Psalm 34:8

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Growing in Wisdom

Did you have much experience with children before you came here?”
I smirked at the question last night as I sat at the dining room table in our teacher common room. I had spent the last 20 minutes speaking to one of our new teachers about her transition and about what we have both learned from our time here – me with my two+ years and her with her 2+ weeks.

I laughed as I let an emphasized, “Nooo,” leave my lips. I have never felt naturally gifted with children,” I told her.

Growing up I wasn't around children much at all. Whenever I was, I remember watching female peers of mine in near-envy as they seemed to know exactly what to do around young kids – how to hold the sleeping baby, how to play “I'm gonna get you!” with the toddler, how to calm the child crying for his mother. As I watched these other girls move naturally in play and care for children, I felt like there was a set of gears in the machine of my body that wasn't oiled to move as theirs did. Things other girls did so easily just felt awkward and unfamiliar to me. Youth-aged kids were my niche, not babies and small children.

Then I came to live at Good Shepherd Children's Home, where I am surrounded by children from ages 1 to 18 on a daily basis. As I stepped into the baby and toddler houses, I began to use those previously un-oiled gears. Over time they began to glide more easily – almost naturally! Fast-forward two and a half years and I love spending time with the babies, chasing them and hugging them and tickling their little bellies as they laugh with the uninhibited glee that only a child can possess.


"Fast-forward two and a half years and I love spending time with the babies, chasing them and hugging them and tickling their little bellies as they laugh with the uninhibited glee that only a child can possess."

Did I have much experience with children before I came here? No, I didn't. But I have learned. I have experienced more and grown in wisdom that I didn't have before. And it is neat to look back and see how far God has brought me.

As the new teacher and I continued to talk about things we have learned, two other GSCH “Veterans” walked into the common room and joined our conversation – Ben (our pastor who has been here for two years) and Keri (a teacher who came in Summer 2016). As they sat down, the new teacher began to share about a struggle she is having with a 9-year-old girl (we will call her “Nina.”) The teacher thought that she and Nina were building a great relationship, but then Nina got mad for seemingly no reason and has stopped talking to her.

I was working with a student in my classroom today,” said the teacher, “and Nina stuck her head through the doorway. She said 'Hi' to the student, then looked at me and walked off without speaking to me.”

As Ben, Keri, and I listened to her story, we looked at each other and laughed at the familiar narrative.

Welcome to ministry at GSCH!” I told her, remembering the moment that I first experienced the silent treatment from a child I was close to. “Every one of us has stories like this.”

"I have experienced more and grown in wisdom that I didn't have before. And it is neat to look back and see how far God has brought me."

Ben nodded. “These kids are used to people coming into their lives, saying 'I love you,' and leaving.  They will be mad at you and expect you to know the reason. Then they will stop talking to you and it'll tear you up inside.”

They'll come back to you eventually,” I assured her, “but then it will happen all over again. You just have to keep telling them, 'I love you, and I'm here when you are ready to talk to me.'”

There are times when you will discipline a child for something and they will get mad for days,” said Ben. “And you'll think, 'This is it … They are never going to talk to me again.' But then they finally come around.

And they want you to discipline them,” Keri added. “They know it means you love them and care about what they do.”

After we all finished sharing our own stories, I don't know if the new teacher felt relieved that her experience is a normal one or anxious about the fact that this is only the beginning of drama in her relationships with these children … maybe she felt both! We went on to tell her that each child at the Home, for reasons unknown to us, clings to a different person. We all have those children who cling to us. We pour out love onto them and teach them, and think that things are going wonderfully, only to get spat in the face. But those are the relationships that foster the most growth.

I had a conversation with Yolanda earlier this week as we sat making jewelry in Casita 7; she is one of these children for me. She loves me and I love her, but I cannot tell you how many times she has stopped talking to me, yelled at me, or intentionally tried to manipulate my feelings to make me feel bad. (She has a unique knack for that). But because of persistent love, I have witnessed some wonderful changes in her life. She used to have a darkness in her heart that I felt anytime I was near her. A cloud of hurt, insecurity, and blindness to others' feelings hung over her wherever she went. But now, she is more considerate of others' feelings, more careful in the words that she uses, and more peaceful in her air. The change I have witnessed in her is one of the most beautiful things I have seen this side of heaven. 

"because of persistent love, I have witnessed some wonderful changes in her life."

