Sunday, December 20, 2009
What a week. What a semester. What a lifetime.
Time is one of those things that gets away from me. It's a hard concept for me to grasp that it has been 4 and a half years since moving to Grand Rapids. Or 10 years since I first went on a Youth Unlimited event. Or only 36 hours since I went to bed for the last time at the Griggs house.
In the past week I have had coffee, breakfast, lunch or dinner with just about every person who has had huge impacts on me while in GR.... just about. And yet, I'm sorry that I missed a few. I have cried huge crocodile tears because of the need to hug goodbye those I love, and because of misunderstandings that left me feeling a little unloved. I have driven around GR looking out on the ways I have previously defined my life, and I have had short panic-attacks when I have realized that I am primarily in the dark as to how I am going to be defining myself in just a few short weeks. I have been excited for the amazing things yet to be done in my life, and I have yelled at God for the things that have made it hard to leave the life I knew just 48 hours ago.
And yet, I keep coming back to a phrase that was coined almost 2 years ago now by my old roommates Jessi Miller and Kristin Haagsma.... "only time will tell." No clue where to turn, no clue what turns are coming, and only time will tell.
Somedays I am so excited for whats ahead. I charge into the idea of loving people and loving God, wherever I am. I crank up some good ol' Christian music and c-walk to 'My life be like' or re-realize the glorious message that first captivated me in 'Secret Ambition' or 'Color Outside the Lines' when I was young. I am productive in my packing and planning, and they don't seem like chores. People ask me about 'what I'm going to do' and I am bursting at the seams to tell them all I know of what I am going to get to expereince in Zambia.
Other days, it all feels so jaded. Theres not a Christian song out there that I feel like I haven't heard, nor a peice of encouragement that someone hasnt already said. My phone calls go unanswered and accomplishing anything seems impossible. And then I get frustrated at amazing people who love me, but make it sound like I'm about to go out and save the world... when all I want to do is learn how to love God and love others better. I'm no savior. I get scolded because I haven't done every little thing (I just realized I should have probably ordered extra contacts last week....), and everyone seems shocked to find out that I'm not perfect. And so I sit and dream instead of being able to do.
But that is about to change. I have to pack. I have to tie up loose ends. I have to finally submit my grad school applications. I have to, I have to, I have to... and then I get to.
And that's where I'm at.
Fundraising is almost finished. God has been so incredibly faithful (!!!) that it kills me that I am not more upbeat about everything 24/7.
But I think that's all part of it.
Because if I was 100% gung-ho and able to have everything together, I wouldn't need amazing people to show up at my house to help me pack... or friends who just hug me and let me cry. I wouldn't need parents who are probably at their wits end making sure I get all my ducks in a row (as frustrating as it seems sometimes to have them asking about things that I HAVEN'T gotten done... does that ever change??), and who love me despite not finding a way to earn enough money to pay my loans back. And I wouldn't need all of you, who are reading this blog right now and inevitably will end up offering me the same Bible verse over and over again until I actually READ that Bible verse and take comfort in what it says.
But, I do need you.
Because there are days I feel like I'm in this alone... and that nobody understands....and that the only way you could possibly understand would be if you got off your duff and go do the same thing I'm doing.... BUT..... then I realize again that God has blessed me with an amazing oppertunity to go out and do something that most people HAVE dreamed of, but have never been able to do for one reason or another... and that I get to be the link between that dream and the reality... and that people do care about the state of the world and the church... and that you are all at the exact place God has brought you to, just as I am... and that God is going to do mighty things in people (both here and in Africa) both because of and inspite of me.
And so I go. My car is currently packed within 10 squre inches of being too full to see out of any window. My family is waiting at home (including my brother flying in from Japan!), my friends are scattered around the country wishing me well, and the next two weeks that seem somewhat overwhelming at the moment will fly by just as fast as the last week of goodbyes in Grand Rapids.
On Calvin's seal there is a phrase printed around the crest that reads: "My heart I offer to you, Lord, promptly and sincerely." It's a phrase that I have never really put too much thought into until Friday night when I was standing on the roof of Spoelhof, looking out over the campus.... friends coverting senslessy in the background. What does it look like to seriously surrender your heart to the Lord, when he asks, how he asks, in every way/area of your life, and with everything you have? I'm not sure yet, but I think I'm learning. And I think I like it.
