deepening in his ocean

I returned from my LOGAN Hope short-term mission trip a month ago, and I think I've finally gathered most of my thoughts together for this last missions update. I'll admit—I don't know where to begin. There's been an overwhelming number of things going on, and I'm still in the midst of processing and figuring it all out.

pre-LOGAN Hope: God's provisions

First off, thank you so, so much to all of my supporters for your encouraging words, prayers, and financial help (and even for reading these updates!). I truly wouldn't be where I am without the unending love that I've received from you guys. How grateful I am... my first missions experience was a very humbling one, through which I was able to consistently witness the incredible goodness of God and His provisions. In fact, His provisions were evident even before we left for our one week at LOGAN Hope. I explained in a previous update that I had a mishap with my FBI fingerprinting—I, being completely out of my mind, threw the envelope with my fingerprints into a blue USPS mailbox on the street without writing any addresses on the outside or even sticking a stamp on it. LOL. I know... Chaereen what were you thinking... I realized my mistake a few days later and went to get my fingerprints done again. I was worried about the timing though, because there was only a week left until we had to leave, and approval from the FBI (in Virginia) takes a couple of days to process. However, throughout the hassle of redoing my prints, hope tugged at my heart. I kept praying inside my head:
God, you are a God who can make miracles happen. You are a God who can move mountains. If you can do those things, I know that you can easily get a flimsy piece of paper without an address written on it to Virginia. I don't know how, but I know you can. So do it please! I trust you!! I'll still send my second prints just in case but okay thanks!!
Friends, I kid you not: on the morning of the day I was planning to mail my new prints, I received an email saying that my first set of prints had been confirmed and that I was cleared to work with the children at LOGAN Hope. SAY WHAT? Yes... He. Did. That! I have absolutely no idea how it happened, but the fingerprints got to Virginia, and now I can attest to you all that our good good Father heard my prayers and made a wonderful miracle happen. Man... before the mission trip even began, God was showing me that He is always taking care of me.

LOGAN Hope: the surface

The day we left for LOGAN Hope was the Sunday of AMI Revolution (a conference that my church and its sister churches hold together every year). Towards the end of Pastor Sam's sermon, this statement of his caught my attention: The biggest lie that I've always told myself is that everything is my fault. I'm the one doing something wrong. I thought: Dang, that's the same exact lie that I always tell myself, too. But, I pushed it to the back of my mind. We arrived at LOGAN Hope that evening, and for the next week our team's daily routine went something like this:
  1. Morning devos + breakfast
  2. Tutoring rotations + prepping body worship
  3. Worship + message
  4. Day camp
  5. Clean-up + dinner
  6. Debrief + hang out
  7. Sleep
Day camp consisted of breaking into groups by age and rotating between a number of activity blocks: reading, arts & crafts, outdoor play, and more. We also had a water day filled with games that entailed getting soaked head to toe and eating ice pops to cool down under the hot sun. After the kids went home, our team would get together to share about how each of our days went and to pray for the children. Some nights, our team hung out and chatted until very late—I guess that's what happens when you put a bunch of friends together into one mission team! In all seriousness, it was such a blessing to be on a team that allowed me to be vulnerable to the fullest and let me feel so comfortable and loved. We had quite a lot of fun serving together, and I'm very thankful that our friendships will continue outside of the context of missions.

We also helped the school with other service projects and odd jobs, such as picking up trash in the neighborhood, laminating posters, cleaning the main office, and organizing their library. On July 4th, one of the camp volunteers invited us to his grandmother's home for a BBQ and fireworks, and we grabbed boba with a number of the other student volunteers as well. Getting to know the volunteers and staff was a really cool part of the trip, as we were able to witness through them how much love is being incessantly poured into the school and the children. Many of the volunteers themselves had grown up at LOGAN Hope, and they were back to return the same love that they had received when they were younger.

Now, this is how everything went from a very general perspective. But, as always, God had much more in store.

LOGAN Hope: the deep end

The theme of this year's day camp was Oceans, with the Bible verse being Psalm 146:6—"He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—he remains faithful forever." Ooh man... this theme was so very fitting for what this mission trip meant to me personally. TLDR: There were difficulties, but those difficulties are what truly brought me closer to God and showed me an even deeper level of the vast ocean that is His love for us.