Do you see changes in me from last year to this year?” she asked as I strung beads into a necklace. I wanted to scream YES!! Don't you see them? I reminded her of things she used to do that emotionally hurt herself and others, and she laughed as she remembered the time she told me we couldn't be friends anymore. Then I told her that I am so proud of the changes I see in her, and I am waiting for the day when she tells me that she wants to follow Jesus with her life.

These relationships are hard. There are days when every teacher wants to curl up in their bed and cry, but the difficult relationships are the ones that we learn from the most. We learn to use those un-oiled parts of our machine with greater ease.  We join the club of GSCH missionaries who receive the silent treatment on a regular basis, and we continue to love.

We learn from experience, we grow in wisdom, and we watch God work through our relationships in mighty and beautiful ways.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

New Bible, New Story

I love opening new bibles. I just do.

I love taking it out of the box and seeing the sturdy, unmarked cover. I love flipping through crisp pages and hearing them crack apart, having never been opened before. New bibles even have that new-book smell to them – beckoning you to stick your nose in and read!

But my favorite thing about opening a new bible is wondering what story it will tell someday. Will it tell a story of disinterest as it sits on a shelf for 10 years, unchanging? Or will it be cracked and worn, mirroring the courageous faith of it's owner who poured over it's words searching for truth and answers in hard times?

I have had my bible for 10 years now, and I love the story it tells. It's my faith story – a 10th grade, boy-crazy girl learning how to navigate the ocean storm that is high school; an 18-year-old graduate fearing life in a new college town;  a young, timid girl learning her value in Christ.

I have poured over the words in that book during times of doubt, times of uncertainty, and times of weariness and grief and joy and thanksgiving. It has been my lifeline to the will of my God.

I have highlighted verses upon verses of His promises to his children, and I have written notes to myself in the front and back covers:

I'm Third.”

She is clothed with strength and dignity.”

In Jesus' name, we press on.”

My bible is not only a book to me. It tells the story of my entire walk with Christ from the time I began to follow Christ until now, 10 years later.  And how different my life is from when I first bought that bible!

I bought another bible last week, but this one isn't for me. It is for one of the girls who attends my bible study each Monday. She has been wanting one for a long time, so as I sat with her one night last week, I pulled up Amazon on my phone so she could pick one out. Her mouth turned up into a smile as she told me, “The pink one.” It was ordered right then and delivered to me today.

I took the bible out of it's box and flipped through the new, crisp pages, and I wondered how far it would take her. What will she read? What will she highlight? Where will it go as she grows up and leaves the children's home? What storms in her life will be calmed by the words of truth and promise that flow through it's pages?

I am excited about the new story this bible will tell.  I hope it tells of a girl growing and grasping her identity in Christ; a girl learning to stand in faith on her own two feet; a daughter of the King flourishing in the life and plan that her Father has for her.  

And maybe 10 years from now, we will be able to meet up, compare bibles, and tell two amazing stories of God's goodness, faithfulness, and protection. 


Friday, July 1, 2016

When Fatigue Sets In

I. Am. Tired.  Anyone else?

We are mid-way through our year here at GSCA, and while classes are going well and there are plenty of reasons to celebrate, I can't seem to muster the energy!  Do you know the feeling?

You sit in a meeting / class / social gathering and you think,

Where did all of my energy go?

I wish I could be my “normal” self.

If I were laying in bed right now, I'd be dead-asleep in exactly 21.4 seconds.

I'm burnt out, yet I feel this pressure to be energetic and bubbly and lively – to slap that angry resting-face off my head and smile the heck out of this day!

(Side note: If you ever see me wearing what looks like a frown, fight the urge to run away in fear! I don't hate you – that's probably just the exhaustion behind my eyes.)

Am I the only one wondering why I feel this way? There's nothing wrong. I am content. I love where I am, and I love the people I am with. But I am just … drained.

These “drainy” seasons come every now and again, and I take them as my reminder to slow down and rest. That's not as easy as it sounds, though, is it? In fact, the decision to rest and re-charge can feel very selfish, considering that I live on the campus of a Children's Home which houses 90+ kids who yearn for love and attention.

But you know what? This tiredness will pass as it always does. In a few days I'll feel better. My laugh will be genuine and the smile on my face will be a natural one. 

Until then, I'll take this cue. Instead of resting from the work, I'll work from a place of rest.

