Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am overwhelmed with thankfulness to God as I look back on this past year. The things He has done for us and the people he has used to show us his steadfast love and faithfulness to us. God has stretched and changed us, showing us what it really means to depend on Him through some difficult circumstances.
I am thankful for my husband's and my parents who have cared for us in numerous ways during this challenging year and taught us what it means to trust in a faithful God. I am thankful for the sacrifices they have been making for us since we born, to give us a love I so often have taken for granted that many children don't ever experience. I know they'd do anything for us. I am thankful for the truth they speak into our lives so that we can see the bigger picture of God's plan and purpose for us.

I am thankful for my brothers and sisters who pray for and encourage us.
I am thankful for our Church family at Crossroads and the deepening of relationships there.
I am thankful for the new job I started in February at the Health Clinic and the many things I have learned and look forward to learning.
I am thankful for the house God provided for us in April.
I am thankful for my grandparents and extended family and the reunion we had in July and the opportunity we had to worship together in song and in sharing our lives with one another.
I am thankful to have my Mom's parents living closer then ever before and getting to deepen those relationships through visits and shared meals.
I am thankful for new friends that were made, the encouragement they were as we shared in our struggles.
I am thankful for the work God provided my husband in August.
I am thankful I was able to see 2 of my best friends get married in September.
I am thankful for those who sacrificed rides, car, time, money, and energy so that our truck could get fixed and we'd both have a way to get to work.
I am thankful for new life in the baby my sister-in-law carries that will make me an aunt again and that it now only takes us 1.5 hours to visit their family compared to 8.
I am thankful for my best friend and her beautiful baby girl that was born in October, making me a pseudo-aunt.
I am thankful for the chance to go to Haiti in February on my first medical missions trip as a nurse.
Saving the best for last... I am incredibly thankful for my husband who has taught me perseverance, patience, and faithfulness. Bearing the brunt of the challenges we faced, he never gave up, but leaned on our Savior. He has shown me grace and loved me well. I can't put in words how thankful I am to have this man as my husband.

Thank you God for the many ways you have blessed us even beyond all of this and how you will continue to do so in our lives.
Psalm 95:1-7
"Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

You Also Must Help Us By Prayer

While at the MTW Global Missions Conference, I began to hear of and see the sacrifice missionaries must make to go and proclaim the Gospel to the nations. Paul Kooistra, Coordinator of MTW, spoke of the persecution and hardship that comes with missions as the word of God goes out and Satan pushes back.

2 Corinthians 1:8-11
"For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. you also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessings granted us through the prayers of many."

Whether we are missionaries in our own neighborhoods or in another country, we continually wage war on behalf of Jesus so that we are not caught off guard by adversity, opposition or difficulty. The affliction we do face will sanctify us, will make us rely on God. Yet we can take great risk, because we have nothing to lose.
2 Corinthians 5:1-3,5
"For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling...He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee."

Pray for God's word to go out boldly to the nations and in utter reliance upon our one, true God who has the power to raise the dead! Pray for His messengers to be strengthened, equipped, protected from Satan's attacks, and find comfort in the midst of the trials. We have a calling to share in the sufferings of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.

2 Corinthians 1:5-7
"For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort."

This link will bring you to MTW's Devotional Resources where you can download 30 Days of Prayer to pray for missionaries around the world.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

When I am Afraid

As I was laying in my bed the other night, having just purchased my ticket to Haiti, the realization hit me that I am actually going. It's going to happen. All of a sudden my excitement was exchanged for worry and fear. My best friend, my protector, my husband, whom I rarely spend a night away from, will not be with me to share stories from the day, to make me feel safe in a new and unknown place where flexibility and change make their demands. The spiritual warfare that I had been told about and felt in Kenya could be even more intense in Haiti in the real feeling of experiencing spiritual darkness, nightmares, and sickness. I recalled all the things that had been told to me about where things could go wrong. That we may have our medicine confiscated in customs, there may be chaos every day with seeing countless patients, we may see demon possession, we may have parents attempting to leave their children with us, babies handed up at the end of the day just so they can get help. I've never done a medical mission trip and what if I didn't know what I was doing and was a burden on the team? I felt overwhelmed, burdened, afraid, inadequate.