So yes: in all honesty, I actually had a really difficult time at LOGAN Hope. I was assigned the oldest group of kids (ages 10-11) to work with during day camp along with my teammate Dale. Right off the bat, I was alarmed at how jaded the kids were. Mind you, I don't think the words kids and jaded should go in the same sentence together. Being the oldest ones, these kids were the most familiar with the LOGAN Hope system. When I first tried to get to know my group, they said plainly, "Why should we get to know you if you're going to be gone after this week anyways?" Ahh... my heart broke. I didn't know how to respond, yet I also empathized. It's hard to open up and try to get closer to others when they keep leaving you. They said some other distressing things throughout the week, such as: "I just want to go to heaven already" or "I genuinely hate everything and everyone." They were mean to one another, and they were pretty rough with me as well. At the end of the week, one boy told me, "I liked a volunteer from a previous year more than you." Dude come on!!

However, seeing and hearing all of this, I think I started to recognize the depth of the pain these children were experiencing outside of the safety net of LOGAN Hope. What possibly could be going on in their lives, that they're only ten and wishing that they could die? How trapped must they feel and frustrated must they be with their circumstances, that the only way they can really cope is to lash out in this kind of way? How hurt must they be by the people who haven't been there for them? So, as hard as it was, I was determined to not give up on them. I wanted them to know that I, if anyone, cared.

Still, I felt like I was constantly hitting a wall—and halfway through the week, I ended up breaking down during our nightly debrief. I'll admit, it didn't help that the rest of my teammates were sharing about all of the sweet moments they were having with their own groups, how cute and adorable the kids were, the breakthroughs they were witnessing, the conversations about Jesus they were able to have with them, etc. When I heard all of this, these were the immediate thoughts that ran through my mind: Conversations about Jesus? I can't even get one nice word out of my kids... I must be doing something wrong. How is it so easy for my teammates? This is my fault, I'm such a terrible group leader. And that's when I caught myself: caught myself saying the very lie that Pastor Sam had pointed out during Sunday service.

Then, this whole "hitting a wall" thing reminded me of my own relationship with my younger brother, which I haven't opened up about to most of you because it's a sensitive topic for me. Although we don't have a bad relationship, we aren't particularly close either—which is why I often feel that I haven't been a good older sister to him. We don't talk much, and it's only when I'm home that we do. Part of it is due to the nature of our family's circumstances and the way in which he had to grow up because of a number of health problems; part of it is that we're both generally quiet people; but, ultimately, it was also my conscious choice to stay in Philly after graduating despite knowing that it further separates me from him back home in California. My brother went through a lot of struggles this past year, and my heart hurts so much whenever I think about how I haven't really been able to care for him or show him that I love him. I've been wrestling with the fear that I'm being selfish, but I also know that it isn't all my responsibility.

Thus, that's why I felt so much more terrible about my situation at LOGAN Hope. I felt like I was wronging my group of kids, because I couldn't be a "good older sister" to them. I was losing patience with them, but I was also losing patience with myself.

post-LOGAN Hope: the convictions

I initially left North Philly feeling more discouragement than anything else. But, rather than staying discouraged, I'm choosing to hold onto the fact that the difficulties I faced don't make the overall experience a bad one. In fact, as I've been reflecting these past few weeks, I've been gradually realizing that the difficulties instead were actually showing me a bigger glimpse of God's own heart for us.

Not to stretch it too much, but I think the kids in my class were a lot like us. Pushing God away, building a wall between ourselves and Him, being mean to each other and to ourselves and whatnot. We make it so hard for Him to love us. And yet, He still does. He evidently revealed during missions that He loves and cares for the children of LOGAN Hope so very much. He's also evidently revealed to me that He loves and cares for me despite all of my shortcomings and sins. His patience for us is truly unfathomable. So, as faithful as He has been to us, I want to be faithful to Him and to the kids. I hope to make the time to go back and visit the kids—to show them that just as God loves them endlessly, there are people who can and will love them endlessly, too.

Guys, LOGAN Hope is such a special place. I can affirm that the Lord moved mightily in our hearts and the children's hearts while we were there. It was incredible to be able to witness that. If you're a GCC member, I really want to encourage you to think about going next summer!! I've learned through this experience that Philadelphia itself is such a vast mission field. I don't know about you, but Philly has really grown on me over the past four years—and I feel that it only makes sense to all the more serve and give back to the wonderful city and community that God's provided us.

post-LOGAN Hope: God's peace

The day we returned from our trip, our team decided to stop by IKEA to grab lunch. When we returned to our van after eating, we discovered that someone had broken into it while we were gone and had stolen the belongings of three people, including me. All of us lost our laptops, as well as other irreplaceable items. Then, two days later, I found out that my team at my internship was not going to offer me a full-time position. I had entered the internship with the understanding that they would, so I was really caught off guard—especially with only a few weeks left in my program. It was one thing after another, and an overarching theme was that I kept losing things. A month prior, someone stole my bike from in front of my apartment. I also found out that my best friend isn't coming back to Philly from what was supposed to be temporary time at home due to unforeseen circumstances. For those of you who know what's been going on in my life this year, you know that I've already been struggling with the passing of a childhood friend as well. I've been losing... and losing... and to be honest, the only phrase that's been running through my mind is: God, WHY?