I'll spend this time with my Lord who knows my heart and knows my need for a deeper relationship with him. And he will fill me, as he always does, with his perfect, perfect peace.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Ye of Little Faith

Things have been very busy for me lately. We are one week away from the debut of our school musical, “Down by the Creek Bank,” and there is still much to do. Set pieces, props, and final touches take up my thoughts, my time, and my energy. I think this is probably what my mother feels like as she plans Easter and Christmas worship services each year! I don't know how she does it -- this is hard!

And I am stressed. But in the middle of all of this I still make time for a weekly bible study with the teenage girls at GSCH. Since it is a choice for them to come, the numbers in attendance fluctuate each week. When I started this bible study 8 weeks ago, I had 8-10 girls on a given night. But lately I have had a faithful 4-5 girls who come every week with their bible and notebook, ready to learn.

It saddens me that many of the girls would rather sit in front of their TV for an hour instead of spending that time focused on eternal things, but I am grateful for the small, consistent group of girls that I do have. My prayer is that this small group will grow in Christ and have an impact on the other girls in their casita in ways that I never could.

On Sunday afternoon I sat with a visitor and talked about these bible studies. She was very encouraging to me, and she wanted to do something nice for the girls who attend. She pulled out a few dollar bills and said, “Could I give you some money to buy the girls an ice cream after bible study one night?”

Sure!” I replied.

How much will you need?” She asked. “Is $6 enough?”

That's enough for 6 girls. I thought. That's plenty! I 'm only expecting four or five.

Before I gave my answer, she asked again, “Or maybe $7, just in case?”

Knodding my head, I thought, I don't think I'll have seven girls …

Before I could answer, she put $8 into my hand. I was grateful for this gift to my bible study girls, but secretly I was thinking, There is no way 8 girls are going to come. I haven't had that many girls for the past 4 weeks!

On Monday morning, I needed to print out a worksheet for each girl who was to come. I remember standing at the copy machine thinking, How many should I print out?

I wanted to believe that more girls would come, but I also didn't want to waste a bunch of paper and ink on worksheets that no one would ever use. I decided to print 8 worksheets, since that is the amount that the visitor had given me the day before.

I have been praying and praying for the girls at GSCH – that God will give them a hunger to know Him deeper and to serve him wholeheartedly. But even as I have been praying this prayer, I have had a lingering doubt in the back of my head that he will fulfill this prayer.

So as I walked up to the Casitas on Monday night, I didn't know what to expect. I went to Casita 5 first (16 – 18 year old girls) and asked if anyone wanted to come to bible study. Per the norm, they all ignored me for a few seconds as they stared blankly at their television screen. So I asked again.

Then one girl looked over at me to say something.

Here comes some snarky remark or excuse of why she doesn't want to come. I thought. She had never attended before -- she liked her show too much.

I'll come.” She told me. Then she turned to her housemates, “Tell me how it ends.”

I stared speechless as she rose from the couch and walked to her room to grab her bible.

Okay, then, I thought. Let's see about Casita 3.

I walked 40 yards to Casita 3 (13-15 year old girls) and I could barely ask the question before girls were getting up from their couch to go retrieve their bibles.

Wait for me, Bailey!” They told me. “I'm coming!” Again I was surprised, but I waited for them and we walked to the Cafeteria together.

Once we got to the Cafeteria and sat down, I took a head count.

One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight.

There were eight girls present.

We continued with bible study in a different way than usual. Instead of telling them about a passage of scripture, I handed each of them their own worksheet (Thank goodness I had printed eight!), and I told them to spread out in the cafeteria to be alone and spend time with the Lord. Once we were all situated, we each individually studied Psalm 73 – “Though my heart and my flesh may fail, God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” I looked around at each of the girls and prayed.

Thank you for these girls, Lord. Fill them. Be their strength. Speak to their hearts tonight.

He spoke back to me, “Oh, ye of little faith.”

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Girl with a Callused Heart




1.  made hard; hardened.
2.  insensitive; indifferent; unsympathetic:
They have a callous attitude toward the sufferings of others.
3.  having a callus; indurated, as parts of the skin exposed to friction.

A female student of mine was dragged into my classroom by two of her housemates yesterday morning. They shoved her over the threshold of my classroom, closed the door behind her, and held the door closed so she could not escape.

All of this happened as I sat at my desk, wondering, What is going on?

The night before, I had a conversation with this girl about her bad actions. She had chosen not to participate in the Bunco game after bible study – complaining that it was a boring game, and all she wanted to do was watch TV. She then said some choice words to her tia and some choice Spanish expletives under her breath. I tried to talk through those actions with her, adding that “Because I love you, I am sad to see you acting this way – it will not serve you well in life.”