But then I had to speak God's word to myself and to my heart. And over the past 3 days, God has not left me to worry, but has given me encouragement in His word and the knowledge that He will be with me. He is trustworthy, He cares for me and how I am feeling. He will sustain me in the midst of this intense week in Haiti, and He is my helper, holding my life in his hands. What do I have to fear? This is only an ever reminder to me that I need to speak to my Heavenly Father moment by moment and that I need your prayers for God's protection and strength as I go on this adventure He's called me to in Haiti. That I'd remember His word in these Psalms:

Psalm 56:3-4 "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?"
Psalm 55:22 "Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved."
Psalm 54:4 "Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life."

Thank you King Jesus, that you are on the throne, in control. Thank you, Heavenly Father for your caring and encouraging Words your Spirit speaks to my heart, to comfort my fears. Amen.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Planting Seeds- by Brooke Hancock

When I interned in Athens, Greece three years ago I was able to see some of the most amazing sights in the world. I followed in Paul’s footsteps from Athens to Corinth. I stood on the Areopagus where Paul gave the sermon of the unknown god. I visited the Acropolis, Hadrian’s Arch, Poseidon’s Temple and countless other sights that I never dreamed I would see in person. I swam in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. I experienced the rich hospitality that seems to be embedded in Greek culture. I tasted of the food and drank of the wine. It was nothing short of incredible. 

However, while in Athens, I also experienced humanity at its worst. Through an organization called Nea Zoi (New Life) my fellow interns and I sought to build relationships and share the light and love of Jesus with women ensnared in prostitution (the vast majority were/are victims of human trafficking). 

I walked into dank, dimly lit buildings where women sold their bodies to a seemingly endless flow of men who were just making one more stop while out on their lunch break. I watched practically naked young women twirl and spin around for the men who just wanted to take a gander because, hey, looking is free. I watched as Leah (a 16 year old girl) white knuckled the driver’s side window of a car full of men, men she was begging to use her body so that she wouldn't go home penniless to her pimp. I listened as Grace confessed that her pimp was forcing her to abort her baby. I embraced Sarah who was depressed because she was having a slow week, little to no customers; her “misfortune” was my relief. 

I went into these brothels and out into the dark streets offering tea, cookies, Bibles, a listening ear, and a way out. I spoke to these young women and girls of my Heavenly Father and His faithfulness, of His goodness and grace to those who are His children. Many of them claim to know Jesus, but have no heart knowledge of the saving blood of the risen Lamb. They’re very distrustful of virtually everyone they come into contact with and they have every right to be; many of these women were sold into the sex trade by their own family members. Building relationships with them is hard, I barely scratched the surface over the course of one summer. 

At the end of the summer I returned home with no stories of restoration for these women, no harrowing tales of women breaking free from their life in the sex trade. I only  had small glimmers of hope that God may yet work in the lives of these broken souls. So, when I was at dinner with a family friend and they asked me what my “success rate” was with these women, I had no idea how to respond. I was there to plant seeds. I was their to love on them to share Christ with them; success rates were non-existent and frankly, the “success” never has and never will belong to me.

“I Planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants or he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” --1 Corinthians 3:6&7

God alone is in control of the effects of my obedience to Him, God alone receives the glory for any “successes”.  All my good deeds are filthy rags, God condescends to use them as He wills. I’m simply to be obedient. I’m to be faithful regardless of whether I see any fruit from my labors. 

It’s a good reminder for me today and something that my brothers and sisters in Greece taught me over and over again: God simply desires faithful and humble servants. Regardless of where or what God has called us to in this life, we’re not to seek out grandeur, but to take the posture of a servant doing whatever seemingly menial task is set before us, knowing that we serve almighty God who uses whatever means He wills to accomplish His purposes. 

**None of the victims’ real names were used in this blog.
Written by Brooke Hancock

Saturday, November 16, 2013


I will be going to Haiti February 21-March 1 for a week-long medical mission trip with a team from Chicago and a few other Churches in the States!
The goal of our medical team is the continuation of building relationships and "cultivating vision", encouraging and providing assistance to the ongoing ministry of El Shaddai Ministries International. It will be an opportunity to see the growth of the Church in Haiti and contribute to it's work there. The hope is that we'd be spiritually encouraged and challenged, and develop a vision and passion for the work of missions. 
My team will see children, teachers, staff, house mothers, and people of all ages in the community. We may see anywhere from 600-950 patients during the entire week. I could be doing anything from giving children scabies and lice wash to asking patient's their medical history and assessing their needs, handing out medications as prescribed, helping with medical procedures and always praying. My team and I will desperately need your prayers as we prepare for this medical trip.
Praise the Lord, I got approved for time off from work!
And I just bought my tickets today from STL to Miami to Haiti and back! 

