How to Be an American Tourist

By Veritas Student Nikki M., University of Maryland, Baltimore County

empanada…in ten easy steps (Chilean edition)

  1. Always stick together. Make sure to walk in large groups. Talk, yell, joke, and laugh as loudly as you can.
  2. Take your time in hot showers every morning, and leave the lights on whenever you leave a room.
  3. Whatever you do, do not look up directions before you go out. Familiarize yourself with your flashy new iPhone 5´s map as you are walking around, and pay no attention to the surrounding crowd of people.
  4. When you finish a meal at a restaurant, take out all of your money, count it for everyone to see, motion the waiter away for twenty minutes as you calculate tips with your friends, and pay in the largest bills you have.
  5. Take pictures, SO many pictures – of the bus, of the walls, of yourself, and especially of food. You must have a photo of every meal.
  6. Forget that foreign elevators are smaller than any in the States. You can totally fit fourteen young people in a space meant for six. Just pretend not to understand when the hotel manager complains that his elevator no longer stops level to each floor.
  7. Natives have no appreciation for animals. You must show love to every stray dog you see. Scratch their flea-infested necks.
  8. Take one sip of your water and then spit it out, realizing you’ve forgotten to order water “sin gas” (it is carbonated).
  9. The exotic tan you hope to have is so worth your itching bright red, peeling skin for weeks. Ignore the advisories about the overhead hole in the ozone layer.
  10. Assume everyone knows or at least is learning English. When someone addresses you in Spanish, simply respond in English.
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Embracing Insignificance

Insignificance. It has never been my most sought after goal in life; in fact, it has never really been a goal of mine at all. Is there anything even in our human DNA that desires to spend our lives without impacting another or without being remembered for a single thing? It just never even crossed my mind that there is time to be spent even pondering such a thing as insignificance. Being in leadership last year, I almost took it for granted that people looked to me for guidance and if I didn’t do my job people would be affected by it. But where is the motivation when you could completely drop everything you are doing, never to pick it up again, and not a single soul would notice? It is rather hard to find.

Coming into this semester, I was enrolled in a mission’s program that would give me a glimpse at what a lifestyle of ministry looks like. I suppose I assumed (unconsciously) that this would involve me making a personal impact on people’s lives. Ironically, this notion of mine is usually why missionaries are unsuccessful, because it becomes too much about them and not about God’s people. However, I wasn’t at all aware of this mentality or expectation of mine until it wasn’t fulfilled.

MaddieRylieValeria_RShore

With our mission mentor Valeria!

Doing ministry with near-impossible language barrier and a predominantly male group of refugees from places where women are not equal to men made ministry rather challenging to say the least. There were weeks I would sit silently at a table of people, smiling when appropriate, but otherwise doing little. Other weeks I would spend the time cleaning or organizing with Maddi, not interacting with the refugees at all and realizing that truly anyone on earth could be washing those cups or stacking those books. My time there seemed to require no talent of mine, and quite frankly the minimal I did feel I could do would not be missed if I were gone. Just talk about feeling insignificant.

But then, as the weeks pressed on and those weeks turned into months, God revealed something precious and humbling to me. He had never sent me there to have all those lives remember who “Rylie Shore” is. He sent me there with an honor and privilege of stepping into the work he had already begun in healing and meeting the needs of His people, as he had and has continued to do in my own life. Then the little stab came as I realized I had come in thinking I had something to offer these people, completely overlooking the fact that we were all seeking the same exact things from God, whether or not they have come to know Him yet.

Embracing my insignificance in this situation, I realized my only job was to love them humbly the way Christ has revealed his love to me. As I showed them I have the same needs they have come to Soggiorno (the ministry center) for (the need to belong, the need for friendship, the need for laughter, encouragement, and joy) and live in a way that reveals to them I have had these needs met in God and His kingdom, I have found my significance in the sight of God. And interestingly enough, God has blessed me with gaining some irreplaceable friendships out of this work that is entirely His and not at all due to my own efforts. Though leaving this semester I realize some will easily come next semester to fill my shoes, this is a beautiful thing. This only means that the work we have been doing really does make people dependent on God and not at all on us, which also means He shall receive all the glory due His name in the work that is completed. Hallelujah!