Her response was to yell “No, you do not love me!” and go to her room, slamming the door behind her. I found out later that she spent the night ripping up every photo and letter that I have given her over the last 3 years. She threw them into the trash and gave away her bible, which was a Christmas gift from me.

And now, she is trapped inside of my classroom, being forced to speak to me by two of her friends.

It was juvenile and a bit awkward, yes. But it worked … sort of. 

Me: Why are you mad at me?

Girl: You know why I am mad at you.

Me: Please tell me in your own words so that I can apologize. 

Girl: No! You know why, and I'm never going to talk with you.

She opened the door and left, with her two friends shaking their heads and saying, “We tried, Bailey.”

Twenty minutes later, the girl returned to my classroom on her own. She sat in a desk and stared at me.

Me: Why are you mad at me?

Girl: You know why!

Me: I want to hear it from your own words. I know that last night I tried to talk with you about your bad behavior, but you got mad. Because I love you, it made me sad to see you doing things that aren't good for you.

Girl: Don't say that! I hate when people tell me they love me when I do something bad. You don't really mean it.

Me: I do mean it! It is because I care about you that I don't like when you do wrong things.

Girl: You don't care about me.

Me: I don't think you really believe that. If I didn't care about you, we wouldn't be having this conversation right now. And if I didn't care, I wouldn't spend every afternoon with you at your casita.

Girl: You don't come to the casita to see me. You come to see the other girls.

Me: I do go to see everyone, yes. But I have chosen to invest specifically into you, because you are special to me.

At that last comment, the corners of her mouth widened into a smile.

Girl: Why?

Me: Because you are a leader.

Girl: (with unbelief in her eye) I'm not a leader.

Me: Yes, you are. When you speak, people listen. When you are positive, so is everyone else, but when you are negative, the others follow.

We continued to speak for several minutes. Then she stopped and thought about what she would say next.

Girl: I think I've decided not to be your friend from this day forward.

I don't know what I expected to come out of her mouth, but that was not it!  I can't say that I was surprised, either. This girl has a history of hurting others with her words, then laughing at the after-effects, as if she herself isn't hurting inside. I chose my next words carefully.

Me: If that is your decision, it will make me sad. But I will never stop being your friend. I do love you, and I will always be here with open arms.

Girl: (confused at why she didn't get an angry reaction) You don't understand. I'm telling you that we won't be friends anymore. I won't talk to you ever again.

Me: Oh, I understand. But I will always be your friend. Even if you don't talk to me, I will still say, “Hello!” everyday. I'll still ask you how you are, even if you don't answer. And I will still be here with my arms open for a hug whenever you want one. I will be sad that you don't see me as your friend, but I will always be your friend. I love you.

Just then, a few students walked into my classroom to ask me a question. While I was speaking with them, she got up and walked out of my classroom.  I guess that is it, I thought. I guess I've lost her.  

The rest of the school day went by, and I didn't see her. The bell rang for the end of classes, and I continued to sit at my desk to finish some work.  But when I looked up, she was once again standing in my doorway. This time, she had a smile on her face.

Girl: I'm sorry.

I smiled, walked over to her, and put my arms around her. At first, she just stood there. Then she hugged me back. I looked down at her.

Me: I forgive you.

We hugged again.

Me: I'm so happy we are still friends!

We both laughed, and she asked me if I would come to her casita later.  I told her yes, and she left.

Over the years, this girl has trusted people who have let her down. She has loved family, friends, missionaries, and week-long volunteers who have left her with a broken promise of return.

As a result, her heart has become callused, indifferent, unfeeling. She has decided that instead of loving others and accepting love from others, she will reject anyone who tries to get close to her. She has decided not to believe that people love her, because they always fail in the end. And what is even more heartbreaking is that she refuses to believe – she can't believe – that there is a God in heaven who loves her and is always fighting for her, always standing with open arms waiting for her to run to him.

Pray for the girl with a callused heart. Bit by bit, I am watching those hard, shielding layers around her begin to soften. I do believe that one day, she will accept that God loves her and wants a relationship with her. And when that day comes, I have told her to let me know.  I'll need to replace the bible she gave away.

Saturday, February 6, 2016


The picture above is of a delicious meal that was made for me last night. What you don't see in this picture is the woman who made this dinner for us. She makes lunch and dinner for us every day, and she is one of the sweetest, most hard-working women that I know.

