I'm here!

Hello everyone! I just wanted to let you know that I arrived in Botswana safely and have had a wonderful experience so far. My flights were great and I appreciated the chance to get so much sleep! My night at the guest house in Johannesburg was wonderful and I had some good time to just relax. When I arrived in Botswana yesterday, there were four women there to meet me with huge smiles on their faces and big hugs to offer. It has been kind of surreal to be here and know that I am not leaving in a couple of weeks, and I know that I will have to allow some time for adjustments. However, I feel very at home here and so welcomed by the wonderful people at the mission. A group of us had a fun time of playing dominoes last night, and despite not playing that well (I was second to last place!), I had such a good time. I am thankful for God answering so many prayers, and I really felt the answer to my prayer for community and friendships here answered last night. He provides in such amazing ways!

Today one of the missionaries took me into town and I got many things to get settled here, such as a cell phone, small refrigerator, toaster, iron, groceries, etc. It was so great to be around the people in town, and I was even blessed with an opportunity to chat with a few people at one of the stores and share some of the Setswana I've learned. It always motivates me to learn more when I see how excited they are that I know any.

The internet has been having many problems lately, so I don't know when I will have access again, but I wanted to let you know that I have arrived and am having a wonderful time so far. THANK YOU for your prayers. I feel each and every one of them!

I hope to be in touch again soon!

Here I go!!

Right now I am sitting in the airport in Washington D.C., waiting to board my plane to South Africa. I will spend the night there tonight and then fly to Botswana tomorrow! I should arrive about 4:00 a.m. Texas time Sunday morning. Thank you so much for all of your prayers, amazing encouragement, phone calls, text messages, e-mails, letters, etc. I feel totally loved and covered in prayer, and I feel so blessed to get to share this with you!

I am unsure when I will have internet access again, but promise to post an entry as soon as I can to let you know that I have arrived and that everything went smoothly with traveling. If you would like to join with me in prayer the next few days, these are some things I am praying:
1) That I would follow God's Word to Joshua to "Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9
2) As I travel and feel any anxiety, that I would constantly remember all of the reasons why I love Botswana so much and how much joy I experience from being with the people there.
3) That God would comfort and strengthen my family during this time as they send me off to another country. I pray that He will give them an amazing peace that I am in His protective hands and He is taking care of me completely.
4) I am praying for my health to be perfect and praying against any sickness or injury of any kind.
5) For relationships to be formed right away and that I would feel an incredible sense of community where I am living. Also, that I would be able to easily keep in touch with my friends and family in the States. (Internet there can be somewhat unreliable at times.)
6) That God would equip and annoint me daily to minister to His people in Botswana: to be a light for Him while teaching or spending time with my teenage girls at the dorms, while out in the community interacting with people, at church working in the children's ministry, or any other situation He places me in while there. May I be His hands and feet, and a tangible expression of His love for the beautiful people of Botswana.

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas and wish you a wonderful and blessed 2008. Thank you again for your partnership in prayer. I can't wait to write to you again...from Africa!!

Getting excited!

I am beginning to get very excited now! Yesterday I went shopping with my mom and bought some needed items, I am in the process of purchasing my vehicle online, and I have begun packing my suitcases! After a wonderful shopping day yesterday with my mom where I purchased many things for my trip, I finally feel really excited and ready to go. I am enjoying my time with my parents and my sister so much, and my brother comes Saturday! I can't wait to enjoy some great time as a family before leaving. Thank you for helping to pray me through my fear and anxiety. God is so faithful and is reminding me of all the things I love so much about Botswana. I get to be there in a week and a half!

"And He said to them, 'Follow me...'"

"I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth." Isaiah 49:6

This is the verse the Lord showed me recently and encouraged me with. Several chapters back in Isaiah 6:8, God asked a question, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" I want to have the willing spirit that Isaiah had when he immediately answered with "Here am I! Send me."

I've been in an interesting place the past few weeks because I have had such a mixture of emotions. The past few months in Austin have been the best out of all the years I have lived there. For the first time since feeling God's call to Botswana, I began to feel torn...part of me still so excited to go, but part of me suddenly wanting to stay. Through the varying emotions, God has shown me that part of following Him is having to sacrifice some things. When the disciples were called to follow Jesus, scripture says that they dropped their nets and followed, leaving their former life behind. "And He said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. Immediately they dropped their nets and followed Him.'" Matt. 4:19-20 Scripture does not tell us if any of them ever had moments of sadness in leaving their former life behind, but I have to wonder if this emotion ever crept in. I am fully confident that even if there was some sadness in leaving their life and things behind, they would not have traded their new life of walking with Jesus for anything.

Jesus is showing me that in living here on earth, sometimes there are things we have to give up or leave behind in order to follow Him and the plans He has for us. Even though this can evoke many emotions in us, sadness included, I feel comforted in knowing we serve a compassionate God who feels every emotion with us and gives us strength to deal with all of them. And the truth of life is, there is absolutely no peace, joy, or excitement that can compare to what we feel when we are right in the middle of God's will for our lives, living fully for Him and His purposes.

I pray for each of us to continue to have the strength and faith to step out of our comfort zones and have the courage to follow Jesus completely, wherever that may be and whatever that may look like. I would be so grateful if you would pray the same thing for me. If you could, would you also pray Philippians 4:6-9 over me, especially these next couple of weeks?

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about those things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."

Thank you so much...December 28th is right around the corner!

Good-bye Austin....

Unbelievably, the time has come for me to say good-bye to Austin, my home for the past six and a half years. God has done so much in my life while living in this city. He has introduced me to some of the most amazing people in the world, allowed me to teach the greatest 4th graders every year for six years, and deepened my relationship with Him more than I ever thought possible.

I had a heaviness in my heart when I woke up Sunday morning and realized this season of my life was really at the end. I've been in a spiritual battle, as well, as fears and doubts have crept up unexpectedly. However, God is so faithful and His presence never ceases to calm me and remind me that it is He who has called me to this great new season in life. He will be with me each step of the way, leading each step I take. He has already set up divine appointments with many people in the country of Botswana. I will have the privilege of loving on them and demonstrating the love of Christ to them on a daily basis. He has precious kids all ready for me to teach and minister to and a group of beautiful teenage girls ready for me to love on and disciple in the Lord. When I think of those things, I get so excited!

I come to you as your sister in Christ and ask for you to partner in prayer with me during this time. I so badly need the peace of Christ to cover me constantly and the assurance that I am not alone in this move. Even though I have such a peace in my spirit that this is God's will, my flesh still interferes and causes me to fear what's to come. I pray that I would be diligent in seeking hard after God's heart during these last three weeks before leaving. And I pray for wonderful time with my family enjoying the last days together that we will have until I return in two years.

I would also LOVE for you to write as often as you'd like to let me know how you are and how I can pray for you. It encourages my spirit so much to walk this life out with spiritual family, remembering that we have each other for encouragement and support. It's such an honor to serve the Lord among such amazing people. I love and appreciate you!

Less than a month!

With less than a month left before I leave for Africa, things are kind of picking up speed around me. I have learned a couple of things over the past few weeks: 1) I have the most amazing people in my life. I can't believe all the love, encouragement, and support I have felt from so many. 2) Goodbyes are way too hard! I am half way through my two-weeks of good-byes here in Austin and it has been just as hard as I thought it would be. I am full of such love for my friends and spiritual family here and really wish I could just take everyone with me to Botswana. Because that is not possible, I will continue with my "see you later" get-togethers and pray that God will allow our friendships to stay strong, even across the distance.

Prayer points:
1) Emotional strength, especially during this next week
2) Time management and getting last minute details handled (anyone who knows me well knows what a procrastinator I can be. Because of that, there are several things that have piled up for me to take care of these last few weeks.)
3) Excitement and an all surpassing peace about my upcoming departure
4) No fear! (The enemy likes to get me with this one in many areas of life.)
5) A safe drive home to my parents' house next Thursday

I can't tell you how much it means when I run into someone who tells me they've been keeping up with me and praying for me, even when I didn't know it. Or when I receive an e-mail or phone call of encouragement at just the perfect time. I could never walk this journey out without each of you. Thank you so, so much!

Getting close!

Thank you so much to those of you who said a prayer for me after my last post. I have felt the prayers and am so thankful for the work God is doing in me! I pray for Him to continue purifying me and preparing me more each day.

After a wonderful Thanksgiving with my family, I now begin my two-weeks of good-byes here in Austin. I can't say I am totally looking forward to having to say good-bye to so many people, but I know that the good-byes are only temporary and that this season of my life must end before the next one can begin. If I cross your mind any time between now and December 6th, it would mean so much if you could just say a prayer for strength and comfort as I end this wonderful season of my life here in Austin and say good-byes to such precious people.

Other than that, I am just working on getting loose ends tied up and final details handled. After leaving Austin I will have three weeks with my parents and lots of time to spend with the Lord and to get all packed! The home stretch has really begun...just one month left!

