Monday, January 30, 2017

Change of Plans

                As many of you know, I was planning to go to Liberia this summer to assist The Last Well in their efforts to bring clean water to the nation of Liberia.  With the coming of the New Year, The Last Well has shifted their focus to fundraising in the United States and will no longer be taking in teams.  As I’m sure you can all imagine, I was initially quite disappointed.  Doing water well ministry has been a dream of mine for years.  However, I am excited to announce that ORU Missions has formulated a new trip for my team to Burkina Faso!  There we will be working with Pastor Danny and his ministry called HOPE BURKINA.  Hiis vision is to plant churches, improve education, and disciple others.  If you would like to learn more about Pastor Danny and the work that he does in Burkina Faso, you can watch the video found at this link:  http://world-outreach.com/people/danny-ruby-bayasen/

                Thank you all so much for your support.  I know this is a big change, but the Lord has used it to bring my team closer together and show us that serving God is a lifestyle not a destination.  My team could definitely use prayer that the Lord will guide us and show us His purpose behind this change in plans.  Pastor Danny has asked for prayer for his family as well as for their ministry’s needs.  I appreciate all of your willingness to partner with me as I do my best to follow God’s calling on my life.  If you would like to donate towards this trip, please follow this link:  http://www.orumissions.com/donate/ .  Thanks to the generous donations that have already poured in from all of you, I am blessed to be able to say I am about $500 away from reaching my goal of $3,600.  However, my team is still in great need of funds.  If you would be interested in meeting and supporting one of the other members on my team, I would be happy to make that connection.  All five of the others on my team are bright, spirit-led, outstanding individuals who I have grown to love immensely.  Please shoot me an email at christisleiman@gmail.com if you would like to continue to receive updates about my trip.

Image result for burkina faso

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Ready... Set...

It's almost time to go.  I can't believe I am leaving for Sacramento in two days.  It feels unreal.  If you had asked me three weeks ago if I was ready, I would have laughed in your face.  Yet somehow, in this crazy mess of classes and commitments, my team has united.  It started at our training retreat where we were pushed beyond what was "comfortable" into what we really needed.  We laughed, cried, and somewhere in the middle of a mountain of emotions a bond was formed.  I can honestly say that each member of this team is an asset and has so much to contribute.  Let me give you a quick introduction:

Becca is the secret weapon of this team.  She is my co-leader and supports me in ways that I didn't know I needed supported.  She has a gifting for words of affirmation and is able to keep me straight when I lose my place.  Basically, working with her is a dream.
Amy may be the youngest on the team, but she is wise beyond her years.  This is our second mission trip together, and she has taught me so much about hearing from the Lord and what it means to be a leader regardless of title.
Andrea has more creativity in one of her beautiful dreads than most people could dream of having.  She never fails to give insight into situations.  She is brilliant in an unconventional way that makes life better.
Angel is so very supportive.  She has a grace and charm that exudes from her being.  She is the kind of person who takes the time to check up on me and is ready to serve in any capacity.
Ava is our official mom.  She can cook like a boss and her catchphrase is "it's totally fine" whenever we are being ridiculous.  She brightens the room with her glowing smile and is both generous and hospitable.
Desiree is a firecracker.  Her ability to hear from the Holy Spirit is mind boggling.  When she laughs, it is literally impossible to not crack a smile.  She is blunt, she is fierce, and she is strong.
Derby is in the most remarkable stage of life where everything about the Lord absolutely amazes her.  She reminds each of us what it means to truly serve God and spend time in His presence.  She is also very sassy and it is adorable.
Emily's spirit is breathtakingly sweet and cannot be fully understood until you take the time to get to know her.  She is our designated runner thanks to the three marathons that she has completed.  She is also our designated smart person.
Erica brings life and maturity to the team through her presence.  Her kind demeanor makes everyone around her feel like they are laying in a bed of flowers and puppies.
Mone't is a force to be reckoned with.  She has experience in the type of women's ministry that we will be doing that is going to be vital in the field.  No matter what is going on, she can be depended on to do what needs to be done.
Tori is able to capture people's attention like nobody's business.  She has a way with words that is pretty baffling.  She also is an absolute doll and a breath of fresh air because of her positive attitude.

