Friday, July 16, 2010

Thinking back

Today I've been thinking about Nigeria because I get to share at CBNW Women's camp tomorrow. It is amazing to think about all the things that have changed since then but that God is still the same faithful God who walked me through that part of His plan for me.

Right now the part that is jumping out at me is the change in me that happened from constantly needing to KNOW that God was with me and sent me, to coming home and forgetting that the truth of that still applies. ( I just had my first oppourtunity to talk to a co-worker and I feel like it was botched... But it is what God does in her heart...Please give me the words Lord!)

I want to live with purpose where I am!

In the end so much comes down to prayer. I think that is what I will talk about at Tadmor tomorrow. I was living with purpose as I actively sought God's heart for each situation. It was intensified of course because I could see my need in a clearer way. I couldn't fall back on security of my family, Josh, knowing my surroundings, or even knowing what I was supposed to do in a situation. At this very moment I am a woman who loves Jesus and desperately wants to love Him more, I'm getting married in 15 days, and I spend most of my time answering phones and doing busywork as a receptionist for a job that God obviously gave me. I don't want to slip back into "knowing what I'm doing," that is when I strike out on my own and mess things up. That is what I've learned. What I will share is the journey God took me on to learn that, and that He used to remind me of it today.

About Two years ago I was working at a greenhouse watering plants and praying and started thinking about and praying for women in prostitution.

Two years ago this weekend I went to women's camp and was encouraged with how God "packs our bags" and slowly prepares us for what is coming. I sat out by the lake and talked to God about where he was preparing me for and I knew I needed to go to Nigeria.

Six months later(FEB)(when I thought it should have only been3!) I was preparing to go. I prayed SO specifically. One prayer was that God would give me the next step in the preparation process when I had time to do it(School was crazy)... and every single time something would happen so that as soon as I had the next step I could move forward. Classes were canceled, work shifts were changed, and people were there at exactly the right moments.

I ended up going home on Feb 15th to speak to my church about going to Nigeria and to ask for their prayers and support. In God's perfect plan, my parents werent there because Levi decided to talk about martyrdom in my intro... thats right " So Holly is going to Nigeria and she could die! Give her money!" Anyway, Since it was the day after Valentines day we got to hear about marriage. And I (being incredibly single) was incredibly frustrated. To top it off, I lost my keys during the second service so I got to hear TWICE instead of going home to pack and coming back to talk with people at the end. In the middle of it all I was journaling and God asked me a question. What if you only had a year to be undistracted? (From Corinthians "A single woman is undistracted") What would you do? And my honest answer was everything that I'm doing now- I would definately be going to Africa, I would definately be leading Salt... and on.

Two months later (April) I started dating Josh out of the blue. Phonecall home= Hi mom... I have a boyfriend.... What? who? I've never heard of him!?
We had s tarted getting to know one another walking around at SALT doing street ministry. I was so focused on helping the team be sucessful that I had no idea he was interested in me until he asked me out. The only thing that could have kept us from seeing if it would work out was because I was leaving the country for 4 months.

A year ago (July) I was in preparation to leave the country in 35 days. God had promised to provide in striking ways- and carried out His promises. My Parents and Josh had all started to realize what it really meant that I would be leaving for 4 months. I am absoloutly convinced that I knew I would marry Josh after a conversation we had about how he had to trust God with me since he wouldn't be there to take care of me. His favorite phrase during that time was "it is well" from the song, and meaning that God was giving him peace about seemingly letting me go.

August 20th when I stepped on the plane it suddenly hit me, but God comforted me in a way I'll never forget. As we started to gain altitude and tears welled up in my eyes and I tried not to cry on the plane i heard as plain as day " I love you my child' and I knew I would be ok. God taught me a lot about his adoptive love as he rescued me and made me his child and I am still mulling over that often...

I only have a few more minuted to write(I'm at work with NOTHING to do but practice my typing skills :P) and this went a completely different way that I expected. I expected to talk about how God gave Karis and I the same heart to be part of a ministry to prostitutes in Nigeria. How the ministry I thought I'd be joining hadn't existed in 5 years. How God brought Karis and I and Missy Camiola ( a 4 month, 2 year and a long term missionary) into the brothels and prisons of Nigeria. and how God is sustaining the vision to rescue these women, not only from their situation but to adopt them as daughters. Would you love them like a daughter?

I think I planned to write that because it is what I DID, but the important part is who Jesus has made me be.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Dayin the Life of Me.....