Update/Request...Nov. 14

Hey guys! This is just a quick post to let you know that I am very blessed in so many ways and God continues to do so much in my life. At the same time, I am in a period of struggling a little right now and would be so thankful if you could pray alongside of me. I have been praying for a while that God would purify my heart. I so long to have a pure, clean heart and have been praying Psalm 51:10 over myself, "Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me." I just still see too much 'Andrea' and desire with all my heart for my life to be less me and more Him.

I know that God has been answering my prayer and has been working to purify my heart. This process is painful, though, and there have been some emotional and spiritual struggles lately. I feel like I am getting a picture into the deep parts of my heart and it isn't that pretty! Plus, this time in my life is just an emotional roller coaster anyway. I would just love to ask for you to agree with me in praying Psalm 51:10 over my life and that I would rejoice that in my weakness, He is strong. (2 Cor. 12:9) I am praying for complete freedom (Rom. 6:18, 22), and that I will have a total peace and joy in all that God is doing and the amazing plans He has.

Thank you in advance for your prayers! I am so thankful for what the Lord is doing and love that I can share it with such an amazing spiritual family. Thank you!!

Two years ago today, the journey began...

Today being the two-year anniversary of the beginning of the "Journey to Botswana," I thought it would be a good time to post this. Here is my "Africa story" for those who haven't heard it and for those who would like to hear it again. The story is a pretty crazy one...well, crazy apart from the Lord. With Him all things are possible, so nothing should really surprise us!

On November 2, 2005 I had no interest in even traveling to Africa, much less living there. But that night when I went to bed, I had a dream that I was living in Africa, working with children. The vision was so real that when I woke up, I couldn't shake it. I had this amazingly strong feeling that I was really supposed to do that. I started researching about different countries in Africa and various mission trips. I told friends and family and received encouragement from them. Every single day I grew more passionate for the African continent.

In early December, I stumbled onto a website of Tree of Life Church in Pflugerville that is pastored by a couple who used to be on staff at a former church of mine. I noticed that they took mission trips to Africa every summer. I had such a peace that this was the trip I was to go on. I contacted them and got signed up for the Botswana trip in June 2006. I had an amazing time preparing for this trip and had no idea what kinds of doors would open in my life because of it.

Needless to say, that two weeks in June changed my life. From the moment I stepped off the airplane in Maun, Botswana, I knew that I was "home". I had such an incredible peace and joy the entire time I was in Botswana. I love the people there, the importance of relationships, and the people's openness to the Lord. I fell in love with the kids; some of them wearing the same outfit day after day, no toys or bed to sleep in, yet running around freely with the hugest smiles on their faces and full of never-ending hugs. Leaving there was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

Upon returning to the States, I immediately began praying and seeking how to get back to Botswana. I filled out paper work to work as a missionary at Love Botswana Outreach Mission, where we were for our mission trip. At the beginning of August I was contacted by them with an interest in us going to the next step, which was my going back to Botswana for two weeks in March on a "scouting trip".

During that two week scouting trip, I not only spent time in the international school at the mission (Okavango International School), I also helped deliver food baskets in the community, helped plan and attended a Botswana funeral, volunteered with the children's ministry at All Nations Village Church Maun, and got a taste of missionary life in general by spending time with the missionaries currently serving there.

Since returning home in March, I have begun working on raising financial and prayer support for the two years I will be in Botswana. I have also been keeping in touch with my new Botswana friends, who have offered to help me with my Setswana via e-mail. I have been preparing spiritually by spending a lot of time with the Lord, in His Word, and by getting trained at my church. I have also recently emptied and moved out of my apartment, keeping very few belongings, as I prepare for this new season in my life.

God is amazing....He plants a dream in our hearts that coincides with His will for us, and then He helps that dream come to pass, also filling us with joy and deepening the intimacy in our love relationship with Him. My life is about to completely change in a way I've never known before. Sure I am nervous and question my abilities and adequacy, but I know that God is faithful. I know that when I am weak, He is strong. And I know that He does not call the equipped, but equips the called. I can't wait to see where He takes me and what all He has planned for me. "Now then, stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes!" 1 Samuel 12:16

You can go to http://www.lovebotswana.org/ for more information on the place I will be working.

Answered prayers!

Thank you so much for your prayers over "The Journey Deepens" weekend retreat. I could not possibly put into words how amazing it truly was. I feel so encouraged, inspired, challenged, and renewed in the Lord. I made new precious friends who I hope will be a part of my life for a long time to come. It was incredible to be surrounded by people seeking hard after God's heart and sharing a passion to see His name made great among all people in the world. We were able to pray for each other, spur each other on, and pray together for all the unreached and hurting people around the world. We spent powerful time worshipping the Lord and being humbled in His presence. In addition to all that, we were given quiet, alone time with the Lord to just be silent and process what He was showing us and allowing Him to speak new things into our lives. The final activity was quite difficult, but extremely powerful for me. We were told to write down on a small piece of paper things that were holding us back and things we needed to sacrifice to the Lord. We were given a nail and told to hammer those papers in the shape of a cross on an old wooden door. What a freeing, symbolic, and powerful experience this was. I walked away feeling lighter and experiencing such freedom!

Thank you so much for your prayers this weekend. I ask now for your prayers for God to continue the work He began in my life this weekend and to keep me strong in Him, knowing I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me! I am praying for dilligence and faithfulness in fulfilling the commitments and goals I made this weekend, and I am praying for all my new friends who are still unsure of exactly where God is calling them, but continue to have a strong desire to serve Him in missions. I so appreciate your partnership in prayer...so much more than you know!

Weekend prayer request

This weekend (October 25-27) I will be attending "The Journey Deepens," a weekend retreat/conference in Atlanta for those preparing to be missionaries. There will be about forty of us there this weekend who are seeking God's preparation before entering into full-time missions. We will meet in large group and will also divide into smaller groups that are led by a missionary mentor, someone who has already served in missions and can offer invaluable advice and encouragement, as well as answering any questions we may have.

As I prepare to go, I would love to ask for your partnership in the following things:

- Pray for the prospective missionaries coming to connect with the Lord, experienced missionaries, and each other
- Pray for clear minds, open hearts, and physical health and endurance of each participant
- Pray for safe travel for all involved
- Pray for wisdom, grace, and patience for the speakers and staff
- Ask the Lord of the Harvest to send forth workers into His harvest fields

I can't wait to post some amazing praise reports of what God did within me during the weekend. Thank you in advance for your much-appreciated prayers!

Here is a link to a short video showing clips from past retreats:
Here is the website if you are interested in learning more about the weekend: www.thejourneydeepens.com

October 17th Update

Wow, my friends. God is just overwhelming me with His love and provision right now. He absolutely never ceases to amaze me. I feel my heart just overflowing and can't seem to offer up enough "thank-yous"!
I had such a wonderful time in Maryland and D.C. last week. I was amazed with all the beautiful trees and such great history! I was also tremendously blessed during my time on the airplanes. I met a couple of very interesting women, one who was a Christian from India who shared with me how God is moving powerfully there, and another who is actively involved with missions at her church and has adult children who are pursuing or are already living lives of serving God as missionaries overseas. I enjoyed both conversations so much and feel a renewed excitement to experience just a little of what Jesus is doing in another part of the world.
I found out more about what my duties will be as a boarding mom while in Botswana. I will be in charge of sixteen girls, all between the ages of 14 and 17, and will basically be in charge of making sure they make their beds, keep up with their studies, get to bed on time, etc. I see it as an incredible privilege to have the opportunity to build relationships with young ladies of this age, and I pray that He is able to use me in a powerful way to love on them and disciple them in the Lord.

God is teaching me so much about Himself and I just love my time in His Word. It seems that every time I open it, He has a new gem to show me. I feel His Presence with me so strongly right now. Thank you for your prayers, as I know so much of my joy and strength is coming through them. I hope and pray that you, also, are experiencing the incredible love of Christ that He so generously offers to each of us.

Here is a link to all of the latest updates from Love Botswana Outreach Mission: http://www.lovebotswana.org/fieldnews/currentfieldnews.html#4

October 9th Update

I have just returned from a wonderful vacation with my mom to South Carolina and Georgia to visit my brother and see that beautiful part of the country. I loved it! There is such amazing history there! I am now on my way to Maryland to visit more family and experience more history! I'm so thankful for this time the Lord has provided for me to travel and spend a bit more time with family before leaving.

Time continues to tick away, doesn't it? I have enjoyed this transition time and see how needed it really is. Like so many of us here in America, I have long been caught up in the "rat race" of life and its face-paced schedule. Things in Botswana are just not like that. I feel like God is providing these few months for me to slow down, appreciate each moment, and just enjoy His Presence, which will also help prepare me for the lifestyle shift when I move to Botswana. My life these days is mostly filled with Bible study, reading spiritual books, spending time with friends or in church, or just being still before the Lord. What a difference from where I was a few months ago! I pray to continue to be molded and prepared for the amazing life of service He has prepared for me in Africa.