Rylie Shore, Rome 2013

VforVeritas_MaddiMitchell

V is for Veritas!

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Too Kind to be a Christian…

When joining the Veritas program, I assumed that all my mission work would be clear-cut. I would go to class, I would socialize with my flatmates, and at every opportunity, I would go to my shelter and volunteer in order to spread the word of God.

Once again, I have been surprised to discover that my purpose here in England was entirely different. God, in his infinite wisdom, also has a sense of humor.

I truly believe God sent me here with a purpose so different than what I had anticipated.

The United Kingdom has a Muslim population of 1.6 million, roughly 3% of the population. In London, that number is substantially greater. During my six weeks here, I made an Egyptian friend, Mohamed, who is Muslim. After meeting Mohamed, he asked me about my tattoo. On my right wrist is the Hebrew word for biblical truth (Emet-beginning, middle and end), and behind it is a Trinity symbol (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost). When I told Moe what it was, he said, “Oh, so you’re a Christian.” I responded, “Yes! I am!” Then he shocked me by saying, “I never pictured you for a Christian. You’re too kind and loving.”

in the city

I have never led a sheltered life. Although raised in the church, I attended public school and am no stranger to non-Christians. Now that I am in college, as a Women’s and Ethnic Studies major I am often exposed to modern society’s negative views on Christians.

However, this interaction with Mohamed was the first time anyone had ever thought I was too good to be a Christian! I was shocked and hurt.

Christ called us to be more like him and to “love thy neighbor.” How evident it is that we have failed our community when people associate “Christian” with “hate.”

classic

Since our original interaction, Mohamed and I grew very close, and he has become a very dear friend to me. We would often sit in our flat over a cup of tea and Chinese takeout and discuss differences in our religions. Little did I know that his curiosity would bud into a hunger for Christ.

As our friendship grew, our discussions turned into a daily evening activity. I would boil the water, he would get the tea ready, and then we would sit down with notebooks and pick up where we left off the previous evening.

Something I was ignorant of before is that  Muslims believe in Jesus Christ as a prophet, but not as the Son of God. Mohamed slowly began to question why Christ would claim he was the way truth and the life, only to have the prophet Mohammed follow. One day, after many patient debates, Mohamed told me, “I’m so glad you just talk and listen to me. You’re the first Christian I’ve met who hasn’t tried to force your religion down my throat.”

Sometimes, I feel despair at our fellow believers in Christ. We are imperfect and sinners, and often forget to reflect God’s love.  Although I know I am often guilty of doing the same, I am relieved God protected my tongue and heart, and utilized me to reach out to Mohamed. “Thy word is a lamp into my feet and a light into my path.” Psalm 119:105.

Mohamed’s story has what I believe to be a happy ending. By the fourth week together, I was pulling out my bible, and he his own, and we compared scriptures. The week before we left, he asked if he could borrow my bible overnight. I obliged, and saw him reading it the next morning at breakfast. Finally, he asked me where he could purchase his own. I responded he could keep mine. After all, he needs it more than I do.

very london

So, needless to say, my mission trip was a success-but not at all what I pictured! I learned to be patient. I learned how to speak openly about my Savior. And, beautifully, as I spoke about my Savior, my love for him only grew. The seed has been planted in Mohamed’s heart, and I know that God will be with him every step of the way.

Kaeli K., University of Colorado, Veritas in London Summer 2013

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Unexpected Surprises in London

london bridge at nightWhile beginning my study abroad trip in London, God had some very unexpected surprises. You see, I have struggled with my faith the last few years, and saw the Veritas program as a terrific opportunity to fall in love with my savior again. I had hoped to isolate myself from the heartache of my world at home and perhaps focus my heart on Christ. 