On Friday night, my team made a commitment to each other at something we call "Covenant Night."  We do not take this commitment lightly.  Our hearts and minds are being prepared in these last moments for the journey that is ahead.  We crave your prayers as we embark on this endeavor because we know that nothing can be accomplished on this trip except through the Father.  Three main prayer points are:
1.  Unity within the team that will result in a positive environment where growth and healing can thrive.
2.  That we will be a blessing to the women of Mercy Ministries and will serve with all that we have for the short week we get to be there
3.  For safety throughout the trip, especially when traveling.

Thank you for your support.  I cannot wait to update all of you after the trip!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Hello 2016

I honestly feel like it is still 2010.  Not because I want to go back to being 15 years old but more because my mind refuses to acknowledge the haste with which time has moved in recent years.  Now as I look forward to the New Year, I am filled with anticipation.  This is the year that I will become a senior.  This is the year that I will somehow put together a regional mechanical engineering conference.  However, the main source of my anticipation is my upcoming trip to Sacramento, California.

I thought that this was the year that I would take a back seat for missions.  I would help my friends with fundraisers and be a prayer warrior instead of a traveler.  Yet for some reason that didn’t quite sit right with me.  I knew that I needed to leave my summer open this year, but I still had a strong desire to be able to invest in a team as well as reach out to another part of the world.  One trip that I have always admired is the all women trip to Mercy Multiplied.  The women on this team have always come back with incredible stories and clear changes in their hearts and attitudes.  They also have displayed a bond that can only be achieved by a group of all women.  Amazingly, ORU Missions is allowing me to lead this trip that I have longed to be a part of for years now.

This semester is going to be absolutely insane.  With a full class schedule, loads of activities, and now a mission trip that I couldn’t be more eager to embark on, I cannot help but feel a bit nervous about it all.  However, I am blessed in the knowledge that I am following my calling and am doing what brings happiness to my life.

So now dear readers, all I ask is that you pray for a few specific areas.  First and foremost, pray for the women that enter Mercy Multiplied’s multiple locations.  They have each faced incomprehensible battles yet have made the remarkable leap of seeking healing.  Also, please pray for the ladies of my team.  They too have areas in which they need healing and growth.  Pray that they find where they can thrive.  Finally, pray for the Middle East.  My lack of plans to travel there this year has not lessened my heart for its inhabitants nor lessened the need for God’s revelation and His love in this region of the world.

For more information about Mercy Multiplied, you can visit their website.  Here is a link to one of their success stories about a woman named Sophonie:  http://mercymultiplied.com/2015/08/sophonie-2012/

Thank you so much for walking through life with me.  There is one more thing that I hate to be the focus but that I need to mention.  If you would like to donate towards this trip, you can visit missions.oru.edu and put my name (Christi Sleiman) as well as my team (Sacramento Mercy).  Every cent that is over the $1,099 that I need for the trip goes directly to making sure that the 12 other women on my team get to join the journey too.

I hope that each of you enters the New Year with anticipation.  It would bless me so much if you would email me with any prayer requests at christisleiman@gmail.com.  I would love to be a part of your life in that small way.  Thank you all for taking the time to read this.  I will do my best to keep you updated in the days to come.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Put Down the Headphones

     Running and I have such an on and off relationship.  Recently I have loved it, but I fully attributed that to me finally downloading good music and buying decent headphones.  The burning in my lungs and the fatigue of my legs somehow becomes fun while listening to "Hey Jude."

     I didn't run for most of training week because most of the days were exhausting on their own.  However on Thursday my team did not have to meet until 10 A.M.  We were stoked!  Adam and I decided to have an optional time of prayer at 9 for those overachievers who were looking for a challenge.  I was exhausted.  This was the break my body was looking for.  BUT this was training week which meant my spirit had a much louder voice.