Thank you for your prayers. God has been answering! My prayer today is that I would be a sponge, soaking up everything God has to show me. Also, that I would be recklessly abandoned to Him and the leading of the Holy Spirit. My I decrease as He increases in my life. (John 3:30)

September 27th Update

I am sitting in awe of our Lord right now. He has truly been overwhelming me with His love and amazing grace. I have been trying to get ahold of exactly who I am in Christ lately. The enemy has been attacking me in this area, especially the past few weeks. I question my abilities and struggle with many insecurities. Jesus amazingly not only accepts me as I am, but He loves me with an uncomparable, indescribable love that no human love could ever compare to. That is quite a humbling thought that just brings me to tears. I hope that you, too, are able to grasp just how much He loves you and all that He sees in you...even if you don't see it for yourself.

As far as updates, there is not much more to report on other than God doing so much in my heart. He never ever ceases to amaze me. I continue to fervently pray for a pure, undivided heart that is fully devoted to Him and His purposes for my life. I read a very true statement in my Beth Moore "Believing God" Bible study this week: "If Satan can't get to me with destruction, he will try to get to me with distraction." May I be completely focused on Him right now and not at all distracted with anything the enemy would try to throw my way.

I am praying for each of you right now and thanking Jesus for every one of you. Thank you for being a part of my life and for your prayers and support. Please keep me updated on how to pray for you, too!

September 18th Update

I have a lot to report on this week!
  • I bought my plane ticket!! It's quite a tricky feat to get to Botswana from here, but I have just about accomplished it. I bought the big ticket from Washington D.C. to Johannesburg and the small one from Jo-burg to Botswana. Now I only need to get the ticket from Midland to D.C. and I will be finished! I depart from D.C. on Friday, December 28th. I haven't heard back from the guest house in Jo-burg, so please pray that there is an opening on the 29th.
  • I made reservations to attend a weekend-long conference called "The Journey Deepens", which is for those going to the mission field or wanting to find out how to. I am VERY excited about this weekend. It will be in Atlanta the last weekend of October. An added blessing is that I am redeeming a free airline ticket to go and on the way home I get to sit in a first class seat!!
  • I have been busy substitute teaching recently and have really, really enjoyed it. It's great because I get to hang out with the kids and teach them without the added work of lesson plans, meetings, etc. If I ever doubted whether God called me to be a teacher, I have definitely been assured of it this past week. It brings more joy to my heart than I could express when I am in a classroom with the opportunity to teach children something new and build relationships with them. I have to admit that I am totally addicted to the smiles and hugs from kiddos. :)
  • My car is sold and I am blessed to have another car to drive that is already paid off, so no car payments! It is a standard, but I'm getting better at maneuvering it each day. Also, there is no radio, so my iPod has become even more valuable. And there is no air conditioning, so I have learned to appreciate the feel of the cool breeze coming in from the windows. I actually love my times of driving at night with the windows down and light traffic. I've had some great moments with the Lord during those night-time drives.
  • I continue to feel so blessed by the hospitality of those who've opened their homes to me. I don't feel like a visitor, but more like a part of a family. I've come to appreciate the gift of hospitality in a whole new way the past couple of months.
  • I have been volunteering up at church a day or two each week and love it! It's been great to have my time be useful to others and I've gotten to know some amazing people in the office.
  • I am doing a Bible study called "Believing God" with some other incredible girls and loving every minute of doing the study and getting to discuss it with them. God's doing some great things there!
  • I have started the class I am taking this semester called "Encountering the World of Islam" and have already been educated and enlightened so much. It's great to be able to understand and pray more intelligently for Muslims.
  • I begin working with two year olds at church this Sunday. I will be doing this twice a month....prayers would be appreciated for this, for sure. ;)

I am so blessed, my friends. The Lord never ceases to amaze me. He has so much more to do in me and teach me and I am really praying for a pure, teachable heart. Thank you so much for your support and prayers. Can you believe it....just a little over three months!

Change, Lessons, Reflections

The past month and a half has held many changes for me. In the last couple of months I have packed up all of my material possessions and given away/sold most of them, I "moved into" two different friends' homes, my cat has been adopted by another family, I became officially unemployed by Leander ISD, and today I sold my my car that I love. I have learned so much already during this time of change and had many priorities shift. One of the more noteworthy changes is in how much I really appreciate being with other people. I used to enjoy going home after work and hanging out with my cat, reading a book, drinking coffee, and just being alone with occasional times of fellowship with others. Things are so different now! Now I can't stand to be by myself for very long. I cherish times of fellowship and have realized a brand new importance for relationships with others. I've learned that complete security and comfort really can't be found in temporal things. I've learned that living with less is actually quite freeing (is there really a need for half of the stuff we have?) and that getting rid of things isn't as hard as it seems. I've seen the beauty of hospitality displayed in others opening their homes to someone else and making them feel like family. I have also become very acquainted with God as Jehovah-Jira, my Provider, as I rely on Him now for everything in a whole new way.

God has also taught me that times of change bring all kinds of different emotions, and that allowing myself to feel those emotions is ok. There is a grieving process when a chapter of life closes. However, where one door closes, another exciting one opens! Times of faith-stretching are painful and uncomfortable, but the end result is well worth it all. When the Lord shaves something out of our lives, He is making room for something else...maybe it looks nothing like the original, but God knows so much more about what we really need.

Jesus amazes me. He amazes me with His unexplainable, incomprehensible love for His children, even when their hearts are nowhere near completely devoted to Him. Why does He love us so much? Why does He pursue us and long for us to know Him more? What have we done or what could we ever do to deserve His precious, incredible love? I find myself more astounded each day that He could love us so completely and elaborately and desire our hearts above all other things. I pray that each of us would take time out to re-evaluate life's priorities and allow Him to show us in new ways the extravagant life of love and purpose He has for each one of us. Is there really any better way to live?

Monthly Newsletter

Starting this month I will be creating a monthly newsletter, summarizing what is going on with Botswana preparations and updating on current prayer requests and needs. I will be e-mailing this out to whoever would like to receive it. If you would like to be added to the mailing list, please send your e-mail address to botswanagirl@gmail.com. Thank you!

Sept. 7 Update

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up." Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

We were created to live in fellowship with each other. God said in Genesis that "it is not good that man should be alone." We truly can only grow in our relationship with the Lord so far without the encouragement, challenging, and accountability of other believers. In America we are very individualistic and often miss out on this important truth. One beautiful thing I saw in Botswana is that people really value community and being in relationship with each other. "Doing" comes second to "being"...there is far more value placed on being with others than in doing things.

I have to admit that this is a lifestyle I can relate to well. You see, God created me to be a relational person. Friendship and fellowship are vital in my life. When I was in Botswana in March, I had to take a spiritual gift test and a personality test. I learned a lot about myself by reading the results from these tests. How could that computerized summary pinpoint me so well?? One of the truths found in those results was that I am a relational person by nature, and being with others is very important to me. I've seen this to be especially true in my spiritual life, where I have more of an excitement and passion in my walk with the Lord when I am walking it out with others, with us challenging and encouraging each other along the way.

What I am realizing is that during the last few months, I have been very busy "doing", especially with packing and moving, working, and being focused on getting my daily to-do list completed. In doing that, I have not taken the needed time to really enjoy just fellowshipping with others, praying with them, reading the Word with them, etc. I believe I am seeing the results of this now as I walk through this current season feeling somewhat spiritually dry and alone. God has shown me the importance of running to Him and finding my strength and joy in Him first, but He has also been showing me the importance of living in community with the brothers and sisters of Christ He has surrounded me with.

I am so thankful that the Lord is opening my eyes so clearly to His truths. I cherish the times He has given me to fellowship with others recently and am truly seeing the value in making those times a priority. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. This season in my life is full of a roller-coaster of emotions, but walking it out is so much more enjoyable as I do so among each of you.

Request for prayer...Sept. 2

I will keep this short and to the point. I am in need of my prayer partners right now. I am in a difficult season and it seems like there is just one trial after another. I am feeling a bit beaten down and exhausted. The enemy is really working on me right now and I realize that I can't fight this battle alone. If God has placed it on your heart to be one who partners with me in prayer, I am humbly asking for your partnership in prayer right now. I am definitely in a time of testing and purifying. It is tough, but I know that God has good things to bring out of it. My biggest request is that I would cling to Him and grow from this time. I want to walk in the freedom and victory that I have in Christ, and I want to fall more in love with Him than I have ever been before. Thank you in advance for your help. I can't tell you how thankful I am to have such an amazing spiritual family.

August 30 Update

Things have been pretty quiet around me the last couple of weeks as I've enjoyed some wonderful rest time with my family in west Texas. I head back to Austin tomorrow and will be back to work! (babysitting and substituting) I will also begin to diligently prepare for my move, which is now only four months away!!

