The journal excerpts below are from 2000, less than 2 months after my high school graduation. I was preparing for, and then participating in, my first international mission trip.
[ 7.1.2000 ]
In exactly one week, I will be in Brazil serving the God that I love. The nervousness is slowly sneaking up on me. More than anything, I am afraid that I am not prepared. I pray that I am at a point where God will ask me to do amazing things for Him while we are there, but I really don’t feel like I deserve such an awesome responsibility. Thank God that His thoughts are far more loftier than ours. I long to be an obedient servant to Him and I ultimately desire to show these children that there is an offer of love and hope.
God is teaching me that at one point, I was one of those orphaned children. No, I was not homeless, and yes, I have a family, but I was completely lost. I was under the wrath of God because of my sinfulness. I was trapped. I was lonely. I was hurting. I was, simply, without hope. Until, my glorious Savior, full of mercy and compassion called me out of bondage and into a unity with Him. He turned my rags into robes of righteousness. He gave me hope. I experienced true love. I praise Him for the gift of new life, but I refuse to forget the life that I was rescued from. For the life I lived is the life of the lost. Because I have lived that life, I hope to be able to connect, communicate with, and hopefully see God transform these kids into a brand new people. Children poor in money, but rich in hope.
Lord Jesus, please let our group unite so that you will be able to use us. Impact these orphans & street kids with Your love. Remind me of my emptiness before You called me. Give me a rich compassion for them, and above all else, make me obedient to You so that I may know Your awesome power.
[ 7-3-2000 ]
God, I know we’re taking this trip so that You can change the lives of the kids in Brazil, but Lord, I pray that you will change my life too.
[ 7-10-2000 ] (in Brazil)
Lord, Today teach me about Yourself. Your amazing love, undeserved grace, Your patience, Your sovereignty and Your heart. Do something amazing through my life and the lives of these Brazilian kids, for your namesake.
Exodus 16:7: In the morning you will see the glory of the Lord.
[ 7-11-2000 ]
God, I have really grown to love these people. They are so precious to You.
And also now to me.
I feel like I have a clearer understanding of how strong Your love is.
I met the most adorable child yesterday. His name is Wagner (pronounced Vagner) and he has really touched my heart. For some reason (praise to God) he latched onto me yesterday and all day today has refused to leave my sight. He is a tiny 11-year-old. He would play with me, sit with me at worship, ride the roller coaster thingy, and hug on me all the time. If I was sitting in the grass, he would wrap my arms around him, snuggle up to me and lay his head on my lap.
Braxton pulled me aside and told me:
Wagner is an orphan.
No family. No money. And little love from others.
Braxton continued. He said that, for this week, I would be his mother.
And as strange as it sounds, I already really, really love him.
Lord, remind Wagner that You have given him a future. Remind him that he is fearfully and wonderfully made. I would take him home, Lord, if I could. You know my heart. Please take care of him, Jesus. Help me show him love that comes from you.
[ 7-12-2000 ]
Everyone here thinks my laugh sounds like a seal. (?!)
I’ve laughed so much on this trip. More than I ever have in a single week, I think. Everyone is just so funny and full of life.
Tonight, Jason Butler, a missionary and our camp pastor, shared a lesson on our value according to God. At the end we all stood in a circle and held hands and the Brazilians sand to one another and to us a song about our importance to God. It was a very special moment knowing that we were surrounded by our brothers and sisters in Christ. Then he said if anyone had someone specific in mind that really meant a lot to them and that they really wanted to show them, then go tell them how very special they are to God.
Wagner ran straight to me.
He hugged me and hugged me and hugged me as if his life depended on it.
Everyone else continued to move around the room hugging people. But Wagner refused to let go.
I wept openly.
Not from sorrow, but from a deep sense of helplessness.
This beautiful child needs someone to love. And needs someone to love him.
And right now he has no one.
This boy has such a precious heart.
I cried and he held me.
[ 7-13-2000 ]
This trip is nothing like we expected: living conditions, weather, everything; but the biggest difference from our expectation were the campers. We were expecting to lead a camp full of orphans and street kids, but obviously God had other plans. And honestly, I'm not sure if our hearts could have handled camp full of orphans.
There are, however, five of them here.
Wagner is the youngest and is here with two other boys and two girls.
The temperature turned very cold (below freezing) in the middle of the week leaving all five of them with unsuitable clothing for winter.
None of them have ever owned a coat and most of them have never even worn one.
Joan asked Paul (one of our translators) to go to the nearest town and buy each of them one. We all chipped in to pay for them and Paul was able to get them each something very nice. Paul asked Michael and I to come into the room as he gave Wagner his coat.
Paul asked him in Portuguese, "Wagner would you like an early Christmas present?"
He just got a huge grin on his face, put on his coat, and stood there beaming.
The very first thing he said -- his initial reaction -- was to ask Paul, "Where is Stephanie's coat? Does she get one?"
Paul explained that the coat was a gift from me.
So Wagner wrapped his arms around me, kissed me on the cheek and repeatedly said, "Tank cu. Tank cu. Tank cu."
I will never forget such a humbling moment.
It was hard for me to say goodbye to Wagner today.
I worry about his future.
Jesus, help us to not be anxious of such things knowing that your ultimate plan is perfect and no matter how bleak our earthly situations may appear, Your presence shall never leave us.
God, You taught me so much this week. How to truly give: from the heart . . . cheerfully . . .freely . . . and the blessings that come from that.