However, God has a way of reminding us that we can’t run away from our problems, and the best way to overcome is to lean on him. Last week, I received the terrible news that another wildfire had started in my hometown on June 11th, just two days after my 20th birthday. It has since destroyed over 400 homes, members of my family’s home included. 

At first, I felt angry. Why would God do this to us? I’m hundreds of miles away and can’t be there to help my family in their time of need. This is the second time in only one year we have anticipated evacuation, and I have watched my friends and family lose their homes.

Why would God call me to England only to allow tragedy to strike my loved ones when I am unable to support them? How is this supposed to help me rediscover my faith?

Then, I picked up my bible.

You see, no one is exempt from adversity. Queen Esther risked losing her only relative, her people, and her own life. She saved the Israelites from destruction. An extremely young woman, just like me, had her faith challenged. She was in the middle of a tragedy and feared for her own life.

She had faith in Christ, even when she had no promise of her survival.         

Romans 8:18 says, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

The Jewish name Esther translated means “Hadassah,” which means myrtle-a tree whose leaves only release fragrance when they are crushed. I need to allow God to utilize my suffering.

God has a plan for my family and my own suffering. Because unlike those who do not believe, I have a promise that my suffering will not be for naught. Not only that, but I will never be alone in my pain.

Habakkuk 3:8 “Though the fig trees should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olives fail, and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

Kaeli K, University of Colorado, London Summer

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Life in Chile is Baked Fresh Daily

LCrayne_bread

Baked Fresh Daily

Chileans love bread. In fact, Chile ranks as the second highest country in the world for bread consumption. There are bakeries everywhere, and grocery stores have a huge section devoted to every type of bread imaginable—different shapes, sizes and textures, and they all have different names. Every day at the table, we have bread from the store and it always tastes delicious! I can always tell when the bread was just purchased fresh that same day, or if it is leftover pieces from the day before. There is no mistaking the difference between the fresh pieces and the day or two old pieces. In this sense, it is best when my host family buys just enough bread for one day, because after that first day it does not taste as good.

I have never before experienced a season in life in which I have had to rely on God more than during this time in Chile. In Matthew 6:11, Jesus says, “Give us this day our daily bread.” I have heard this verse from the Lord’s prayer hundreds of times growing up, and I understood with my head the concept of resting in the daily portion that God gives, but now I understand this with my heart. Because here in Chile, there are so many interactions and activities every day that take me outside of my comfort zone. Even simple things such as speaking in a different language and trying to navigate my way around Viña and Valpo have been daunting, especially when I first arrived. I have been learning through this that all I can really do is take one minute at a time and not worry about the next one, much less the next day! God is teaching me that He gives me just what I need for today, my “daily bread.” He is enough for me, and I am learning that when I am able to give my worries for the coming days over to Him, He floods me with peace and gives me just what I need for every moment. My prayer has become a petition for nothing more than what I need for this day—just enough faith, confidence, discretion, and words for this moment, nothing more.

LCrayne_orphanageIt is impossible for me to be prepared for every incident that comes my way, all I can really do is take things as they come and have faith that God is at work and will give me what I need. I am realizing that I learn and grow the most when I am outside of my comfort zone, and am forced to simply trust the Lord moment by moment. Just like the daily bread I eat with my host family that tastes best the same day it has been baked, my daily portion from the Lord is put to its best use when I am fulfilled by the Lord for that moment rather than looking ahead and worrying about the upcoming days.