Here we go (thats you and me, for the record), promptly and sincerely.
"Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith." - Margret Shepard
Saturday, November 28, 2009
It is with joy that I write to update you on the plans for
I am approximately a month away from embarking, and I have already seen the grace of God active in the planning and implementation of the trip. From receiving checks for sponsorship from complete strangers to encouragement, prayer, and support from my closest friends and family, I am beginning to think that everyone should have the opportunity to prepare for such a trip in their lifetime! What a journey in faith!
I want to share with you one particular experience that has me excited. Back in October I was visiting my former college roommate, Kristin Folkerts, now a first year teacher at
To make a long story short, I was asked to come to their school to present a chapel on the orphans of
their own… while being hammered by a deadly disease. By the end of the chapel, the students agreed that the orphans of
In addition to the prayer support, I was also amazed to see God work in another way that day. At the end of the day, the principal from the school greeted me and chatted about my upcoming trip. He then handed me a crisp $100 bill, and asked me to use it to buy school supplies for the orphans of
Isn’t it amazing how our God works? And isn’t it humbling to see through whom He works?
Thus, I just wanted to say thank you again for your continued support and encouragement. With a month left until my departure, I am two/thirds of the way to my needed goal. However, with the mighty things God has already done, I trust that all needs will be supplied in His time.
Thank you all again for everything, I am blessed to be a part of this family!
By His Grace,
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
To be honest, for most of my life I have hated the idea of money. Everything we do is confined by a substance that people die over, or waste their life chasing, or horde up (which in turn causes others to die). What a bother! Can't we all just get along, and trade good deeds for good deeds? Share? A Christian form of (dare-I-say-it) communism? Idealistic thinking.... but impossible in the culture we live in. (Whats more is we have seen all to clearly the evils that can come from communistic politics!)
So then what should we do about this money issue?
For the most part, I feel like the Bible teaches that money in general is rather evil. But, in actuality, its simply the love of money that is evil. Which then begs the question, is money itself good?
When I was in high school I remember I wrote my Junior Paper on the issue of whether or not 'In God We Trust' should still be printed on our money. I honestly don't remember what I argued or what I concluded at the end of the paper..... but I have come to appreciate the saying on our bills in a whole new way in the past few months.
In the past weeks I have seen checks pour in from across the United State in order to help send me half way across the world and serve in Africa. It's incredible! A check from a newly wed couple, who don't have any money to their name..... a check from a large family who really don't have much to spare.... an anonymous $500 donation to double the amount that my home-church was able to give. How is this is all possible?
In my last post, I talked about putting little bit of crisis in our comfort. And, to be honest, starting a Simple Way project in LA would definitely be adding crisis to my comfort by fighting luxury. However, I dont think that that is necessary way of fighting comfort for some others (which, again, makes me a little spiteful towards God for calling me to live in that way.... but not others! but since when has God ever made life easy?).... in fact, I think for 100% of the checks I have received up to this point to help send me to Zambia, the crisis for one's comfort came with deciding to give to such a cause.
This is a crazy economy. One day you have a job, one day you dont. There is no spare money. There are no garantees. However, here we all are.... saying 'In God We Trust' and writing checks that we know will need God's guidance in order to get cashed. How incredible is that?!? When I think about my personal financial situation at the moment... I almost want to cry. I have loan repayments to start as of next week, I need a new laptop to bring with me for Zambia (what I thought would be my major source of income over the past weeks has not worked out due to issues with my current laptop!), I have another rent check due in a few weeks, and I still havent officially applied to my grad schools because I don't have the extra $50-100 per application to go with it. On top of that, this past weekend my car broke down, and I had no choice but to let my parents cover the repair cost.
All that, and THEN I get to consider that I am still waiting on God to provide the final $3000 needed to send me to do His will! Wait a minute God, why all this stress?! Shouldn't I hate money right now?!