I wrote this quite awhile ago, and since then a lot has happened. Many of you have heard that Stella went to be with Jesus Nov 11… this blog is about the day before that and I thought you would still want to know about it…

In a response to the massive need to catch my blog up on life, my goal is to write at least 5 separate blogs… you don’t have to read them all at the same time :P… that is once I actually write them.

To start out, a few days ago I had a crazy busy and memorable day that a bunch of people asked about on facebook… so...

5am- I woke up, spent time in the Word, was amazed that we had power all night and that for once it was useful at 5am J I drank fake (aka instant) coffee and found out we were getting picked up at 6 instead of 5:30 because there is still a curfew on the city after the riots a year ago.

6am- Left for the hospital where we got to see Stella. She was released on bail and because of a Dr’s letter explaining the gravity of her illness and the fact that she only has 1-2 months to live. We had a sweet time joking with her, asking if she’s excited to see her children, making sure we know all the words to a song she taught us, ect. The whole time, the court appointed shirtee(that’s probably spelled wrong…), whose job it is to get all the signatures and prove to the court that everything was done for her case, was flirting with my neighbor Karis. Here is a sample of our conversation while she was out of the room.

Him: Did you see my wife? She is very beautiful!

Me: yes she is, but I hear you have a lot of work to do before she is your wife.

Him: Ah yes, I told her I will send her father 500 cows.

Me: What if he says no?
Him: O! then I will follow him with love saying “daddy, give to me this one”.

Me: Her father is a very big man!

Him: So am I!

Me: He is very tall.

Lisa: He is an angry man. (not true, by the way…)

Me: He is a farmer, so you will have to work for her seven years- its biblical.

Him: Ah! But I cannot do that!

Lisa: And then you may get the wrong sister.

Him: Oh I will look very carefully to make sure I get my beautiful wife. Besides, that was before Christ, we don’t have to do this anymore.

…Karis later said: So you’re saying women were more valuable before Christ?

… end of the story, he was really annoying.

In the middle of this all the doctor came with the results of all of Stella’s tests and they had to tell her she is DOUBLE dying. Cervical cancer that is inoperable plus the stigma of HIV.

Then we found out we needed to go to the police station to get the personal belongings they took when she first went to prison.

7 am- We squeeze 7 people into a stationwagon with Karis in the boot. Mr. Shirtee says to me “why do you put my wife in the boot? You go!” We then explain that a real gentleman would take her place, but he continued to tell ME to sit in the back instead and eventually just let her stay there.

While Stell, Mr. Shirtee and Patience(another recently released prisoner) go into the station we talk about all the crazy culturalness going on and see more big guns than I’ve seen in my entire life.

8am- We have to leave the station (where they are still waiting for her stuff… Mr. S says “my white wife is in the car, she is even more beautiful than these two!”) Drop kids off at school, take Lisa home, and go back to the hospital to try to pay the bill.

9am- I get dropped at the Zoo, when I’m met by 16 boys, 3 Nigerian adults, 7 Danish, and 1 English girl. We have a blast taking pictures of the boys and seeing the lions, chimps, cheetah, camel, snakes, ostrich, peacock, random birds, 5 kinds of monkey, doves, and alligators.

11am- We start walking home from the Zoo with the boys. At one crossing point is my FAVORITE traffic director. Some people call them “yellow fever guys” because of their bright vests. This one loves his job and dances the entire time. I stupidly forgot that it is probably a really bad place to take a picture and called attention to our already attention gaining group. Three minutes down the road we were chased down by some form of National Security and had a heated discussion for 20 minutes about how it isn’t a safe area to walk in, that we don’t know the place well, if anything happened it would be blamed on the country, we were putting the kids in danger and if we had told them white people were walking there they would have sent us security guards… the whole time I was thinking—so now I can’ walk because I’m white? I walk every day!

12- We finally arrived back to Gidan Bege, with five Nigerians from Security in tow to talk to Uncle Joseph. Soon after they were calmed down the boys started a program to say goodbye to the Danish group. EVERYONE was crying and it made me think about how I will be leaving soon…

Then I was picked up for a craft meeting where we talked about what we could sell to help the ministry be more self sustaining as well as holistic. We want to train the kids (especially the older ones) so that they can support themselves through a skill once they leave the ministry.

4pm- I got home and found our new compound pig got loose and helped chase it around for 20 minutes until it gave up and just sat down in the mud. The pig was originally a “gift” hidden in Lisa’s bathroom when she came home from England last week. We plan to roast it!

