and will go out with us again as we head our separate ways, and I thank Him for the life of each of these beautiful people.

I'll try to update the blog with more reflections and details in the coming weeks as I process everything, but for now I'll attempt to summarize it all in two paragraphs!

OUTREACH. 32 people from 8 nations living in a house together for 6 weeks, sharing one pit latrine and two showers, sleeping 3-to-a-mattress, fetching water from a quarter mile away each morning for all of the cooking, drinking, cleaning, and bathing, ministering in hot weather and across language barriers, overcoming massive personality differences, unable to get personal space for 3 minutes in a day, away from our families for the holidays, making decisions together, dealing with a couple of major medical emergencies, and here's the miracle: we got on the bus at the end of the six weeks so indescribably united and knit together in love. How does that even happen?? (By the grace of God.) Oh, we had our moments. We had our screaming fights, our days of the silent treatment, and maybe more than our fair share of tears, but we pressed through. We chose to love each other, to work through it, to forgive and continue to care for each other each day, to see each other at our worst and not hold it against each other, and we came out the other side with relationships brilliant and refined by the fire. We ministered in leprosy homes, with street children, in churches and hospitals and public parks and orphanages, through generosity and love and prayer and preaching and service and dancing and fun, as we learned to listen to God and walk out what He gave us to do. Don't get me wrong, there were moments I would have hopped on the first plane home, but now that it's all finished, I wouldn't trade it for the whitest Christmas in the world.

WHAT'S NEXT? Now that I'm an official YWAMer, I'm staying here at the Hopeland base for four weeks, until February 10. I'll be helping around the base mostly in the area of admin and publications (website, videos, brochures, you name it), but also leading interactive, extended worship nights (creating an environment for worship through art, reading, journaling, dancing, singing, sitting, every way you can engage with the Lord) and hopefully making a few visits to the orphanage we found on our mini-outreach back in October. After that, it's off to the UK and Ireland for two months. Things aren't officially in place, but the plan is to spend six weeks at the YWAM Paisley base outside of Glasgow, Scotland, helping them to get their prayer house started (see above description of worship nights) and then to travel around and visit friends and family and see the sites of Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Northern Ireland. On April 10, I fly into Portland, OR, and begin what I hope will be a summer of visiting as many people as possible, perhaps by buying an Amtrak 30-day rail pass and fulfilling my lifelong dream of taking a cross-country train journey, in which I visit people all over America! I'll also be attending a plethora of weddings. After the summer, God only knows for sure, but I'm hoping to go somewhere long-term (for the next couple years, at least) through YWAM. Which "somewhere" remains to be determined.

I did it in two paragraphs! I'll close by saying THANK YOU so much for all of your prayers and financial support that make this life possible. I am so supported and so loved and so blessed to be living the fulfillment of all the dreams God has placed in my heart, and I thank Him so much that you are partnering with me in that process. Words can't express it. Thank you, and God bless you.


Friday, November 23, 2012

11/24/12 UPDATE: Final pre-outreach update

Hi there!

I've been notified that my last update (November 9) may have gone to spam folders for many of you (too much bolding, McKinney). For your reading convenience, I've posted it at my blog (find it here), and I will henceforth refrain from bolding every other sentence.

I recommend reading that one first, but if you're crunched for time, here's the reader's digest version: I'm heading to Arusha, Tanzania this Thursday with a team of 25 students and 3 leaders! We'll be there for a little over 5 weeks (our start date has been delayed due to passport issues) doing evangelism, mercy ministry, church ministry, and anything else God puts in our path... we don't really know specifics as of yet. We have a place to stay for the first two weeks, and from there we'll just pray and stay open to possibilities that we come across. So stay tuned for the post-outreach update, which will have much more information!

For now, some praise and prayer points:
-Praise: We successfully completed the 3-month lecture phase with every student that began the course. There were some sickness and visa issues that threatened this, but we've all come back together in time for the outreach, and we're so thankful! We feel like a family, and it's hard when any one person is missing.
-Praise: The Americans on base were able to get together (with the help and company of our British base leaders and a handful of friends from other nations) and celebrate Thanksgiving with a real Thanksgiving dinner, turkey and all! It meant so much to all of us to be able to celebrate in a way that felt like home.
-Pray: For our outreach team. For unity, safety, love for each other and those we're serving, energy and health on a busy schedule, and for God's guidance in every day of our ministry. And for me-- I'm one of two student leaders for the team, so pray for God to work through me and use me in this role.
-Pray: For my heart during this holiday season. I love it here and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is where I'm meant to be, but the holidays are a hard time to be away from loved ones any way you slice it. Pray that my joy, home, and family with be in Jesus.
-Pray: That I will see a giraffe. I'd really like to see a giraffe. And a zebra. And I'd especially like to see a lion, though they tell me that's doubtful.
-Pray: For God's guidance for my post-DTS plans. I've had some really exciting opportunities come up for the next two years, and I'm in the process of praying and sifting through them.

I'll be quite limited in my use of the internet for the five weeks following Thursday, but I always love reading your emails whenever I get them, so keep me posted! And, as I know you do, keep me in your prayers... I'm so grateful for all of your prayers, love, and support. And, in case I don't get a chance to say it, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!