But that's just it: I don't. And its all because I have seen so clearly in the past months how much God can use money to bless people, or challenge people, or transform them. My faith has grown indubidably as I have sat here and done the math and come to realize that is impossible for me to make ends meet unless something big changes; and yet I am somehow fine with the idea that.... something big is going to change. I don't know what it is, but its coming. And the only way I know its coming is because I am confident that I am walking in the will of the Lord, and thus He will make the path straight. At least that is what He promised.
And so with that, I do hearby declare money as a good thing. A thing that we have to be careful with, a thing that we must consider carefully, but a ministry tool that we all get to have a hand in... one way or another. (Whether we have lots of 'In God We Trust's to read or not!)
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
In the past few months I have been all over the United States. From the bars of Boston to the cornfields of Iowa, from Hollywood Blvd to the the back alleys of Chicago. I have climbed a water tower in a ghost town in Kansas, and I have hiked in the mountains and foothills of Colorado. From seeing the slums of LA to sleeping in the warm bed of my childhood, I have been at almost a loss of words to describe my fall.
Where is our Christ?
Isn't He supposed to working through us?
Well then, where are our Christians?
About a month ago I was in Los Angeles, California, exploring the option of pursuing a Family Therapy degree at Fuller Seminary's school of Psychology. We'll get back to the fact that I was in California in a minute, but for the moment concentrate on the fact that on this particular day I walked into a church that I was unfamiliar with, in a city that is far removed from any place I have ever pictured myself in... and saw this printed on the front of the bulletin:
But, from where I'm sitting, I think I want more people to start seeing the other message. How many of us actually DO read our Bibles from an easy chair? Or, maybe more truthfully, sit down to read our Bibles from an easy chair... and promptly fall asleep?
Maybe its been the vast amount of need and disparity between people in different parts of the country, or maybe its been the inordinate amount of very, very nice, very well meaning people who smile at me politely when I say I'm going to Africa and tell me that thats a 'nice thing to do', a 'great experience' or an 'opportunity I wish I had had'. But I'm just sick of this thing called Christianity that we all play at, but so few of us do.
I need to watch how I say this... because I don't want to offend anyone. I have had dozens of amazing encounters with many Godly people who have been excited to see me go overseas. They have encouraged me, loved me, helped me and been excited to see what God is going to do. But every once in a while, there is the person who seems to WANT to care... but just doesnt. And that person is ussually categorized by saying something like, "Really?! You're going! Thats great! My friend so-and-so just got back from spending a month in [insert 3rd world country here]! You should get in touch with her, she'll tell you all about it" followed by another polite smile, and a quick turn of the heel to back out of the conversation.
And again, I think these people really do want to care, but they just dont know how. They are on the outside looking in. They are reading their Bibles from their easy chairs, or perhaps are looking for that easy chair and warm blanket so hard that they forget its found in their Bibles alone.
What would it look like to have a bunch of Christians actually start living like Christ?
The best example of a group of Jesus-followers I've heard of doing that is Shane Claiborne and his group at the Simple Way in Philly. Which, I must admit sounds.... radical. (If you don't know what I'm talking about... read "The Irresistable Revolution" or at least a sample at http://www.thesimpleway.org/shane/sampler.pdf --trust me, its worth the read.) ....and it is, isn't it? It's radical, its amazing, its rediculus, it will never work and it will always work.
And most of all, I identify with it.
I love the line that says "People are not crucified for charity, people are crucified for living out a love that disrupts the social order, that calls forth a new world." People love the idea of me going to Africa to play with needy AIDS orpahns. The idea of actually getting down on my hands and knees and putting a band-aid on that bloody knee of the child infected with HIV?? That's not so well-recieved. "Be careful." "Don't be stupid." "Come back safe." These are the things I am told. People want you to live Christ-- to some extent. The idea of actually walking and living like Jesus did? Not so popular. They want to stay in their easy chair's where Christ is their comfort... and, I'm learning, want you to stay there too.
But what if we would all get out of our easy chairs?
I've been thinking alot about what life is going to look like when I return from Zambia. Will I be used to wearing the same 10 outfits, and be able to give up my closet full of Nike swooshes? Or will I run back to my comfortable, happy life with arms wide open? Will I be disgusted by the American dream, or dream about being American again?
I mentioned in the first part of this blog that I was in California looking at the possiblity of grad school. California. That is one thing that I never would have anticipated for myself 5 years ago.