Here are some quick updates:
1. My shoulder is almost completely healed!! I hate that I had to have the MRI, but I am thankful that I know exactly what is going on with the shoulder and understand how it is healing. What an amazing miracle that it is healing on its own...no surgery or rehab necessary at all! Thank you so much for your prayers concerning this injury. Prayer works!

2. I heard from Love Botswana recently and learned that I will probably be teaching Standard 5 (like our second semester 4th/1st semester 5th grade). This is great since I am so comfortable with this age, after teaching 4th grade for 8 years! I need to plan to arrive in Botswana the first week of January with school beginning January 15th. It also looks like I will indeed be a boarding matron for some of the girls boarding at the mission. I will share more details about that as I get them.

3. I had my huge three day garage sale and was doubly blessed by obtaining finances to go towards my move and to have the opportunity to get rid of so much! It's a huge praise that it is finally over with. Yea!!

Prayer requests:
My prayer requests right now are simple really. I want to have a pure heart for the Lord. I want to seek Him more today than I did yesterday and fight the temptation to fall into complacency. I want to have an abundant, radical love for others, being fueled by His amazing love for me. I want to have a strong, solid faith in the Lord and all His ways. I continue to pray for the needed financial and prayer support as my departure date nears. I am also praying for emotional preparation to leave here for two years and constant physical protection so that I am in the best condition possible to do His work. May I be a vessel, useful for God's purposes and ready for all that He has for me to do, whether here in Texas or across the world in Botswana.

I pray that He continues to equip you and me both to allow our lives to be a daily witness of His amazing glory. What a blessing it is to be used for Kingdom purposes! And what a blessing it is to serve Him alongside one another. You are appreciated!!

August 20 Update

August has been quite the interesting month! I have had many great moments, along with some challenges this month. I have loved the trips I've been able to take to see family and friends and look forward to even more in the next few months.

I am so happy to report that I had my wisdom tooth successfully removed on Friday, with no complications. Healing seems to be going very well, which is a praise! Another huge praise is that I have spoken to the doctor again and he confirmed that the MRI looked very good. All muscles and tendons look fine and any that were injured have healed. The injury I still have is a fracture to the "greater tuberosity". I have learned that it is a small bump on the top of the humerus, which the rotator cuff muscle is attached to. It apparently was fractured by hitting the acromion (a bone above it) when my arm was jerked up. (I have definitely learned a lot about shoulders this month!) I believe it to be a total miracle that in that process the rotator cuff was not torn! In a few weeks I should see complete healing in my shoulder....what a praise!!

Through all of the little bumps in the road, God continues to amaze me with who He is. I've had such a hunger for Him and can't get enough of reading His word and listening to various sermons. He is teaching me so much right now. I am so thankful for Him putting such wonderful people in my life, as well as such a life-giving, truth-speaking church where I can grow in Him and fellowship with others.

Botswana is just a little over four months away!! It is time to start doing some serious preparations. I am heading to Seminole for a week to have my huge garage sale and then after that, it's Botswana preparation time in full gear! I have boxes to ship, paper work to complete, a plane ticket to purchase, a vehicle to order, things to research, and many, many prayers to say. January will be here before I know it!!

Support raising continues to go very well and I am incredibly humbled by the generous hearts of so many. At this time, there is only about 1/10 left to go in one-time financial support! This will cover my plane ticket, vehicle purchase, shipping costs, and various start-up costs when I arrive in Botswana. I am still needing a bit more in monthly financial support, but God has astounded me with His provision so far, so I have NO reason to doubt now.

Thank you so, so, so much for your amazing support, encouragement, and faithful prayers thus far. I'm excited because we've only seen the tip of the iceberg in all that God is going to do on this journey! I couldn't walk this journey out without you....please know how very appreciated you are!!

August 8 Update

It's been pretty busy this past week with lots of movement. Now that I am no longer in my apartment, I am staying in a few different places, depending on the day. I have been so, so blessed with people who have opened their home to me and offered a spare bedroom to stay in when needed. I am kind of "basing" out of the Jones family home: a beautiful home in the country, surrounded with hills and lots of greenery. This will be Hershey's home for the next two years, so what a blessing it is to be able to be there with him to help with the transition. The Jones family has been overwhelmingly welcoming and made me feel like another member of the family. On nights when I have to be out after dark, either to babysit or do something for church, I am staying with my friends Stacy and Nere in a spare bedroom they have graciously offered to me. Eventually we will set into a routine and I will be used to my two new homes. For now I do feel a bit tired of the moving around, but incredibly thankful for the ways God has provided for me. My mom also brought up the point that I will really appreciate when I arrive in Botswana and am kind of settled again into one place. I have learned through this process that "home" is a relative term, and truly our home is not on this earth.

For the rest of August I will be traveling to see friends and family and then will be back to work in September as I begin substitute teaching and regularly babysitting. I am also very excited at new things I will be doing at church and time to devote to Botswana preparations. I have been in contact with the LBOM office and we will begin working on the remaining paperwork this month. It's all beginning to feel very real!

I continue to seek your partnership in prayer for the healing of my shoulder. I have felt so much better recently, but the past couple of days I have been feeling more pain. I think I will have it checked out again, but I pray that it will heal naturally without the need for any more medical intervention. I am also getting a wisdom tooth removed next week, which brings with it some additional anxiety. Needless to say, I am continually praying for lots of healing and financial protection at this time.

My other request for prayer centers on a constant hunger for Jesus. May I never become comfortable or take my time with Him for granted. I want to be so hungry for Him that I can't help but spend time with Him and in His word. I sense that this new season of my life is really going to center on spiritual preparation, especially as I prepare for my time in Botswana.

I praise God for so many things. I have been keeping a list of blessings and am amazed at all the ways He has blessed me just in the past week! I encourage you to do the same when you have a minute. You will undoubtedly be surprised at all the ways He has been blessing you without you even really noticing. (At least that's what I am seeing in my own life!)

Thank you again for your interest, encouragement, support, and partnership. We were not meant to live this life alone, but to live in mutual encouragement and support of all the ways God is using us and directing us. How exciting to be living this life alongside each of you!

End of one chapter and beginning of another...8/1/07

Today I turned my keys in to my apartment complex office and walked away from my home of the past six years. What a reflective time the last couple of days have been as I have finished packing up and clearing out all of my material possessions. I won't lie and say that this is easy because it certainly is not. But God is amazing! I have had many emotional moments as my comfortable, predictable life's been slipping away and I wonder, "Can I really do this?" The answer is always the same as I sense the sweet presence of the Lord: "Yes, with Me". The thing is, I cannot do it alone. How precious those moments are when I feel alone and scared in one minute and such a calming peace in the next. God is here and He is so real. He comforts me, strengthens me, cheers me on, and shows me parts of the big picture from His perspective. Every day, little by little, I am learning to die to self, to my human nature and to allow Jesus to fill me and reflect Himself through my life, showing His glory along the way. I am incredibly humbled right now. What a special privilege to be called a child of God...how incomparable is a life lived for and through Him. What else really matters? When all else is stripped away, He is constant. His love is so much higher and greater than any love we could experience on a human level. The joy He gives is unexplainable, especially when it coincides with times of trial. How is it possible to have such a complete joy and love in the midst of trials? Because in those times we draw closer to the Lord, seeking and grasping for something firm and unchanging. He shows us that whether all is going right in our world or everything seems to be falling apart, He is always the same, always the essence of peace, always the comforting embrace, always the giver of life, always the dispenser of joy, and always a love beyond all comprehension and compare.

Injury/Prayer request

If you know me at all, you know that I am a very clumsy person and tend to injure myself in the strangest of ways. Well, I have a new one to tell you about. As I was babysitting last night and going to put the baby down in the crib, I stepped on a toy and lost my balance. I reached out to grab the crib to stop us from falling (it didn't) and my shoulder took the brunt of the weight as I fell. I heard a pop and immediately knew something was not right. Thankfully the baby was fine, although a little shook up. By the grace of God, I was able to get ahold of a friend that happened to not be far away and had no evening plans. The dad came home to relieve me and my friend took me to the emergency room. After almost a couple of hours and a few x-rays, we determined that thankfully, nothing was broken. It appears that I have ligament damage and will wear a sling for a week. Here is where I need prayer and why I am writing about this on here....if after a week I still feel the same kind of pain, I will have to have an MRI done to determine if I damaged my rotator cuff. If that is the case, surgery will be needed. I am praying this is not the case and that my shoulder and arm will begin to heal themselves this week. I would so appreciate you joining me in prayer for a total healing and for nothing else to be needed. If any more would be needed to be done on my arm, there could definitely be some financial issues, so I am praying for protection over my finances also.