Lisa Crayne, California Baptist University, Veritas  in Chile 2013

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Life-change from London to Berlin

         tele booths It is absolutely incredible how fast time has flown. It feels like yesterday I stepped off the plane to embrace this new adventure in London. Now, as I reflect back on all of my experiences this semester, the ones that stick out are the opportunities God gave me to be a part of His ministry. Several of the girls studying at Roehampton became involved with Connect UK,  a student church that meets in Kingston-Upon-Thames. I had opportunities to lead worship, teach a Bible lesson, and build wonderful friendships. I received great discipleship and mentoring from the Goodmans, a missionary couple with the IMB that lead the ministry. I am so thankful to have been a part of this ministry that reaches out to students at Kingston University and shares the love of Jesus and the Gospel message with them. Many non-Christians attend the weekly service, which led to great conversations and discussions. The time I spent with the Kingston youth will always be a highlight of my time in London. Helping set up for the service and tearing down after was a great time of serving alongside fellow Christians here in Britain. Being a part of this ministry transformed my way of viewing Christians from other countries. God’s Spirit is moving powerfully in the lives of many people here as they pray for revival in this country.

While I was there, we saw at least one student come to Christ, which was such a wonderful experience! Many others have taken first steps and have become more open to the Spirit’s call on their lives.

NStrausmanMugs

Photo by Nicole S. Veritas Student in London

Another impacting ministry experience came unexpectedly to me while I was on holiday (vacation), traveling around Europe. I stopped to visit my family in Berlin, who have been missionaries there for the past ten years. My aunt organizes a ministry called Alabaster Jar, which ministers to prostitutes on the streets of Berlin. Prostitution is legal in Germany and most of the women are victims of human trafficking from neighboring counties. The night we arrived, she invited my friend and I to go out on the streets with her and prayer-walk behind the team. We also made coffee mugs with ‘John 3:16’ written in different languages (either Hungarian, Polish, or Romanian) to give to the women. My aunt runs a lovely café that provides the women a place to rest and free food and coffee/tea. The other half of the ministry team goes to the streets and brings the women coffee/tea and biscuits, as well as Christian literature in their native language. They have built up relationships with most of the women, and all of them look forward to a visit from the “Angels with Baskets” on the cold winter streets at night. We walked those streets for several hours, praying as the team witnessed, laughed, and shared with the prostitutes. I was overwhelmed as I caught glimpses of the despair on their faces. I began to question the direction my life is taking. Can I really just sit back with a comfy teaching job while people are suffering like this? I was moved to compassion as I was able to talk and laugh with some of the women in the café.

I will never forget one of the women I met, she was older than most of the others, probably in her forties. She loved having her picture taken so we took lots of pictures together and she showed them off to everyone else. She had such a wonderful smile on her face, which made me realize that these women are not hopeless, they can still find happiness in Jesus Christ and His saving grace. I was forever changed by my experience that night and I thank God for giving me so many opportunities to be a part of His ministry here on earth.

Nicole S., Palm Beach Atlantic University, Veritas in London 2013

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Football Frenzy!

It is always an adventure in London! Each day seems to be filled with one amazing experience after another and yesterday was no exception! A few friends and I had planned to spend the afternoon checking out Greenwich Market.  We heard that there were a lot of cool places there that offered some unique items.

We never quite made it to the market.  When we got off the Tube we found that Delta Airlines had set up a booth outside of the station and was holding a football (American soccer) competition.  It turns out that Delta had beLValentineRyan bertranden holding a football shootout challenge for the past three days.  The teams were compiled of businessmen and women from the nearby office buildings.  For the most part it was only local businesspeople watching in the small crowd that formed around the shootout.  We thought it was just a promotional event with games so we kept walking.  Much to our surprise, one of the security men stopped us to tell us that some players from the Chelsea Football Club were coming to watch the final competition and would be staying around to take photos and sign autographs after.  What perfect timing!!! We waited around for twenty minutes and watched the shootout and then got to see the players! We got autographed photos from Paulo Ferreira, Ross Turnbull, and Ryan Bertrand.  I was even able to take a quick snapshot with Ryan!  What I thought was going to be a simple shopping trip turned into meeting footballers from one of the greatest teams in the world!

There’s never a dull day in Londontown!

Lisa Valentine, Palm Beach Atlantic University, Veritas in London Spring 2013

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