Back in high school I had a good friend who had moved to Whitinsville from Cali. He had been convinced that he wanted to move back out west after school, and would probably get married in his 30s. I, however, was very content to dream of a life characterized by getting married right out of college and staying close to my hometown. I wanted to coach my high school volleyball and track teams. I wanted to bring up my kids close to their grandparents. I wanted to live the life that worked so well for my parents. And, to be honest, I still want those things. But instead.... my Californian friend will most likely end up being the one to get married straight out of college.... and I have a very good chance at finding myself clear across the country in California, alone.
In addition to the possiblity of Cali boy getting married this summer, my little sister is also getting married in a very short 8 months, along with a good portion of my my close girlfriends. And yet, when someone asked me this week if I felt 'behind' in the whole boy realm... I found myself very naturaly and very honestly saying, "no."
No?! How could that be? This isn't what I had planned! California wasn't in the plan! Africa wasnt in the plan! What is God doing to me?? He is majorly screwing things up, dontcha think?!
What is next? Trying to create a Simple Way project in LA? Wouldnt people love that? "Ya, I'm going to live in the most beat-up house I can in the worst neighborhood I can find and open my doors to all the neighbors and just love em'." I can see that going over great with my parents. Living on the poverty line isn't exactly a well-received 'Christian' thing to do! If I was a good upstanding Christian, wouldn't I earn lots and lots of money and then give it to the poor? But... thats the whole thing. I want to help people. I want to love people. Which means more than just putting on band-aids. It means getting down and dirty with them.
Isnt that what God calls us to when he tells us to love "the least of these"? Or didn't that verse ever get highlighted in your Bible.
I guess I am just having a really hard time trying to figure out how to live like Christ, and live like an American. Or, more truthfully--but much more sad, how to live like Christ, and how to live like a Christian.
Lots of people have asked me why I want to go into Family Counseling...especially if my final goal is to be a youth pastor. And I have come to realize the reason is much the same reason that the idea of walking in Christ's foot steps is appealing. I can read Chap Clark's book "Hurt" from cover to cover, but unless I am able to help stop the hurt through counseling.... what lasting good does being aware do? It's just more band-aids!
I don't like band-aids. They eventually get pulled off, and the skin is all red at first, but (if the band aid has been there awhile) in actuality its pale and slightly pruny. I don't want pale and pruny in my life, which means I shouldn't want it for other people either. I want to dance. And laugh. And sing (even if its off tune). I want to run through fields with the wind whipping at my face, and I want to climb water towers. That's the type of life God has called us to, dontcha think?
And I guess that's why God has put this Zambia trip in front of me.
I was told that I may not recognize Christianity when I get to Zambia. And all I can say is 'Hallelujiah' to that. Don't get me wrong, I think there are many great things that Christians do right. Many awesome things that can be learned at Seminary (I am looking at going to Seminary, remember??), but at the same time.... I want to be able to fill in the gaps of systematic theology and live a Christ theology. I want to be able to live John 10:10b instead of just recite it.
But I'm guessing that that's going to mean that He is going to bring a little bit more crisis to my comfort. And I'm starting to become OK with that. But, fortunatley for my family and unfortuantely for God, I'm not there yet....there is too much of this world that I love. And I admit that I get a little scornful when I see very, very strong Christians living abundantly in the path that God has marked out for them.... and I realize that I would be very content and comfortable in that path. At those times I can't help but ask God why I couldn't have a path like that! But in those times I hear Him whisper, "because you wanted to be a paratrooper."
Now, this blog has already been way too long, but I will tell you one more quick story.
I did a dumb thing in 7th grade.
I was sitting in Kent Koeman's Bible class, and we were watching a video on faith. Now, I will admit that we probably watched dozens of videos on faith, and there were probably many such incidents as the one I am about to relate to you.... but there was only one I remembered. There was a girl, about 16 if I recall correctly, who was dieing of some rare blood disease. She had been talking about how, before she was diagnoised with the disease, she had been sitting in church thinking "I am going to rot away in this pew!" And so she asked God to do something big in her life. And so He gave her the rarest disease she had ever heard of, and because of it she was able to tell her story. Charming, right? But it caught me. I was feeling like I was going to rot away in my Bible-class desk.... and in my pew at church.... and Sunday School... and youth group.... and... well, you get the point. So I asked God that day to make me a paratrooper in the faith. (Though, I also requested that I not die of some rare disease.... and since I haven't come up with anything yet, I have a feeling that He honored that request.)
