My Banner

April 24, 2015

My time serving as a pastor at Ocean View Methodist has recently come to an end and I have been reflecting on the years and all God taught me there. We came to know South Africa as home while serving at that church and it became a home for us and our growing children. Leaving is painful, especially as the future is not clear, but obedience to God is everything and we know He will light the path.

I love to reflect and wrap things up and that is what I did in my last sermon at Ocean View Methodist two weeks ago. I reflected on Exodus 17 where God’s people find themselves in a battle that could only be victorious when Moses’ hands were lifted in prayer. After the battle was won, Moses received a new name for God: Jehovah Nissi or “God is my banner.” God wanted them to remember what He had done for them and that in HIM was always the victory. A banner or flag has been used throughout history to declare a party’s victory or meaning, and it still remains its purpose. I felt led by God to declare what my banners were over my time in Ocean View. If I had a flag to fly about what God taught me while serving his people at OCean View Methodist, what would it be?

My BANNER and my VICTORY in Ocean View would be:

1. We are GROUNDED by the Word of God

We have encountered many challenges during our five years living in Ocean View and walked with many families through their own desperate times. Through these challenges we have seen that ONLY the word of God provides light, hope, and vision. ONLY the Word of God helps His people to see His truth and face and guide through the darkness. Only God’s word speaks fresh into dead situations and total darkness.  There is nothing sweeter, there is nothing richer, there is nothing more true, and there is no other way to hear the heart of God than to go to His Word.  God’s Word is my banner and that is my victory.

2. Our Obedience Brings Blessing

I heard this truth years ago from Beth Moore and it was something I believed I lived by. I have however learned that obedience is truly difficult and calls us not just to outwardly look like we are following Jesus but inwardly as well. I have to completely trust Jesus and give him every part of my life in order to show that I am truly following His heart. It’s about the state of my heart in the follow not just the footsteps I am leaving. Obedience is following HEART AND SOUL and I have learned that while living here. Obedience brings blessing is my banner and my victory.

3. God’s Love Always Wins

When I came to South Africa I thought it was so that I could love the people here, but instead they have taught ME what love really looks like.  In the community of Ocean View there is a great deal of hurt and it is certainly a truth here that ‘hurt people HURT PEOPLE.”  Most often the people we hurt the most are those who love us the most.  This has been true in the families I have served here.  I have personally been hurt and seen them hurt one another, but out of that something has shone through that I didn’t expect.  What defines the people in Ocean View Methodist is not their hurt but truly the way they love even though they have been hurt.  They love despite the hurt.  They love through the hurt.  They love those who least deserve it, including me.  No matter how dark it has gotten in Ocean View I have seen my friends choose love and it has taught me that truly, love ALWAYS WINS.   Love conquering all is my banner and my victory.

I am so thankful for what God has written on my heart and life as I have served at Ocean View Methodist Church.  It’s hard to imagine our life and family apart from this church but I am certain that the relationships will continue to grow and flourish for years to come.  My heart is filled with gratitude for all God has shown me over the years atOcean View Methodist.  JESUS and HIS LOVE is my banner and my victory.

Choose Kindness

February 12, 2015

This is a story that needs to be told and I have labored for four weeks to write it because it’s painful to recall all the details. But I share it as a cautionary tale and to inspire us to CHOSE KINDESS.

We flew from the United States to Cape Town, South Africa as a family in January as we have for the past five years of our lives with our children. Kieren is a pro at these trips and has no problem with the unbearably long travel, but Keller, now being diagnosed with autism, was going to struggle with it more than most children. Breaking up his normal schedule, not sleeping in a bed, being in close quarters and having to sit for hours and not understanding the entire situation are a few of the challenges we faced. We worked for months to prepare Keller for the changes and travel and truthfully he handled most of it incredibly. What we did not foresee was that our greatest challenge would be from the flight attendants working on our flight. Their job description reads as such:

“Flight Attendants are responsible for the safety and service of our passengers. Duties Include food and beverage service, assisting passengers with disabilities, answering inquires and operating mechanical and safety equipment.”