My Christmas List

For as long as I can remember, I've been making Christmas wish lists.
When I was little, I'd spend hours in preparation, studying advertisements, writing and revising my list. I'd try to be the first to get the ads in the newspapers and after every one had looked through them, I'd cut them up. Cutting and pasting picture after picture out of the toys r us magazine of the things I wanted for Christmas that year. My crafty, organized little self loved it.

Our family's tradition on gift giving was that we got a few things we wanted and maybe needed. But most of my favorite Christmas memories consist of the time spent with our Grandparents or aunts and uncles, whom we only saw a couple times a year at most. We'd eat delicious meals, attend special Christmas events at Church, decorate Christmas cookies, listen to and sing Christmas music, work on puzzles, and play together.

As a new family unit, my husband and I bring our own traditions and we've only just started learning and experiencing those. We still do puzzles together, decorate Christmas cookies with friends, and listen to Christmas music. We still have a Christmas list, but now we have the limitless Internet to search and our lists are organized and online.

I've started to think about what gift giving Christmas traditions I want to keep in our family. Will we save all year to buy our children or ourselves the top gift on the Christmas list or to have the ability to give our children as many gifts as possible on their list? Will our children look forward to Christmas because of the gifts they know they'll get? We've grown accustomed to asking and receiving, year after year, what we want.
 I know I don't want my Christmas list to be the first thing I or my kids think about when they think of Christmas time approaching (although honestly it usually is).

I often need to step back and remind myself not to believe the world that says buy it now because you want it and everyone else has it. Do I really NEED anything? I have to say the answer is truly, no. I have more than I could ever need. That question of need, while also labeled as practical, is something I must keep asking as the temptations to have like the world has comes time and again. We are compelled in Matthew 6:19-21 not to "store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

But how do I keep myself from making Christmas materialistic and about getting what I want, what I "need". I don't want that to be how my children think of Christmas. Can the gifts I ask for or give hold a little more meaning? Giving gifts is a good thing. Giving bring joy to the giver and to the one receiving. To receive a gift and to know the thought that went into it and the love behind it. It can be a generous and selfless act. We've experienced being able to give beyond how we'd given, now working, money-earning adults, no longer on the college budget we had a few years ago.

I know that I haven't come to a complete conclusion on what gift-giving will look like. I've only come up with a few ideas below, but maybe in some small way these will bring more meaning.

1) Buy gifts from fair-trade stores where the money goes directly to the family of the person who made the item that may be families living in poverty.
Here are links to stores that benefit the men or women who make these products and their families and through which you can host a holiday party to sell these products:
Refugee Sewing Society
Rahab's Rope
Ten Thousand Villages
Plowsharing Crafts- Also has 2 stores in St. Louis
Partners for Just Trade
You can search for more "fair-trade" stores online.

2)Ask that a donation be made to a trustworthy charity or make a donation on behalf of your loved one, such as

3)Request an item that can be bought at a thrift/second-hand store that can be reused or made into something new (for the more crafty diy-ers).

4)Giving your time. Plan a special trip, dinner and a movie, or something new and maybe memorable that the other person would enjoy. While this may sound cheesy, wouldn't most of us say that the thing that we'll hold on to and remember best is the memory of spending time with the ones we love?

5) Ask for something that can be shared with others. Something that will benefit others.

Do people see a difference in the way we celebrate Christmas? Do I even stop to wonder about Christ's birth at Christmas time, or do I just frantically make my lists of gifts I need to buy before Christmas instead of reflecting on what His birth means? Jesus came to this broken earth as a baby, vulnerable and with a sacrificial love unfathomable. Our hope is in this Messiah who came to redeem us and restore us to God. How do I incarnate Christ's love to those around me?
Matthew 2:9-11 "After they [the wise men] had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh."
The wise men gave gifts to Jesus and were overjoyed to the point of worship. What gifts of thanksgiving can I offer to Jesus as the year comes to an end with the celebration of Christmas?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sierra- Senior Photos


I'm really loving doing these senior photos. I can't help but see the beauty of God and the way He has uniquely created each person, and Sierra certainly looks stunningly beautiful!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hollenbeck Family Photos

 Loved this fun photo shoot with the this wonderful family on a gorgeous fall day.

My favorite photo of the sisters. Beautiful girls!

  Love this close shot!

Look for Sierra's senior photo shoot next!