I know that God knew this would happen and He has good to bring out of it. I am having a hard time having to depend on others' help and am being humbled already in this area. I have to be out of my apartment on Tuesday, so the timing is not the best, but it could be worse. I have much to be thankful for already, namely such supportive people in my life willing to sit in the emergency room for a couple of hours with me on a Friday night, offering an extra room to sleep in, carrying heavy boxes to my car, helping to clean my apartment...and all this just hours after the injury. Thank you in advance for your prayers for a quick healing and for my eyes to be wide open for how God wants to use this for His glory in my life. I find comfort in knowing He'll never give us more than we can handle...if He's brought us to it, He'll bring us through it!

July 25 Update

So many great things to report! First, thanks to the help of some amazing people in my community group and my precious friend, Jen, all of my furniture and most boxes were loaded into a UHaul last Thursday. Another wonderful friend, Stacy, then drove the approximately seven hours with me in the truck and helped me unload all of the things. Just about everything I have has been either given to my sister (who just bought her first house!) or will be sold in a huge garage sale. There have been so many emotions that have come with this packing experience, but let me tell you what a joy and freedom I felt when I came up to my apartment after loading everything in the truck. It was wonderful! I feel like so much clutter and baggage from my life is now gone. I now have a week longer to finish packing little things and clean my apartment before moving in with a co-worker and her husband, who have graciously offered to house both me and my cat for the next few months. I have also been offered a couple of other bedrooms to stay in when needed, so I will probably bounce around some, so as not to be too much of a burden on any one person or couple.

The second praise is that my summer jobs are now coming to a close and the financial blessings have been amazing! I have been babysitting and doing summer school just about every week this summer. It's kept me very busy, but I've been blessed in many ways and am so thankful for those opportunities. After next week is completed, I will have some much needed time to visit some friends and family and just enjoy Andrea/Jesus time.

Lastly, I want to thank you for any prayers you have offered for my support raising. I just received an updated on the finances and it looks great!! I am so incredibly humbled and amazed at how God is using His people to provide in such astounding ways. Admittedly, with all the moving and changes going on right now, I have had little time to think much about the financial support raising. I believe that is just how God would want it, as He takes care of that huge task for me and proves His incredible faithfulness yet again.

Prayer requests
  • A smooth transition into my new housing arrangement beginning next week
  • A peace and excitement with the teaching assignment at Okavango International School in Botswana. (I should find out the grade I will be teaching next month.)
  • For my heart to be continually opened to new truths and revelations as I spend time in God's Word and for a greater understanding of my role in God's plan
  • For daily reminders to pray for the people of Botswana and Love Botswana Outreach Mission, along with an ever growing love for them both

Change is coming! When all else changes and shifts, God is constant...He never changes or goes anywhere. Isn't there such joy and peace in that truth?

A couple of things...

Looking back over the past few blog posts, I realize that they are all kind of somber. I just want to report that although there is a season in my life ending, bringing with it many changes and definitely some mourning, I am also abundantly filled with joy in all that the Lord is doing in my life. He has surrounded me with His presence in an amazing way this summer. My times in His word have been so refreshing and full. I am more in love with Jesus today than I was yesterday. He continues to bring new people into my life who encourage me, spur me on, and challenge me to a deeper faith. I am amazed that He is so intimately involved in our lives and so longs to have a deep love relationship with each of us.

I want to also recommend a book to you if you haven't already read it. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom is absolutely incredible. I finished it in two days, even carrying it in my car to read at traffic lights. (Probably the first time I've actually been thankful for long red lights!) I highly, highly encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and experience God's amazingness through the precious lives of Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom.

I am a very blessed person and feel the love, prayers, and support from you who I am on this journey with. It's amazing and humbling to be a part of something so much bigger than us.

Bless you guys,

Btw...I just added the comments feature to the blog.

July 15 Update

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

Wow...what a very true verse! I would like to share how God has demonstrated His living and active Word in my life today.

I have spent much time the last few days packing and going through things, some that I haven't touched since I moved here six years ago. Needless to say, it's been quite a journey down memory lane. One particularly emotional activity for me was going through all my old cards from friends, mostly from when I lived in San Angelo. Most of those precious friends are no longer a part of my life. I understand about life's changing seasons, and how some friendships also change with those seasons, but I still became a bit emotional about those friends who I've lost touch with and are no longer a part of my life. I was writing about this in my prayer journal with the Lord this morning, feeling some sadness about those lost relationships, when I looked to the bottom of the page and read this verse: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!" Isaiah 43:18-19

On top of this, I have really been battling some fear and faithlessness over the past couple of days, allowing my human mind to question whether things are really going to work out for these next six months when I am essentially homeless and don't have clear direction on what God wants me to do. I have somewhat of an idea, but certainly nothing firm and for sure. That definitely brings anxiety to me and my "predictable, comfortable life" self. I was thinking this morning, "So this is what walking by faith really means. Taking that step out of the boat, blindfolded and trusting God's role as shepherd to lead me each step of the way." Along with, or maybe because of, the recent doubt I've been battling, I feel like various little trials have been put in my path, things that threaten to strip me of daily joy. Well, as I sat down with my Bible study today, I was amazed that the whole study was about God as the gardener, sometimes pruning our lives, cutting away things that do not draw us closer to Him. Sometimes this is painful, but it must be done for us to stay on the path with Him. One of the verses in the study is one that always gets me: "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4

Hmm....I agree that God's word is living and active and that He is using His precious word to remind me of His closeness and guidance, even when I feel alone, even when I can't see the next step I'm about to take, even when my doubt clouds out the truth of His faithfulness. May my mind be transformed and my faith strengthened as I lean on His word and His ever comforting Presence.

July 8 Update

Well, I was planning on coming home from church tonight to write that there isn't all that much to update on, but I had no idea what God was going to do in my heart at church tonight!

For the past six weeks I have been involved in leadership development classes at church, with the past three weeks focusing specifically on church planting movements built primarily on multiplying small groups/house churches. (If you'd like more information/clarification on what I'm talking about, I'd LOVE to share...it's amazing!) Anyway, tonight God planted a whole new crop of ideas and vision in my heart concerning my time in Botswana. I can barely grasp it all in my head and have no idea how He will cause it all to come together, but I am so excited!! I am going to spend some time in prayer, seeking His will and direction. I will then e-mail my contact at Love Botswana to share these new visions and ideas. Again, I am not sure what will come about from it or how it will all look, but a whole new passion has been ignited in me! I covet your prayers, especially over the next few days as I seek God's direction.

Other than this, the only other update I really have is that I am currently working on packing and I will be moving my stuff out of my apartment in just two weeks, which is so crazy! All this packing and going through things has caused many memories to return and reflection on different seasons in my life. I've said it before, but will repeat again that I stand in absolute awe at what Jesus has done in my life. He has completely invaded my soul and changed me from the inside out. He is nowhere near finished, but I am so thankful for what He's already done. I shared in my small group in class tonight that a recent revelation God has given me is that when I am close to Him, allowing His Spirit to fill me, I like the person I am (because it's actually Jesus shining through)...however, when I get busy and push my time alone with Him to the back burner, I begin to see more 'Andrea' come out and I do not like what I see at all. I will say that a positive is that it keeps me humble, realizing that any good in me is not me at all, but is actually Him shining through me. Left alone, without the Spirit working through me, I am not a pretty person. Praise God that He is a transformer of hearts!

I love you guys and appreciate you so much! I can't wait to update you more on what God is doing in my heart and I totally can't wait to get to Botswana and get to put all this into practice!

Reflections...July 1st

Can I just tell you how amazed I am by the Lord.....

This past week was an emotional one for me, and I am sure the roller coaster of emotions will continue as more changes come and my departure date nears. I have the opportunity this week to have some "down time" and life is slowing down a bit as I stay at my grandparents' house away from the city, far from the busyness that has been my life for the past few weeks. I have already had some great reflection and rest time, and God is blessing me immensely!

Tonight I was thinking on this past year and how things have unfolded in my life. This time last year I had some boxes in my living room that belonged to a friend, and I remember looking at them and wishing they were my boxes with my stuff packed up for Botswana. One year later, I can sit in my living room and see boxes that ARE packed up with my stuff as I prepare to go to Botswana! I remember printing off the initial paperwork to begin the application process for Love Botswana Outreach Mission and feeling completely overwhelmed, questioning how this was ever going to happen. Now I am six months away from leaving and there is only a little bit left to do before going. God has moved in such incredible ways in my life over the past year. I was brought to tears today as I reflected on all He's done and the ways He's miraculously provided.