We have a son with a disability and even notified the airlines before, but because autism is a processing disorder in the brain, it is not visible. The flight attendants on our flight were doing their jobs of feeding us, making sure we were buckled, and keeping the order among the passengers. They however, did not know Keller had a disability and quickly became visibly aggravated but his odd behavior.

In the second hour of a long flight I was hurriedly chided for allowing my son to watch his DVD player without headphones. Not only did this flight attendant not even look at me when barking her instructions, she did not know the situation of my disabled son and his inability to use headphones because of his anxiety. I was then wounded and the exhaustion mounted as the hours went by.

In hour five of our flight my son became incredibly anxious and inconsolable and was screaming and crying for an extended period of time. I tried to calm him in our seat, but it was dark on the plane during the ‘sleeping’ time so I tried to go to the galley area to rock and calm him there. This is where it got ugly. I was attempting to rock my wiggly and screaming (huge) two-year-old near the bathrooms as a flight attendant sat in her fold-out seat. She pretended not to notice me (IMPOSSIBLE) and continued leisurely reading her newspaper. Finally she was fed up, loudly folded her newspaper and looked right at my inconsolable son saying, “SHHHH. People are trying to SLEEP on this plane.”

I lost it. Well on the inside I lost it. I wanted to punch her and scream and fall into a crying mess all at the same time. I did none of that (as moms we put our own feelings on hold to work out at a later time).

I looked into her eyes and said sternly, “I am sorry, but my son has autism and he is doing the BEST that he can.” She was visibly and immediately startled and fumbled around with her paper then blurting out, “Well… uh… I have that too. I mean… uh… I have nieces and nephews… I mean… I WAS JUST TRYING TO HELP!” And she stormed off. My heart was broken, I thought completely, until literally a minute later another flight attendant walked towards me with her food cart and harshly said, “You need to move now, we need this area.” NOW I was done.

I went to my seat holding my (STILL CRYING) son and WEPT with all of my being. My husband was obviously very concerned but it took me a while to even get out what happened. I have never cried from such a deep place. I have never MOURNED from such a deep place.

In those moments, I didn’t want my husband to go and defend us, I didn’t want the women fired, and I didn’t even want to ever share this again. I just wept for autism. I wept for my son who had to struggle and fight daily just to interact with the world in a normal way and how much he is unfairly judged for it. I wept for the many ignorant people who do not know about autism and see the incredibly brave people who live with it daily. I wept that someone was mean to Keller as he was doing the best I could. I wept because I was also doing the best I could do. I wept because Keller has autism and it’s not fair and it’s not right. I wept.

Eventually Keller quieted and eventually I too quieted. As my tears began to slow I immediately felt the love and presence of God around me. Even though this world can be deeply and unimaginably UNKIND I know personally a God who ALWAYS moves towards me in kindness. Our God is love and our God is kind. Always. In this instance Keller and I deserved nothing but kindness and to treat us otherwise was hideous, but even when judgment and anger is DESERVED in our lives, my God still moves towards me with a kind heart. It is revolutionary. In those quiet moments I felt my God with me calming me, holding me, and speaking His words of truth over me.

If I could find these flight attendants and get my revenge I would turn it down. These women were tired and grouchy for their own reasons. Yes they should have helped me, yes they should have checked on me, and yes they should have been kind. But they weren’t. Life happens and people aren’t always kind.

If I could speak with these women now, or anyone on an airplane, I would explain to them about how brave and special my little Keller is. I would tell them that unfortunately he was born with autism, and so his brain doesn’t process the way our brains process. He gets anxious, he gets overwhelmed, he gets confused, he gets loud, and he gets exhausted. I think we would all be if we had his brain and I think he is a HERO for living such a beautiful life despite his disability. I would tell those women that families like ours fight every day and we are always scared of the judgments and the looks. We are also tired and we are also overwhelmed. But we are PRIVILAGED to raise and love this sweet boy with a unique brain and every person he comes in contact with is also privileged. I would tell them to look twice before being harsh and ask questions before judgment. I would say sometimes people need an extra smile or an extra napkin or an extra hug. We are all fighting in our own ways, and kindness can change everything.