Life has not been the same (or easy) since. And, honestly, I would have it no other way. And on that note I guess I would just say: Be careful what you pray for... but know that God is going to do mighty things when you let Him.
And so I trudge along, trying to do the will of God, learning what it looks like to walk with Him, deciding what it looks like to walk AS Him, and trying to peice together my faith into a workable framework in which to live my life.
And, as depressing and/or promising as it is... I have a feeling that I have just begun.
Monday, September 28, 2009
But I dont think I did. Not until this past year.
Daily Bread. What a concept. So many times I feel like we try to run on up ahead God.... we want more. Either that or we have too little faith to think that he is going to provide for us when we need it most. But our God is perfect, He provides just what is needed, when we need it.
Last Sunday I returned to LaGrave for the first time since Serve ended in June. To be honest, I had been in some ways putting it off... though in other ways I couldn't wait to be there again. I love the people there so much, and I've missed being involved there. However, I didn't think I was ready to look in the face of my life there and know that everything is different.
But, I had thought, what could one little church service do? I would go in, listen to a sermon, and promptly leave. I would perhaps see a handful of the regulars who sat in the balcony with me, and wave to a few others as I made a hasty exit. No problem.
But God had different plans.
Upon entering the church, my friend Lauren mentioned that she wanted something to drink. I agreed, so we went off to the multipurpose room to grab some 'orange poison' (a I've come to know the juice we serve) while our other friends saved us seats up in the balcony. However, the multipurpose room was unusually abuzz, and I quickly realized that it must be Ministry Celebration Sunday --the one Sunday all year where the different ministries of the church had tables set up to make their programs known to the rest of the church body. As such, there were tables for every ministry I had been apart of, manned by the people whom I love and miss the most. While trying to act normal, a little girl named Sophie whom I had taught in my 2nd grade Children's Worship class ran up to me and threw her arms around me--thanking me for being here on 'this day'. To be honest, I had no idea what she meant, but I hugged her back and managed to gulp down my juice before going to join the rest of our friends in the balcony.
However, once joining our friends in the balcony, I knew the service was not going to be easy to endure. The new youth intern was being commissioned, and a word of what was meant to be encouragement from my friends sent me to tears. Next the commissioning of all the youth leaders was given, and my eyes welled again as I was unable to join them in standing and accepting the commissioning. Finally, my entire 2nd grade class from the year before was brought to the front and given their Bibles, and it hit me what little Sophie had been so excited about--she was glad I was there to see them become part of the 'big' church. At this point, I was about to break.... but still held it in. God had a plan in all of it, didn't he?
What came next was both expected, but completely unexpected at the same time. During the offering, the 'Welcome Registry' was passed. This is normal occurance at LaGrave, and one I should have seen coming. I had signed this said registry dozens of times, and had given no thought to it. But, that day, it was a different story. As I looked at the options, I realized I was not a full 'Member' of LaGrave, and thus could not check that box. Nor was I a 'Student' any longer, so that option was out of the running. 'Visitor' did not seem appropriate, and the thought of resigning myself to the rank of 'Frequent Attender' seemed almost like a slap in the face.
Who was I and what was I doing here?!
Checking none of the boxes, I handed off the register and headed down to the bathroom, bawling. Now, to be quite honest, I have found myself bawling in this said bathroom on a number of occasions...more than a few even during church services. Times when I felt unfit to be in ministry at the church, times when I felt God nudging me to do something I didn't want to, times when I was sad or angry or sick or in need or felt like I should have all the answers or any of the above. But on that day I just felt.... empty. I was lonely, I was feeling ridiculous for my emotional outburst over the lack of understand regarding God's plan in my life, and I certainly did not want to be crying. And so I dried my eyes and pulled myself together to make it through the rest of church.
And that's when God did it. Again.