     I decided to wake up early.  I put on my running shoes, grabbed my headphones, and headed towards the door.  That was when I remembered that when I finally downloaded good music it had deleted my Kari Jobe album and I was completely devoid of Christian tunes.  "It's not a big deal," I told myself.  But it was.  I was being intentional about not only avoiding social media, secular music, and anything that could be a distraction.  So I said "Hey God, I am trying to challenge myself by running, but I can't do it without headphones.  Is it cool if I listen to this music?"

     He didn't tell me that it "wasn't cool" if I listened to secular music.  Instead, He asked if I would let Him be enough.  Wow.  That was the moment I had to stop making excuses.  God wanted to be my enough.  Well, I'm not a big fan of telling the creator of the universe that He isn't enough, so I put the headphones down.  Instead of jamming to "Say Something", I prayed.  I prayed for each of the members of my team.  It was hard, definitely harder than running with music, but it felt glorious at the same time.

     During the 9 A.M. prayer time my team had, I took a moment to write down what God was telling me about each of my members.  Those simple sentences were later used to speak life and prophecy into the lives of my team.  Some of what was shown to me I was privileged to tell them that day, other parts were saved for commissioning night, and some were never told at all.  That's not the important part.  What was important was that I listened.

     I will always remember Thursday, May 7 as the day that I listened.  I woke up.  I put down the headphones.  I wrote down what God told me.  These were all three very small steps that set up my day to be remarkable.  In these tiny steps of obedience I learned that for each step you take, the Lord takes a mile.  God is omnipotent.  He has the power to do anything, but I believe that He often waits for us to make a move.  What better way is there for us to show faith?  And love?  And then there are those times where it feels like we keep taking more and more steps and yet we see nothing.  I believe that He is still moving.  That is where true faith comes in, the kind of faith that Jesus mentioned in John 20:29.  Faith in that which you cannot see.

     I learned something else that day.  Okay, I learned a lot of lessons that day, but one that I have to tell you.  Every hour spent with God is an hour spent in victory.  To me, God is not invisible.  I see Him in His creation, in little things like sunsets and tall trees.  These wonders are reflections of their Creator.  Man, if those are just reflections, I cannot begin to imagine the mind-blowing beauty of the Lord.  Every second spent serving this indescribable God is not deserved yet freely given.  And the enemy tries to distract and persuade us away from this!  He uses excuses like being too busy or having time later on me all the time, so I bet he uses it on others too.  He really isn't that creative.  Another way that my time of victory is robbed is when my mind and heart are not fully engaged.  It's like I'm having dinner with God but texting someone else the whole time.  Sure I still eat, but the quality and purpose is completely lost.

     Compared to the insane amount of love and sacrifice the Lord pours on us, He does not ask for much.  However, what He does ask for often seems like way too much in the moment.  Or like it's not a big deal so why even bother.  I am making it a personal goal to look for the little steps I can take, the minor moments where I can say "yes" to God so that when the bigger moments come I already know how.  On Thursday, May 7, I put down my headphones.  It was one of the best decisions I've ever made.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Treasures in Trash

     As a kid, I had many aspirations.  I thought maybe I'd be a teacher, psychologist, or maybe even president.  I thought I'd do incredible things like climb mountains and make great speeches.  Never, ever in my life did I see myself picking up trash.

     Trash is gross.  There is no way around that fact.  It stinks and has germs and is ugly.  Yet, on this trip one of my team's favorite things to do was pick up trash.  Why? When we humbled ourselves to perform this job, the Lord chose to reveal Himself to us in entirely new ways.  On my team of 12, I heard stories from around half of them of what God showed them while picking up trash.  I remember being amazed by this.  Sure, I had enjoyed my time praying while cleaning our assigned location, but I wasn't having any extreme revelations.  However, on our last day picking up trash, the Lord spoke.