I am learning to come to terms with these conflicting emotions in me. Yes, I am going to miss so many things here...yes, it breaks my heart to leave my family and friends, my church, my job, and what is comfortable in my life. Yes, it is scary to walk by faith, relying solely on the Lord's direction and provision. These emotions are totally normal and to be expected. At the same time I can also feel incredible excitement and joy at the idea of being in Botswana for two years, because I have been given this amazing opportunity to minister to the next generation of believers on the opposite side of the world...I get to love on the hurting, being Jesus's hands and feet to people in a completely different culture than mine....I get to experience an adventure of a lifetime! I praise God for this calling on my life. I walk with Him, knowing that He hurts with me and comforts me when needed. I walk with Him and draw from His strength. I walk with Him and am filled with His amazing love and joy each step of the way. In Isaiah 6:8, God asked, "Whom shall I send and who will go for us?" I echo the words of Isaiah the prophet : "Here am I! Send me!." And as with Isaiah, God's response is, "Go". Therefore I will go with strength, confidence and joy with Jesus walking beside me and all of you here cheering me on and praying me through.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Jesus's words to the disciples-Matthew 28:19-20.

June 27 Update

"Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

It's been a very reflective week for me. I had a minor "moment" on Monday night, where the enormity of all I am leaving behind really hit me. There is so much I will miss while away from here for two years...birthdays, weddings, reunions, etc. I was reminded Monday just how much "God" this whole adventure and move to Botswana is and how "un-Andrea" it is. Just in my flesh, without His spirit, I would choose to remain here in Austin where I am comfortable, teach at the same school, keep serving in my church, be able to visit family and friends whenever I want, keep my cat and my things, etc. etc. Praise God that my life is now His and He gives me strength do to His will. I was comforted during my "moment" of God's words to Joshua to not be frightened or dismayed and that He is with me wherever I go. When all else is left behind and I am seemingly alone, headed for a whole new world of change, He is with me every single step of the way, strengthening and encouraging me, as well as filling me with such joy and peace as I walk in His will.

  • Praise God for leading me to an amazing community group through my church. I was really hungering for adult fellowship and Bible study, and He definitely led me to the right place! I am thrilled to be a part of this group of amazing people and look forward to new, precious friendships being formed there.
  • Financial and prayer support raising continues to go well as God astounds me with His provision!
  • I have been able to have some amazing fellowship with friends over the past week. Many of you know how much I love having "coffee dates" and great conversation with friends. This is probably my favorite thing to do, and I've been blessed with many of these opportunities recently!

Prayer requests:

  • I have had to fight more this past week to find time to be in the Word and in prayer. It seems that I am working quite a bit and then when I am home, I am overwhelmed with all that needs to be done there. I pray for the diligence and discipline to find that much needed time with the Lord and to not let a day go by without it.
  • I am continuing to pray that God would raise up financial and prayer partners, who will partner with me as God sends me to minister to the people of Botswana. He's provided in amazing ways so far, but there is still quite a ways to go.
  • I am needing a little encouragement and strength from the Lord right now as my move-out date nears (July 31st!) and I begin a whole new season of walking by faith. I am somewhat unsure still how He is going to work all things out, but I have full confidence that He is going to move in ways that I couldn't even imagine.

Thank you so much for walking this journey with me. I stand in awe of how God has surrounded me with such an amazing support structure. I am truly, truly blessed. Please keep me updated on how I may also pray for you.

June 21 Update

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." James 4:8

These verses speak volumes to my life right now. I feel as if I am on a freight train, going a million miles per hour. If I look at the window, I see things zooming by...however, if I close the shades and sit down, I can still find peace and stillness amidst the speed of life. Time has been zooming by, taking me with it as I run from one place to the next all day long. However, I have never felt such peace and rest in the Lord's presence as I do right now. I crave the precious alone time I get with Jesus, as He always refreshes my spirit and blesses me with an abundance of peace and joy. I love all that He is doing in me at this time. I pray for you to also find an abundance of rest and joy in His presence as you continue to draw near to Him.

Each day that comes brings renewed excitement and expectancy for my move to Botswana. I love that country! (Have I mentioned that before??) I am overjoyed at the realization that in just six months I will be there and not have to leave after two weeks. I am so ready to love on those Botswana kiddos and to fellowship with and build relationships with the beautiful people of that land. I am anxious to see how God chooses to use me while there, as the possibilities are endless! Again I stand amazed at what God has done to bring me to this point and how He has worked each step of the way. Incredible!

Prayer requests:
  • Finances-Praise God for His provision through His people! Support raising is going great...we are at least a fourth of the way on monthly support and a third of the way with one-time donations. Amazing!! I just ask for prayers for the rest of the financial support to come in easily as God lays it on people's hearts to join the partnership in ministering to the people of Botswana.
  • Time management and rest-As God has continued to bless me with various jobs to bring in extra income, I find a need to be very wise with my time and to manage it in such a way that I maintain the needed energy for the jobs He's given me to do. It is vital for me to carve out time to spend with Him and to fellowship with others. It is equally important to take care of myself, especially with sleep...and to still find time to pack up my apartment! I pray that I would spend each minute of the day wisely...and that He would increase the number of hours in the day. ;)

I appreciate you all so, so much. Keep sending those prayer requests to me. I love being able to pray on your behalf. Thank you again for walking this journey with me!

June 14 Update

Life is officially in full-swing again! This week I began the juggling act of working multiple jobs. I am teaching summer school (more of a tutoring-type setting), part-time nannying, doing babysitting in the evenings, and still selling Avon. On top of that, I am still house-sitting...God has tremendously blessed me in all aspects of these jobs. I am so thankful for the amazing opportunities He's given me. Not to mention that I get to play with kids for most of the time I am awake!

God continues to absolutely amaze me daily just with who He is. I have enjoyed such precious time with Him these first few weeks of summer. He is encouraging my spirit in so many ways and giving me a whole new love for the Word. I cherish the time spent in Bible study and allowing Him to speak to me in such a powerful way. Today I was also ministered to in music. A couple of years ago, during a particularly tough season of my life, God encouraged and strengthened me in an amazing way through Natalie Grant's cd, "Awaken". Today I heard one of the songs on the radio, bringing back so many memories and prompting me to listen to that cd again. I just sat and listened to those songs that have ministered to me in such a powerful way and was absolutely astounded by Jesus. Just thinking of all the seasons of life and how constant and present He is for each and every one...reflecting on His unimaginable grace and unconditional love...it just causes me to stop and praise Him. How could there ever be anything else in life that could come close to the joy found in loving and being loved by Him?

As far as Botswana updates, I am excited to report that financial and prayer partners have come on board and I am amazed at God's provision thus far. There is still quite a ways to go, but He has encouraged me by reminding me of His faithfulness and that this is so much bigger than me. Thank you for your unique and special role in this amazing journey! More updates to come soon!

The Fragrance of Christ...June 8

God has really been ministering to and challenging me over the last couple of days. This morning in my Bible study time, I was reminded of the verses (which I love!) found in 2 Corinthians chapter two, verses 14-15: "But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ..." I am working through the Beth Moore Bible study, "A Woman's Heart, God's Dwelling Place." I love Beth and the insights she offers. She stated in today's lesson that since we are the aroma of Christ, when we leave a room, the fragrance of Him should still linger. We are like the "tester perfume" for others to decide if they, too, want to have the frangrance of Christ. Are we like a cheap perfume that nauseates people and causes them to be thankful when we leave their presence, or are we more like a delicate, expensive perfume that causes others to want to bask in the beautiful smell and purchase that same perfume for themselves? Such a great thought to ponder. May we truly be the fragrance and aroma of Christ, spreading the knowledge of Him everywhere we go.

June 5 Update

One year ago today I was on a plane on my way to Maun, Botswana for the first time. I was unsure what to expect or how God would use me there, but I was very excited and anxious to see what the Lord had in store for me. Now, a year later, I stand amazed at what God has done!

This past week has been a very blessed one for me. I went to a young adult/singles conference on Friday night and Saturday morning. My spirit was so refreshed by the worship time and messages shared. One of my favorite things I heard on Friday night from the speaker, Ed Gunger, was that God does not just save us so that we can be happier and have more stuff. God loves the planet and all the people on it. He desires to save us, to rescue us, so that we will walk into the places of pain and suffering to tell others about Him, about how He can rescue them, too. He said that we need to not desire to have more power, but to have more influence. (Think Mother Theresa...not much power by the world's standards, but had incredible influence.)

I was again blessed Sunday morning when I attended the first of three leadership development classes at my church. We really went back to the basics of faith to examine how we are doing. I was so convicted in many areas and really reminded of where my priorities need to be. We were encouraged to really examine our hearts to find areas of needed improvement, and then to pray and ask God to work on us in those areas.

Finally, today during my Bible study time, I was reminded in Matthew 5:14-16 that we are the light of the world, that we should so shine our light before men that they would see and praise our Father in Heaven. The only way for us to be a light to this dark world is to be completely surrendered to the Lord and to daily allow the Holy Spirit to fill us up, so that "I may decrease and He may increase." John 3:30 It's such a beautiful process that as we spend time in God's presence and pray for Him to work on our hearts and make us more like Him, we then become more like Him, demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit, enabling us to love the people in the world as He does. It's all from Him, through Him, and to Him. May I be filled with more of Him, so that Andrea decreases and Jesus increases. While I am here in Austin and when I am in Botswana, may I have so surrendered to Jesus that when people see me, they see Him. This is the ultimate prayer and desire of my heart.