That day, God's sermon was for me and me alone. The very first words Reverend Mast spoke were "Today we're talking about what's next." And I thought "well, that would be good to know right about now" .... and Reverend Mast went on to remind me of a God who always has the last laugh, because He is a faithful, covenant God who will keep his promises. And doesn't our God promise us far more than we let ourselves partake in?
Here's the thing about daily bread: I think God has it in for us.
I think He WANTS us to to feel overwhelmed and ready to break. I've told people before that I never want a life that I could handle... because then I would just handle it and forget God. So he pushes us. He confronts us with everything that is hard, all at once. He allows us to look back (if we really insist on it) and say, "If only...", so that we can look at Him and realize that we don't need or want 'ifs' in our lives. We are a a fallen, broken people who needs our God. I learned that beyond all measure this past year. But I also learned that our God is one who wants to save his fallen and broken people.
And so He gives himself to us, one day at a time. Like manna from heaven that spoils when we impose our own assumptions on it and collect too much, or leaves us hungry if we do not trust it... He gives us just enough of himself to get us through whatever trial we are facing.
There is an old Point of Grace song that puts it in different terms:
"We run on up ahead, we lag behind YOU. It's hard to wait when heaven's on our minds. Teach our restless feet to walk beside you, because in our hearts we're already gone. Won't YOU walk with us? Steady on."
Steady on everyone.... God will provide the bread.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
To all who have supported me, loved me and walked life beside me:
When I was young, a new Steven Curtis Chapman song boldly instructed to “Saddle up your horses, [because] we have a trail to blaze into the wild blue yonder of God’s amazing grace. Just follow your leader into the glorious unknown, this is a life like no other—this is the great adventure.” Although I didn’t know it at the time, the chorus would become a life motto that has, thus far, blessed me beyond belief. With that assurance of past grace, and the promise of future strength given by Christ alone, I have decided to embark on a half-year mission trip to
Through the help of Youth Unlimited (www.youthunlimited.org) staff, I have been accepted as an intern to an organization called Every Orphan’s Hope based in
- Camp Hope Bible Outreach programming (a series of 2 week VBS-like camps held at various locations throughout
that minister to orphans in HIV/AIDS affected communities) Zambia
- Orphan Sponsorship
- My Father’s House Orphan Homes (a program that allows 8 orphaned children to be raised in a loving home, governed by a widowed house mother, and be supported by God’s extended family)
- selling GoodNews Wristbands (used both to raise awareness/monetary support and as a ministry tool)
- supporting Orphan Sunday (engaging the Christian church to love, protect, pray and provide for the orphans in their community)
- supporting Ministry Alliance Programs (in order to further the Christian ministry of solving the AIDS orphan crisis by partnering with multiple Christian organizations)
As a lone intern, I will not be embarking on this trip with any sort of mission’s team, but simply as one called to serve. Although I know my role will be to help with all six ministries of the organization, I will be relying on the staff in
Although I am filled somewhat with fear and trepidation at the prospect of going alone, I am at peace knowing that God is good, and the life he has called me to is much better than any I could imagine for myself. As such, I wish to thank you in advance for any support you will be providing me with. I thank you for the prayers, for checking in with me both out of love and encouragement, and for help financing my journey. Within the next 4 months I will need to raise $8000-$10,000 in order to cover my expenses (including flying to Zambia and back—the specific amount is not yet set due to outrageous airfare prices!, food, lodging, my visa, and other materials necessary for me to serve fully).
As for financial donations, all donations are tax-deductible and can be made in one of two ways:
- Checks can be made out to Youth Unlimited (who is helping me with all the paperwork/travel involved with getting to
Zambia) and sent to my current residence or placed in my parents church mailbox. Michigan
- Donating online at Youth Unlimited’s website at: www.youthunlimited.org/giving/giving_online --however, please make sure to indicate that the donated money is for ‘Annika Krygsman’s
trip’ in the given ‘Notes’ section Zambia
Although keeping in touch during the 6 months I am in Africa will be difficult, I will do my best to keep everyone updated through this online blog. Internet access will be limited and sporadic, but I was told it will be possible for me to post. In addition, my new (non-college!) email address is now firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you again for all the love and support, both now and through the years I have been blessed to know all of you. Here’s to the mysterious unknown and God’s next great adventure!
By the Grace of God alone,