     There were way too many of us at this location.  At least, that's what I thought until I really got cleaning.  I started just picking up a piece of trash here and there, but then I found my spot.  It was a gap in the ground that had a very nice layering of grossness on it's surface.  I hopped in and got to work, not realizing what I had just gotten myself into.  I was at one 3 by 5 foot spot for over an hour.  Whenever I thought I had made progress, I found another stash to be picked up!  It was actually humorous how much trash there was to be picked up on this one little spot compared to what I was expecting.

     Remember the lady I told you about yesterday?  When we spoke about Isis, she said she tries every day to forgive them, but then hatred boils up again.  She told me that she doesn't even think they are human, that they are actually devils.  For a second, I agreed with her.  How can humans commit such awful sins against humans?  But while picking up trash, God showed me His answer to me.

     Underneath layers and layers of trash, there is still ground.  No matter how much trash is piled upon the ground, that does not change that it is ground.  The ground doesn't get to choose what trash is piled upon it.  That is not to say that the ground doesn't allow weeds to grow too, but trash is literally thrown upon the ground, polluting it, without any say from the ground.  How much grossness has been forced upon many hearts?  Piled until the heart is barely recognizable and a "devil" is left in its place.  Yet God still sees the heart beyond the trash.

     When God showed this to me, I said "but God, I cannot ever fully clean this ground."  It was true.  Even if I picked up every large piece of trash, the ground would still have the shriveled remains of bags that had deteriorated.  Shards of glass would have still been left untouched.  Yet God said "but I can."

     It is not my job to fix the world.  I cannot heal broken hearts or tear down barricades around them.  That will never be my job, and for that I am thankful.  However, it is my job to say yes.  Every day I have to choose to say yes to the Lord and all that He desires from me.  It is a joy to say yes, because even if I cannot melt a frozen heart I can trust that when I follow the Holy Spirit's prompting I can be used to put a stitch on a wound or a chip in a wall.  Saying yes to God is all I am responsible to do.  The rest is in His very capable hands.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Unforgettable Individuals

     I'm an extrovert, so having a conversation is like breathing to me.  Yes, they are necessary to life for me, but not something that I really think about.  More of a natural thing.  I had countless conversations on this trip, but like most breaths, almost all of them will be forgotten.  However, two people I spoke to left such an impression on my heart that forgetting them is impossible.

     One woman I spoke to translated for a youth service we did in Bethlehem.  She was upbeat and positive, but upon truly getting to know her it was apparent that her life is full of pain.  She is a member of what we call the persecuted church.  She doesn't fit in with the Muslims for obvious reasons but also cannot get along with traditional Christians.  Her kids get in verbal fights at their catholic school until they finally silence themselves about their faith.  She can't let her kids play at the park because the other kids won't accept them.  Her kids aren't allowed to run two minutes away to the store for candy because the streets aren't safe for them.  I cannot imagine trying to explain to my children why they cannot live like the others around them.  She lives in fear of Isis mere hours and checkpoints away.  I had the honor of praying for her that day, and I continue to keep her and the rest of her church family in my thoughts and prayers.

     At a block party hosted by a church, I sat down to have what turned into the most insightful conversation of my life with a 90-year-old man.  He was charming and had kind eyes and became like a father to me.  What I thought would be five minutes of chatting turned into two hours of learning about his past joys and pains.  He was originally from Jerusalem but was made into a refugee and relocated to Bethlehem after Israel was reestablished as a nation.  He went by Abu Jonny because his oldest son's name was Jonny.  My dad's name in that regard is Abu Jonny too, so we connected on that fact.  His son Jonny passed away, which he told me while holding back tears.  He has lost so much, yet his love of life and love for God shine through it all.  He taught me the value of family.  Yes, he told me about his past job as a judge and bus driver instructor, but the only thing that really mattered to him was his loved ones.  It reminded me that when everything is said and done, family will be all that is left.