The rest is a blur… eating dinner at Heather’s, talking to Josh and Tricia and my parents on skype… and that’s a day in the life of me.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Things I have learned....

Today I was thinking about how many ridiculous small things God has used while I’ve been here. I made a list of things I wanted to learn before I came to Africa that I thought would be helpful. I didn’t end up learning any of them over the summer, but God’s preparation was better than mine. No phases in our lives are wasted, and anything we learn along the way can be used by Him. And it is ridiculously practical! Here are a few silly things I’ve learned that have been used here and the people who taught me.

*Today I made Origami frogs with the boys and they loved it! My brother used to make them out of the Church Bulletin…

*Tuesday we started to learn to books of the New Testament with a song Jason Potampa sang every week in Sunday School when I was a Freshman in High School. (I also survived my first week of Greek because of Jason, but that’s another story)

*In school we sang a song I learned in 5th grade from Mrs. Graves about the continents. Before that, the boys couldn’t point out where Africa was on a world map.

*A TON of things I learned as a SALT leader last year apply to the outreaches we are doing in the brothels.

*Hospitality is incredibly important to Nigerians, and it was a goal of my roommate Hannah and I last year.

*I would not survive here without things I learned about cooking- From my grandma and my mom and from way back when I did 4h. The fact that I have to make everything from scratch is growing my skills by leaps and bounds. We usually all eat together several times a week so cooking for lots of people helps too.

*I have taught the boys a lot, and use things I learned in CEF every time.

*We’ve been brainstorming about how to use crafts to help support the ministry and my mom’s craft skills, plus my family’s history in retail has been really helpful.

*Having an exchange student for a year makes the international community here make a lot more sense to me.

*Mayamba taught me African time !

*I have used every imaginable clapping game, thumb wars, ect.

*There is a swing dance move that I taught to the boys as the “kick kick” game… Thanks Trish, I have it on video for you whenever it happens to upload…

*All the songs from back in the days of The Genesis 1:1 band I was in have come out at some point.

*At least once a week I quote something I learned about God and my relationship to him that is a direct quote from Mary Hynes because we would process so much together over the last 2 years. Other people I quote occasionally include Kathryn Manitsas, Angela Burril, Mark Driscoll (haha.. a lot), Professors, Angela Fritz, Sarah Clews, Tricia Breiter, Karen Choto, Josh…

*The last year I was in dance we did an “African” dance that actually helped me know how to dance right here. Someday I’ll really be able to dance!

*How to change a tire- from Dad in theory and Natalie Reister in practice.

*How to strike up a conversation with anyone- My Grandma RaeEllen

*How to tell creepy guys who try to follow me home to go away- Josh telling me that its ok to be rude if they’re being creepy.

*Not being shocked by much- my parents took me to all sorts of places when I was little. I realized after visiting skid row last spring break that places some people think are way too sketchy just register as “pay attention and it will be ok because God is with you” to me.

*How to squish as many people in a car as possible is a daily occurrence in taxis. They sit 3 in the front and 4 in the back. I learned this in High school giving people rides to Young Life.

*How to take a compliment- from Josh. How to give compliments Tricia and Angela.

*Remembering names and faces because of all the camps, trainings, ect that I went to.

*How to Pee on the side of the road/ Squatty potty… Hannah Pugh has some great theories.

Anyway, the point is that anything is useful in ministry. You never know...

Sunday, October 25, 2009


There is a tall, beautiful lady named Stella lying in excruciating pain in the hospital right now. The Diagnosis is grave- cervical cancer. It makes sense, because cervical cancer comes from HPV, which comes from unprotected sex, which comes from being a prostitute. But when I look at Stella, I don’t only see a woman who’s lifestyle destroyed her. I see a sister who found Jesus in prison. I remember when I met her, and she was healthy. With a beaming smile she welcomed us to the Monday morning Bible Study and she left to round up the other 6 women to present their “special number” for us. I’ve only heard stories about how angry she was when she first came to prison, and the dramatic difference in her since she’s become a Christian. She said that she wants to share Christ and live for Christ when she gets out of prison. Her greatest dream is to be able to be out and live differently. The most amazing thing to me about Stella’s story is how God put her in prison just so she could come to him. Pray for her now, for a miracle, for the doctors who are taking care of her. Pray for her family, who used to want to have nothing to do with her but came to take care of her in the hospital and paid the bail to get her out. Pray that she will be able to tell them about how Jesus changed her life. Now, Stella is in a win win situation… She could become an amazing testimony of God’s grace to other prostitutes. Or maybe she’ll see Jesus face to face soon. I’ll leave you with a song the women sang to us.