Why Botswana?

I had a very good friend ask me today what I am hoping to come out of my two years in Botswana. It made me stop and think for a bit and really reflect on what I would desire for my life to look like after being there for two years and what it is about Botswana that is drawing me there (other than God's calling, of course). Well, here is what I came up with:

1. I think I 'fit' more in Botswana because of the priorities there. There is much more importance on having and investing in relationships with people there. This fits well with my personality, as I love developing relationships with people, especially spending time in good conversation, one of my favorite things to do. There is so much less of an emphasis on acquiring 'things' and 'moving up the ladder' so to speak. The pace of life is amazing...no need to rush around to the next thing on the 'to-do' list. There is a general sense of appreciating each moment as it happens. I love that! People are also so passionate about the Lord. When they give their hearts to something, they passionately give it all. Amazing!

2. I pray that during my two years in Botswana, God will open my eyes to a whole new way of living for Him and worshipping Him. When the distractions around us lessen, it is so much easier to put more focus on Him. I look forward to fellowshipping with other believers from another culture and watching how they live out their relationship with Jesus daily. I hope to feel a purpose in each and every day, to enjoy every minute of my time there. I pray for the opportunity to be used by God to bring others to know Him more and help them develop into the people God created them to be. I want to see a whole new side of Andrea opened up by living in this new country and culture, and to become more of the person that God created me to be.

I am more excited than I can express at the thought of being there, in Botswana, Africa, every day for two years. I know there will be moments of loneliness and homesickness, but I pray in those moments that I would draw close to the Lord, knowing He is there beside me each and every moment. May my life truly be changed by this new chapter and adventure. I can't wait to walk this journey with each of you beside me, praying me through, and experiencing things with me, even being on opposite sides of the world! Isn't God amazing!

May 26 Update

Wow, life has been crazy lately! I just finished my last week of teaching and a huge chapter in my life is ending. I have loved teaching 4th grade these past eight years, and have especially enjoyed teaching in Leander ISD.

This time of year is always emotional for me, having to say good-bye to these precious kids that I have had the privilege of investing in for the past nine months. It is of course more emotional this year than in the past. After the kids left yesterday I had to close my classroom door and just have some time to reflect and mourn a little. My job now is to finish getting my classroom packed and cleaned and then check out on Tuesday.

I am really looking forward to the next couple of weeks and just having some time to rest and regroup. I have finally finished my support-raising letters and will send those out on Tuesday. I am excited to have the time to devote to Botswana preparations. I will start work again on June 12th (summer school and babysitting twice a week), which will be my new source of income. I am so excited at how God has set everything up for this summer. Scheduling has worked out perfectly and He's provided some great opportunities to make extra income. All of the money I make this summer will go towards paying off debt and saving for Africa!

Please keep checking back over the next couple of months, as I am sure I will have much to update you on. Thanks so much for your prayers and support!

Weekly Update...May 12

This month is such a bittersweet one for me. I am excited about the upcoming summer and a little bit of time to relax, along with being able to devote so much time to Botswana preparations. However, I am always sad at this time to say good-bye to these precious kids I have spent so much time investing in. It is especially emotional for me this year as I prepare to end a whole chapter in my life. I have loved living in Austin and teaching in Leander ISD for the last six years. I love my school, co-workers, and incredible students. I praise God for giving me the opportunity to live and work here for this long.

My summer calendar is filling up quickly! I will be house sitting, babysitting, teaching summer school, fundraising, visiting friends and family, and packing up my life! My lease expires July 31 and from there...it's walking by faith time! God has closed some doors for possible plans this fall. He has also opened a couple more. My heart's desire is still to be in Austin for much of the fall, substitute teaching and babysitting for income. In doing that, I will still be able to attend my church, see my friends and former students, and be in this city that I love. God has blessed me immensely with babysitting opportunities. I love this because I get paid to do what I love...play with kids!

My current prayers are for a definite answer from the Lord about where I should be this fall and where I would stay. It is so important for me to save money and pay off my student loan, so I am praying for a place to stay rent-free. I am praying for God's direction on whether that will be here in Austin or moving home to Seminole. I am also praying for clear direction on how to manage my time this summer with so much going on. Finally, I am continually praying for all of the upcoming changes in my life and that I would handle them with a joyful, positive attitude. No matter what changes occur around me, how much "stuff" I give up, or where I am physically located, Jesus is always with me, which truly is enough.

Weekly Update...April 29

Wow...does time fly or what?!? I cannot believe that May is just right around the corner! Things have been in high speed around here lately. Between ending the school year, finishing up my Perspectives class (which was amazing!!), and preparing for Botswana, things seem to never slow down! God is good, though, and He gives me the needed strength to accomplish all that I need to.

As far as updates, there really isn't much new to report on right now. Here's a little bit:
  • I have my first speaking engagement this Wednesday at a women's Bible study group. One of the women invited me to come and share my story and bring pictures. I am a little nervous, but know that everything will come together fine if I leave it all in God's capable hands.
  • I am beginning to really think about this summer and fall and what things will look like for me. I still don't have totally clear direction, but know that everything will come together. I am hoping to teach summer school and babysit this summer. As for the fall, I would love to be able to be here and substitute teach and babysit...the only issue is where I will be staying. God hasn't made anything clear to me yet, so I will continue walking by faith!
  • I am feeling a deep hunger for more intimate Andrea and Jesus time. With so much going on, that precious time has kind of been pushed to the back burner, which is the last thing I want to happen. I hunger for more of Him and pray for the time and discipline to find that extra time to just sit at His feet and fellowship with Him.

Thank you so much for walking on this journey with me! More updates coming soon!

Weekly update...April 22

I know I am a little behind on my posts...things are great, though! I am excited to report that God has blessed me with "sending agencies" for my future in Botswana. Frontline Missions International, headed up by Mike and Cheryl Johnson, is graciously going to partner with me on this journey. One of the biggest roles FMI will play is receiving any financial support that comes for me and taking care of the details needed for me to have access to that financial support each month. Cheryl walked me through the process that will be used and I am so impressed! Everything is so organized! I am incredibly blessed to be supported and sent by such a wonderful agency run by such godly leaders.

The other agency involved in my sending is my home church, Austin Stone Community Church. We are working on the details of this, but a couple of crucial areas where they will be involved in regards to my sending is with prayer and accountability support. I am so excited to have their partnership, as well. I am truly, truly blessed.

This week the class I have been taking, "Perspectives on the World Christian Movement" will finish up on Thursday evening with a special commissioning service. This semester-long class has been absolutely amazing!! I am sad to see it end, but so grateful at all God has taught me through this course, most of which will be incredibly applicable as I serve Him in Botswana.

Looking forward to sharing more updates and miracles soon!

*Prayer updates remain the same as the last post for now.

Weekly Update....April 7

This week has been a mixture of encouragement and discouragement for me. So many emotions accompany a life-change like this one. I'm so excited at what's to come, yet the enormity of what I am leaving behind is also very real.

*The Perspectives class I am taking on missions is amazing! This week's readings were totally applicable to me and really confirmed many of the things God is doing in my life.
*God seems to send at least one person each day to give me a word of encouragement and support. It's so wonderful to share this experience with so many.
*I have been able to have pretty regular contact with many of my friends in Africa.
*I watched "Facing the Giants" and was greatly encouraged and reminded that nothing is impossible with God.

* This week I had a few "oh my gosh" moments as reality is setting in of what I am about to do and the many changes that are to come.

Prayer Updates:
* Summer/fall plans-I need God's guidance on where to live and where to work. Options are there...I just need discernment.

*Home for Hershey-I will sadly have to give up my cat, Hershey. I am very sad about this, but know God will provide a loving home for him.

*Fundraising-A few things need to be figured out before I can begin the fundraising process to raise the needed funds for my two years in Botswana. I just pray for God to work out all the details.

God amazes me...even in those "oh my gosh" moments, I still have an overwhelming peace about what He's called me to. There is such joy in serving Jesus and in just loving Him. May I not run ahead of Him, trying to figure things out for myself, but wait patiently and trust Him completely. I am hanging on to Proverbs 3:5-6 this week: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths." Amen!

God is in the details...4/4/07

God amazes me in so many ways. One of these ways is how He works in the details of things. I forgot to share earlier a story that demonstrates this perfectly.

When I went to Botswana, I desired to bring back a small Botswana coin for each of my current students (about 55). I wasn't sure how I would get the coins, but hoped to find a way to get to a bank. I originally was going to get each of them 1 Pula, which is a larger, heavier coin, but later decided that I would just get one of the smaller, lighter thebe coins for each of them.