I would say that we all need to CHOOSE KINDNESS.

I believe that my life raising Keller is an invitation to the world.

It is an invitation to open our eyes and hearts to those who are different than us. Those who struggle. Those who fight daily. Those who are weak and those who need a little extra help. Instead of seeing the ways those people burden us, what if we looked for what they brought into the world that we would never know without them in our midst. Keller and his autism help me notice every little detail and cause my heart to be thankful for life and love. Without his diagnosis I would have undoubtably missed so many beautiful and sacred moments.

The moments when people are KIND to us, when they help us, when they forgive us, when they love Keller for who he is, for who WE ARE, are the most precious treasures I have received. And I recognize that my God moves towards me with this kindness and love EVERY SINGLE MOMENT. I am in awe. I am humbled. I am thankful. It is all I need.

All we need is for this world to CHOOSE KINDNESS.

Will you?

It's Our Anniversary!

October 22, 2014

It’s anniversary time!  We are so happy to celebrate that we have been in SOUTH AFRICA serving for FIVE YEARS!  What the what?!?  But what we are most cheering about is that we have lived in the incredible Ocean View community for five years.


1. The noises.  There is always something happening.  Always someone in conversation.  Always a dog barking.  Always music playing.  Always someone sharing in someone else’s life.  I love that.  If I need to go write a sermon or focus on something I like to sit in a crowded coffee shop with lots of noises and action.  I dig lots of stuff going on and I dig Ocean View.

2. The food.  My people know how to eat and value food.  It is awesome.  It has always reminded me of my Mexican heritage (my Mom is Mexican-American) because people in Ocean View love to gather and share food together.  Another great thing about Ocean View is that while food is a value, there are many who do not have a meal to eat some days, including many vulnerable children.  What I see is that those who have are ALWAYS sharing with those who don’t and making sure children go to bed with a meal.  My friends are always sharing with those who are in need.  In addition, when there is something to celebrate it is done with FOOD.  People love to have gatherings for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, accomplishments, holidays and anything else in between.

3. The laughter.  You know the Prince’s love some laughing and this is something that is really valued in the community of Ocean View.  Come to any meeting, dinner, gathering or even tea and you will eventually hear laughter.  Laugher is LOUD and done with the entire body.  I remember vividly seeing a stand-up comic we love named Trevor Noah with a group of friends and our friend Treswill was laughing so hard that he unintentionally was hitting the seat in front of his with his knees.  He didn’t even notice but the people in front of him did and kept looking back at him hoping he would stop.  I told him of his kicks and he changed his sitting position but continued to laugh WITH HIS ENTIRE BODY.  It was awesome.  And it’s normal.

4. THE COMPASSION.  You guys.  In Ocean View you SEE IT ALL.  Pain, suffering, abuse, gangsterism, addiction and just HURT.  You would think people would be so use to it that they don’t even notice it happening, and unfortunately that does happen at times.  But the norm in Ocean View is COMPASSION and response to those who are hurting and in pain.  I am frequently humbled when I hear about how my friends in Ocean View respond to hungry children at their doorstep or people who need to borrow money… again.  Compassion is deeply woven into the fabric of hearts here and it challenges me to be God’s compassionate hands and feet even more in this community I love.

  5. The LOVE.  People in Ocean View love FIERCELY.  They take care of their own family and they love really deeply.  The love of the people here in Ocean View has spilled into our lives and we will never be the same.  We see it most vividly in the way people here love our children.  They hug and kiss them spoil them beyond anything they deserve.  Even with Keller who struggles to interact with anyone because of his autism, he has LEARNED how to love people because of those who have loved him in Ocean View.  That is profound and true.  We are loved beyond our failures and weaknesses here and seen just as we are.  That is true love and we are so blessed to experience the love of Ocean View.

Happy anniversary Ocean View!  To MANY MORE!!

After the Mission Trip

September 8, 2014

Living in Ocean View allows us to be here before the missionaries come and long after they leave.