Greater than silver, Greater than Gold, greater than Husband, greater than wife, Greater than the whole world put together, my savior Jesus, He is enough for me.

Normal Life

What are you doing RIGHT NOW? I’ll tell you what I’m doing… and its not more interesting just because I’m in Africa.

Right now I’m sitting in my living room (that I just rearranged because I needed a change). I’m waiting for water to boil (the altitude makes it slow) to finish cooking dinner (from scratch!) so that the other girls on my compound will come over . In the middle of it all I got a text from Josh (Yay!). I’m thinking about tomorrow, and all the things I need to prepare for next week(Bible study for the boys, Muslim women, prostitutes). Remembering that I need to hang up my laundry, and listening to the ten songs that my itunes left for me (for some reason I lost a bunch). I’m figuring out what to teach the boys on Tuesday and I’m amazed that since we’ve started doing Bible Study they ask for it (Aunty, Aunty! Do we do Bible study today?). I stop every few minutes to see if the internet will connect yet and go back to the kitchen to see if the water is boiling yet.

Being a missionary is NORMAL. Normal life-- for Jesus… and sometime it is in a new place. But it isn’t because I’m in Africa that I have awesome stories of God working. He is (amazingly) working all over the earth. RIGHT NOW! Even here, I have to remember that I need to be praying and looking for what God is doing- or I can completely miss it. The best days here are when I remember EARLY how much I need God’s grace. Jesus is my righteousness; it is through Him that I can approach God. He is building HIS church. He knows the people I see inside out. And HE is pursuing them. I just notice more because its new and different, and I’m expected to send out blogs and prayer letters. I hope that today you are a missionary where you are. Living for Jesus in whatever happens and looking for ways to show people Jesus.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Into the bush!


After living in Africa for almost a month, this weekend I got the REAL African experience. I had the opportunity to go with a team of Nigerians, Texans and assorted other short-termers to do a medical outreach combined with film ministry in the bush.


… it took us eight hours to get there and only 4 ½ to get back… Which means that we wandered around and got stuck in the mud for a considerable amount of time. In the rainy season (which is almost over) the maize is tall and it all looks the same, so it is understandable that it took awhile to find the right village. Teams like ours are strategically sent to places where there has been a church plant through ECWA so that there can be follow up.


Once we arrived people started showing up for medical treatment. They would get a translator who went through the whole process with them, talk to some of the guys from the Texas team about the gospel, see the medial people about their needs and go to the pharmacy to receive free medicine. Others set up the stuff for a puppet show for the kids or played football(soccer) and Frisbee with the kids. I held babies and tried to communicate (ie smiled a lot) with the women waiting for medical. I love the how colorful they were. This tribe had a lot of jewelry and a little less clothing than we normally wear. In the evening we showed an African made film about a man who turned away from animism and the gospel was presented. After the film we attempted to speak Hausa with the young people who stayed around and laughed together at how hard it is to communicate.


The whole team camped out that night- I was blessed to borrow some great camping gear that makes me want to go to REI when I get back… or to send some of that type of gear to the missionaries who do these trips all the time. In the morning we had church with the people who showed up, danced and sang and smiled a lot(best universal form of communication!) and headed back. On the trip back I heard a story of one of the people who came to the outreach that just thrilled me with how God pursues us so I’ll share it with you…


…. Somewhere in the process of us being “lost” for several hours (in the heat, with no food, thinking we’d never find the place) a 20 something year old named Ayouba saw us and just felt that he needed to go where the visitors were going. So he followed us on his bike for a distance that took us 45 mins in the vehicles, and even got lost a few times before finding the village we were staying in. He ended up having a 2 hour conversation with one of the Nigerians on the trip and accepted Christ! Praise God! I don’t know about you, but to me that testifies that God will make it happen when someone is ready to accept Christ. I am amazed that this man was so stirred and convicted that he needed to hear our message that he went to all the trouble to follow us into the middle of nowhere, knowing that he would need to ride back home that night in the pitch black- He didn’t know it would be with a new relationship with his Savior. So cool! So often I will try to convince myself that whatever I’m convicted by couldn’t be right because its too much of a hassle… like talking to someone I don’t know about Jesus, or loving someone who hurt me, or asking a hard question, or not ignoring the beggar on the road, or getting up early to pray… So many things fall under that category and I guess I’d like to challenge you to listen and obey today. Amazing things happen when we do.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Holly in Nigerian clothes