Two days ago, because of a death in her family, she didn't show up to work. I spent some time last night speaking with her, and as she shared her life challenges with me, my eyes welled up with tears.

This woman is incredible. She is strong. She has gone through trials that I will probably never have to deal with in my life.

Her nephew passed away two days ago, due to drug violence, which made her remember her own son, who passed away a year ago due to gang violence.

“I like coming to work, because I can think of other things,” she told me. “When I go to my house at night, I see the pictures of my son and end up crying.”

At this point, I felt tears running down my face. Do I wipe them away? I wondered. How do I say, “I am so sorry this happened to you” in Spanish?

I wipe my tears away and stay silent, just listening to her.

She continued to tell me that her surviving son (16 years old) misses his brother so much that he goes through depression on the 21st of every month (the day his brother was killed).  She also tells me about her own brother – the son of her father – who she found a week ago in his house, barely alive.

“It was like looking at a skeleton,” she tells me. “He had gotten so sick that he couldn't take care of himself. He hadn't eaten in a week.”

Her brother has an infection in his colon, and since he has no family, his sister (our cook) has taken care of him.

“I took him to a hospital, but it is not a good hospital,” she said. “It is one at the school. They are giving him medicine, and my brother says he feels better because he is not in pain. But what he doesn't know is that the infection has spread to the rest of his body.”

She continued to share her sorrow with me, as I continued to listen and cry.  When our conversation came to an end, I didn't know what to do other than to hug this courageous woman and tell her, “I love you. You are very special to us, and I am praying for you and for your family.”

She said, “Thank you, Bailey, for your support.” Then she grabbed her belongings and walked out of the door, leaving the meal she had made for us on the counter.

Since I had a "skype date" with some friends, I got a to-go plate of the food and walked to the school to use the internet.  When I got to my classroom, I sat down at my desk and opened the box.  What I saw was a perfectly baked pork chop, sweet green beans, beautiful, Southern potato salad, and juicy, red watermelon.  It was a warm dinner that had been made with the most tender care.

I just stared at the plate of food.

Lord? I prayed. This meal was made by a woman whose brother was found starving to death in his house!

The reality of my privilege was thrown into my face at that moment.  Why do I have a plate full of food while so many in this country have none? Why have I grown up so privileged, while others have nothing?

I didn't know what to do but to pray.

For our cook.
For her surviving son.
For her brother.
For her family.

And I thanked the Lord for giving me this perspective and for giving me this plate of warm food.  And I prayed that I can use what I have to bless others, in Jesus' name. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Spiritual Cold

The "Spiritual Cold."

The "Dry Spell."

The "I-Can't-Feel-God" times in our lives. 

Do you know what I am talking about?  It happens to each of us at some point ... ehem ... or many points ... in our walk with Christ.  I have had a Spiritual Cold for a few weeks now.  The time home from the mission field has not been good to me.  But yesterday, my fever broke:

Hello, Lord.  It's me, Bailey.  I feel I should write like that because I have not been faithful in meeting with you.  I have not been drawing near to you, and now I feel distant.

I feel like I can hardly reach you with my voice -- like you are at the opposite end of a long hallway -- and like if you spoke, I would hardly be able to hear.

I want to ask for your forgiveness ... but that seems selfish and undeserved -- because it is undeserved!  I know that in Christ I am already pardoned, but that seems selfish and undeserved too -- because it is

Lord, you know my heart.  You know my dirt and my sin.  I have been selfish with my time.  I haven't sought you.  I haven't held you in your right place in my heart.

Lord, I am sorry.  I don't like this selfish, distant part of me.  But it is always with me, telling me that my God -- the Creator of the world -- can wait.

I bought into the devil's traps, Lord.  Would you help me escape them?  Would you give me back a love for you and a love for your Word and not for the things of this world? 

Lord, help me change. 
-- Yours.  

I wrote that prayer yesterday morning.   And do you know something?  God heard me.  As soon as I started drawing near to him, he drew Himself near to me -- which is how it usually works (see James 4:8).

And today, I find myself in Love with my Lord again -- savoring the truths from his Word, and loving my time in communion with him.

Are you dealing with a Spiritual Cold?  Perhaps, like me, you have walked too far away to hear God's voice.  Perhaps, like me, you have been loving the world and not loving God.  How has that worked for you?

"Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.   Come near to God and he will come near to you. . . Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." -- James 4:7-8,10

Rest assured, my brother, my sister, that God does not stand far off.  He waits for you.  Draw near to him and he will draw near to you.  Go to him and let your fever break.