Now, something I noticed from all of this is that dang: spiritual warfare is real. The enemy especially tries to discourage us and pull us away from the Lord when we're deep in His work for His Kingdom. It's kind of wild that the spiritual attack was so very apparent for our mission team. While trying to come to terms with everything, I remembered something: at AMI Revolution, Pastor Sam had prayed for me and told me that God was gifting me with peace in this turbulent season of life. At first, the prayer didn't really strike a chord. But, as the weeks have gone by and as I've been dealing with one thing after another, I'm realizing that this peace is exactly what I need to stay grounded in Him through it all. The Lord is bigger than any storm that comes my way, and the Lord is never done with me because He is running after me day after day with His hope and care. God led me down the tougher route during missions; and at first, I seriously questioned it. God, why me? The more I think about it though, the more I'm recognizing that maybe—just maybe—He's allowing me the chance and privilege to know Him a little deeper, understand His heart a little more, and witness the amazing patience He has for us that I should strive to imitate. It was a tougher route no doubt, but if that's what God meant for me... then I am more than okay with it.

And you know what's even more astonishing? For each and every wound, every hardship, and every loss, the Lord has been healing, redeeming, and providing something greater. My beloved church community raised over $3.5K within a day to replace the items that were stolen from the van, so I was able to purchase a brand new laptop without spending a penny of my own. My dear friend gave me her bike, which honestly is a better bike than the one I had before—and, my mission team pitched in to buy new coffee gear for me to replace the gear that had been stolen. The Lord has also been placing so many new sisters into my life whom I'm excited to grow deeper relationships with as this new season unfolds. However, what moved me the most was a birthday card that my family mailed to me last week. My younger brother—that lil boy of very few words—wrote in the card, "Stay positive, you can do it!"

... :'(

I don't know how my brother knew. But more than that, I've just been... unexpectedly and constantly receiving... and God's been reminding me again and again that He's taking such good care of me and that He will never leave me hanging—answering every prayer, every WHY? question. Isn't that amazing?

As difficult as the losses were, without them I never would've experienced these remarkable provisions of the Lord. And it's through all of these highs and lows that I've been able to 1) grow an even stronger faith in Him, 2) develop a newfound confidence in His promise to be with me wherever I go, and 3) build my character to be more like His.

concluding thoughts

So... to finally sum up this hecka long update (if you're reading this sentence, wow I love you so much): I've realized that this past summer—no, this past year—has truly been a time of knowing more of Him and reaching new depths in His ocean of love. I actually asked the Lord back in January to grow me in this very way over the course of 2019. Oh, how He knows. I still have a few months to go this year, and I still have a few loose ends to tie up, i.e. my joblessness. But ya know, I'm at peace. It's going to be just fine. Because I trust that the Lord truly, truly provides.

(but please pray for my employment still lol)

Some final prayer requests:
  1. For the children of LOGAN Hope to feel God's presence, hope, and care more and more in their lives
  2. For the children to continuously find inner healing and see that LOGAN Hope is a safe space for them
  3. For spiritual protection to cover my mission team, especially over the coming months
  4. For my transition into young adult life to be smooth, and for life as a young adult to be joyful
  5. For my love for the Lord and His people to grow by the day
And lastly: I think Jenn Johnson's Goodness Of God captures my current heart really well. I've had it on repeat daily—man, she gets me every time.

I love You, Lord
For Your mercy never failed me
All my days, I've been held in Your hands
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

And all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

I love Your voice
You have led me through the fire
And in darkest night You are close like no other
I've known You as a Father
I've known You as a Friend
And I have lived in the goodness of God

'Cause Your goodness is running after, it's running after me
Your goodness is running after, it's running after me
With my life laid down, I'm surrendered now
I give You everything
'Cause Your goodness is running after, it's running after me
Thanks again for reading, and thanks for walking alongside me on this wild journey. I hope that you were encouraged in some way or another! I know that it's not over yet—but I know that God isn't done yet either.
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