     I'm sorry that I could only scratch the surface on what these two showed me.  I can't fit into one blog post what was said and how it changed me.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Training Week

I truly intended to update everyone throughout the trip, but it became apparent early on that I needed a break.  I needed to take a rest from social media and any obligation other than serving and growing.  However, my trip is officially over and I am ready to share my awesome experience to anyone who will listen.  Although I went on a two week mission trip, I really had three weeks of growth because of training week.  I have honestly never taken as huge of a step towards hearing the voice of the Lord as I did in my week spent training with my team.

On the first day of training, my team maneuvered itself through what we call low ropes which was a series of various team building challenges.  It proved to be a mix of victories and frustration but served its purpose of bringing my team closer together and forcing us to trust each other beyond what is comfortable.  From simple trust falls to maneuvering each other through tied up string like a sack of potatoes, my team learned how to literally carry each other through rough spots.
                Highlight:  This day was when I learned how to pray constantly.  The facilitator had us pray while doing things like carrying one of our team members from one course to another.  During my trip, this day rang as a reminder that while doing the most mundane tasks like picking up trash I could be praying for the people of Israel or even the specific people who discarded the trash.

Tuesday, my team received evangelism training in the morning and then had athletic challenges in the afternoon.  The evangelism training was unlike any other training that I have ever received and it truly did its job of showing how to make presenting the gospel less nerve racking.  Athletics was an incredible physical challenging in its mental and physical pushing.  I loved that the training pushed every single member but it was not individually driven.  Each goal was set as a team and we either reached or failed those goals together.
                Highlight:  The Lord pretty clearly told me that I was going to have to be vulnerable and share a piece of myself at evangelism training.  When the time came, I thought He’d want me to somehow weave my story into a sermon, but it turned out that all I had to do was openly share.  It was incredible to see how others were able to relate to my story and how a simple moment of vulnerability could be used to bless others and myself.

On Wednesday we had the privilege of doing what we call towers which is basically high ropes.  We did a rock wall, this crazy contraption called the Wobbly Woozy, and then the group climbing wall where the only way over the wall was pure teamwork.
Highlight:  My absolute favorite was the Wobbly Woozy where we all paired up and had to walk across a line that became continually more and more distant.  The interesting thing about the Wobbly Woozy is that there really is no way to “win” because eventually you and your partner are simply too far apart to not fall off, but it is an awesome challenge to try to make it to that point.  I was absolutely terrified and felt like I was going t fall immediately, but my team leader Adam and I somehow managed to make it very far on the line simply by trusting each other. 

Thursday was an amazing break because our day started at 10 AM instead of the usual 8 AM.  This was our day of Bible and Ministry prep, so we got to dissect a chapter from Matthew and work on our skits and other ministry tools.  The team definitely needed this moment of rest.  I did my best to take the extra time we were given to invest in my personal growth.
                Highlight:  My team and I broke down Matthew 13 as individuals but then came together and shared little pieces we pulled out.  This training set me up for a time during my trip of truly divulging God’s word and loving every second of it.

The final day of training we had our most practical day which we call scenarios.  We went through various situations as a team that are like the ones that we are likely to face on the field.  The most hilarious one for me was where they fed us disgusting food for us to practice being culturally sensitive.  The harshest scenario was when we went to a home with an abusive Muslim man and then to top that off there was a call to prayer.  That one really got my team and made us think.  That afternoon we practiced outdoor ministry and running a church service.
Highlight:  At the practice church service, we did a couple skits and then ended with a testimony from one of our girls.  Even though it was just practice, our team as well as our practice audience was absolutely moved and this led to a time of prayer where we started to share the things that weigh heavily on our hearts.

Every evening of training week we finished off with a service.  They were started off with amazing worship from various teams which was followed by a sermon and then some fun skits from us.  The last night was a bit different because we heard testimonies, took time to thank our staff, and then broke into our teams to prophecy and pray over each member.  That night was by far my favorite.

Training week was just the beginning.  I promise that more stories are coming over the next few weeks!  Please keep me accountable in my sharing.