I do understand that I too am a missionary, but as the days, months, and years go on, Ocean View has become home to us and we consider ourselves a part of the community.  By God’s grace others do too!

A few months ago a missions team came to work with us and took over the church and its grounds for two weeks transforming everything they could get their hands on.  They did big projects, connected with our people, played with the kids and even ate in the homes of some of our church members.  It was a life-changing experience for the missionaries and impacted many of our church members.

But now it’s months later and we are still here in Ocean View with no one to rally the community with projects and outreaches.

So what does it look like AFTER THE MISSION TRIP?

Sometimes, unfortunately it doesn’t look good.  One thing that hurts my heart is when I see people I know here in Ocean View, mostly children, act a certain way around the missionaries who come to visit and then act another way after they have left.  One day while the missionaries were here, a boy who I know really well was walking through the church grounds (and didn’t notice me).  However he obviously saw the missionaries and had been hanging out with them for days.  He was trying to seem as if he was just casually and normally walking through the church grounds but he was LOUDLY singing a Christian worship song.  Suddenly as he came close to me I said hello to him and he met my eyes and laughed.  I have honestly never heard this boy sing a worship song in my life and I don’t think it was an accident that he was singing it in front of the missionaries.  Sometimes those we go to serve play roles towards us as we play roles towards them.  This hurts me because Jesus wants us JUST AS WE ARE.  We come to Him just as we are, broken and messed up, and we need those we serve with and alongside to meet us as their true selves.

Sometimes after the mission trip something changes for the better and it makes an impact far beyond the beginning project.  The church that visited us helped to start a garden and greenhouse and planted many of the plants while we were still in the cold winter months.  When they left they greenhouse was up but other than that all that sat there was a big square of dirt.

Here is what I love.  The American mission group didn’t leave a finished project tied in a bow, they left an undone project that needed nurturing, care and teamwork.  This is PERFECT.  This unfinished and baby garden has needed a LOT of work over the past months and there are no short-cuts in gardening.  Over the past months the women and men of this church have spent hours nurturing and watering the garden and now it is OVERFLOWING with greenery and life.

 This garden is growing and flourishing and beginning to provide for our community.

It is a beautiful thing.

PLANTING is a beautiful thing and GROWTH is a beautiful thing.

To me, this is a beautiful metaphor for what it should look like AFTER THE MISSION TRIP.

A mission team needs to know that they aren’t there to save the day or change the world.  We have one savior and it is JESUS.  But a mission team can PLANT SEEDS that can only grow and flourish after the team is long gone.  The missionaries were blessed and provided all that was needed to start this garden… and then they left.  Now those in the community have had to COME TOGETHER to make something beautiful grow.  These projects will only be fully brought to completion when those in our community work TOGETHER.  This is so good.

I am very proud of what it looks like at Ocean View Methodist AFTER the mission trip.

Ocean View at COLOUR!

Hello friends!  Just wanted to share an update from the Hillsong Colour Conference!  The Ocean View community took 90 women (and some sweet kiddos) with us to the Colour Conference this year and joined almost 7,000 people worshipping Jesus.  It’s a short conference all packed into just over 24 hours but it was insanely rich and beautiful.

How do I put into words what happened over these 24 hours?  I cannot.  I hope to share more stories from women themselves from Ocean View who experienced a new revelation from God.  I felt Him so personally in my own heart and feel set free with new vision and life.  We laughed, we cried, we danced, we sang, and we WORSHIPPED.

We WORSHIPPED.  I think that is the way I would sum up all that happened.  In the midst of all the presentations and lights and preaching and fanfare of a conference such as this, something happens unexpectedly and you just come to Jesus in a new way.  You let go, you give up, you come just as you are.

In addition to some incredible worship, the Ocean View ladies just enjoyed being together.  And I feel so deeply privileged to shepherd and love them.  These women are extraordinary and they are my heroes.  Doing life with them is such a gift.

And still to come will be the sharing of how the seeds planted in this weekend will still bloom.  God has begun so many beautiful things in the hearts of these ladies and I can’t wait to walk it out in life with them.  Jesus may you give us the strength to be all you have created us to be!