Well, one day I was at the grocery store in Maun with my new friend, Lets. When we got the register, we saw that the woman in front of us paid for her items almost completely with thebe coins. I asked the cashier if I could possibly buy them before she put them in the cash register. Everyone looked at me like I was nuts, but she let me. There were 70 thebe coins.

I have since really pondered on this and stand amazed at how intimately God is involved in our lives. He cares enough about the ministry I have with my students to put me at that grocery store, at that cash register, at that moment, just so I would have the little thebe coins I desired to give to the kids....and not only providing the number I wanted, but extra, knowing that other kids were going to come across my path (former students, teachers' kids) who would also desire one of the coins. Incredible....

March Trip Final Recap...3/31/07

It feels kind of weird to be writing from my apartment in the States. :)

I did make it home ok after a very long, long 30 hours of traveling. This week has been interesting...quite an emotional rollercoaster. I feel pretty adjusted now, though, and finally caught up on my rest. It takes a little while to readjust to everything, for sure.

I am so excited at how the scouting trip went and even more excited at what is to come! This week I signed the declination of my teaching contract for next year, making me officially unemployed as of August. It's kind of scary, but I am walking by faith, knowing that God will direct my every step. I am not totally sure what my life will look like from August through December, but I think I will probably be substitute teaching and babysitting while working hard at my fundraising and other preparations for my move in January.

Let the adventure begin! :)

March Trip Update #6...3/23/07

I just can’t believe that I am leaving today. The past two weeks have been absolutely incredible. I am pretty worn out from my time here in Botswana, but so full of joy and hope in what God has for my future in this beautiful place.

I met with Linda, the administrator here, yesterday and we agreed that my best placement would be as a teacher in the school. We will start the main part of the paper work in August. We already started some, as the process is a long and tedious one. I trust God completely, though. He has brought me this far, so I must have faith that He will carry this on to completion.

Ministry-wise, I will definitely have a role in the children’s ministry. Other than that, I will try out some different things after I get here. I would love to help out in the Mercy Ministries area if there is a place for me. All the possibilities are endless!

Today I went on a walking “safari” at the Maun Wildlife Park, just a few minutes from where I am at. I had a wonderful time and got some great pictures. We saw impala, warthogs (up very close!), monkeys, and right before we left, we almost ran into a giraffe! It was so beautiful and tall! The beauty of all He has created is amazing, isn’t it?

Tonight I went to church in a bit of a melancholy mood. It is so difficult to have to leave here. Being in Botswana just totally “fits”. I really feel like I am home here. Don’t get me wrong, I love America, especially the precious people in my life, but I know that God has called me here. It can be difficult to wait patiently on Him and His timing in bringing His plans for me here to fruition. As of now, the plan is for me to return early in January and fulfill a two-year commitment, placing me in Maun, Botswana until December of 2009 at least. I am so excited! I have a busy nine months ahead of me, but I know the time will probably fly by and I will finally have the opportunity to purchase a one way ticket to my favorite place to be. :)

March Trip Update #5...3/21/07

It's so hard to believe I will be heading back home in two days! This trip has been incredible….so full of different adventures and experiences.

I have been spending most of my time lately in the Okavanga International School (OIS) here at the mission. I have been in a Standard 3 class almost the whole time and have really, really enjoyed it. The kids are all precious and most of them are so respectful and sweet. The school is truly a mixed bunch of kids. Many are from Botswana, but there are also students from South Africa, India, Norway, Nigeria, America, etc. (These are the countries I know about in our little class of 14!) My day starts out observing Standard 4 from 7:30 to 8:30. (Kids younger than that start at 8:30…it’s a transportation issue.) I then go into the Standard 3 class from 8:30 until the school-wide break for students and teachers from 10-10:30. This is snack time/social time for the kids and “tea time” for the teachers. The teachers meet at tables in a central location outside and have tea or coffee while chatting for 30 minutes. Then from 10:30-1:00 is more teaching time. The schedule changes each day, but the subjects taught each day are Math, Science, Social Studies, English, Reading, Agriculture, and French/Setswana. Then on certain days there is P.E., Music, Art, and Swimming. Lunch school-wide is from 1:00-1:30. After that, the kids go to an hour of an elective class. Teachers teach an elective class twice a week from 1:30-2:30. Two of the other days, 1:30-2:30 is used as planning/grading time. Everyone in the school goes home at 1:00 on Fridays. The schedule and pace at the school is pretty laid back and the kids genuinely seem happy to be there. Some subjects are taught outside under the trees, most are taught with hands-on educational tools, there is a lot of time for discussion as a class, and kids are pretty free to chat during work time. Amazingly, I have not seen things get out of hand at all yet. I have also not seen many discipline problems at all. The kids seem to straighten up after a warning. Each class is supposed to have a devotional time with Bible reading and reciting of the Lord’s Prayer each day. I think further discussion and application is welcomed and encouraged.I

have totally enjoyed my time in the school and am so glad these kids have the opportunity to be here. They are experiencing such a wide variety of cultures…just around their work table! I taught a lesson by myself today and it went so well. The only challenge for me is using words that they understand…not that the language is different, just the ways of saying things. For instance, we call the thing at the end of a sentence a period but here it is called a full-stop. So much to re-learn!

As far as my future possibilities at the school, there is a chance that the Standard 3 teacher will not be returning in January. If this were the case, I would love to have that position. However, if that does not work out, there is still the pressing need for someone to take over the preschool. I get the feeling that many people were hoping for that from me. This preschool is like our “Head Start” programs in the States. The kids could be orphans or just be part of the very economically disadvantaged families in the community. The preschool-age kids are so much fun to be around and play with, but as far as being a teacher to them, that is definitely not my comfort level or where my experience is. Also, a lot of work needs to be done in this area of ministry. My plan is to get back home and continue spending time in prayer, diligently pursuing God’s plan for me here. Only He knows what I am truly capable of and where I would best be used. Either way, I will have the opportunity to work with beautiful, precious kids here. That is so exciting to me!

The only new prayer request I have is that the mission has been having terrible problems dealing with immigration lately. They have really been giving the mission and its missionaries a hard time. It seems that they just can’t grasp the concept of people coming here to work for free. They are not convinced that we are not making money off the country. I need to begin praying now for the work visa application process, as it is supposed to be a lengthy and possibly challenging one. What encourages me is knowing that God is in control and His plans will come to pass, no matter the hurdles we need to jump over in the process.

May God continue to richly bless you and meet the needs and desires of your hearts as well. I am beginning to see that He has such wonderful adventures planned for each of us. They all look different, but each is equally fulfilling. What is so beautiful about how He works is that before He shows us His plans for us, He prepares us by putting the desires in our hearts to do exactly what He desires for us to do. He just absolutely amazes me!

March Trip Update #4...3/19/07

Dumela! I’m excited to report that I had a wonderful, blessed weekend and am excited for a great week!

Saturday night was so much fun! I had dinner with another single missionary-teacher here at the youth pastor and his wife’s house. Gary, the youth minister, is from Botswana and is so incredible with these kids. God’s used him in amazing ways here at this church. He just got married in January and his wife, Stacy, is so precious! We had a blast eating and fellowshipping, and I sense the beginning of a dear friendship with Gary and Stacy. Airynn, unfortunately, will already be gone by the time I arrive, but I have really enjoyed my time getting to know her as well.

Sunday morning was incredible!! I absolutely loved every minute working in the children’s ministry. We had a fun day with all of the children and youth ministry combined. We had different fun races and contests and the kids did a precious job leading in worship. I sat amongst the kids and immediately made some new friends. Two boys in particular, both 7 years old, became attached to me, going everywhere I went. I have several pictures with them in the pictures because they LOVED getting their picture taken. :) I can’t wait to share all the pictures from the wonderful morning!

Sunday evening I had a great dinner with the head administrator here and feel so excited and encouraged at the prospect of returning to work here. I can’t wait to watch God work out all of the details! Tonight I acquired a roommate that I will have for the rest of my trip. She just started with the mission working in the Mercy Ministries area. She is from Kenya and is absolutely precious. I am so excited to have someone to chat with in the evenings!

Today I had my first day in the school. I am working in a Standard 3 class (3rd grade), but also did some observing in Standard 4 and Preschool. There are many differences, of course, but also many similarities. I will wait until my next update to give you more information about the school. My favorite part so far is all the different accents. :)

As far as prayer requests go, I am amazed to see how God has been answering what I've been praying for. I am still petitioning God’s direction for the ministries I would be involved in here. I am also continuing prayers for my physical health and protection and internet communication. Other than that, I have really been praying for many areas of Botswana that I have learned about since being here. There is just so much to pray for in this country. I am diligently petitioning God’s hand to move among the people here. I am asking God to continue breaking my heart for the people of this land. I want to be very faithful to cover them in prayer. Also, the mission has had various little issues/complications arising lately that need God’s hand to resolve them. It can be easy for the missionaries and staff to become frustrated or discouraged when these things come up and I know that is exactly the enemy’s point. I just pray for God to overcome and work all the details out.