Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!!!

Hello friends,

One more year of my life has gone by! It’s been a good one. So much better than last year! Last year was a severe physical and emotional battle for me, as most of you may not have heard about. That often tends to stay off of Facebook, as I prefer to share my happy moments online rather than the not so happy ones. But victory has come in almost every one of those areas! Because of that, the year of 2010 has been so much happier for me! And I praise my Daddy in heaven for that; he has been so good to me.

I’ve learned much this year, encountered much this year, played much this year, rested much this year.  God has opened the floodgates of favour on me, and I hardly know what to do with some of it! I’m still learning how to handle favour; but favour’s the key word this year, it seems. And it’s culminating in a mission trip at the beginning of next year to Sierra Leone, Africa, where I will have the opportunity to minister to the President, First Lady, and other officials of the country! (I would love to have prayer support as well as financial support for this trip, if anyone feels led to do so.)

Here in school we were told to write our List of 100 Dreams. It sounds fun and easy, and to one extent it is. But believe me, after writing down 25 dreams, what else do you want to write? I’ve already written down 78; I’m aiming to have a full 100 on my list. The crazy thing is, when you write down those dreams and have them hanging beside your bed on the wall where you continuously see them… things start coming true! Here are the dreams that I’ve had the chance to strike out as DONE from my list, as of this year:

#4: Go to Kenya.
#5: Be the first white person that someone sees.
#29: Show Jesus’ love to a prostitute.
#33: See cancer healed by my command.
#34: See blind eyes open.
#35: Watch cataracts disappear from someone’s eyes.
#43: Have an out-of-body experience.
#45: Do a ministry trip with Joaquin Evans.
#52: Prophesy over Miley Cyrus.
#65: Do a ministry trip to Europe.
#66: Hear angels sing audibly.
#69: See anything in the Spirit realm in the PHYSICAL with my eyes.

So, that’s TWELVE dreams of my 100 Dreams that have already happened the same year that I wrote them down!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you Jesus! Your Daddy wants your dreams to come true too! Start writing them down, so that when they happen, you can feel the pleasure of marking them off!

I want to bless you and encourage you this Christmas/New Year to seek God’s face with all your time, all your heart, soul, and strength. He has secrets he reveals only to those who follow hard after Him. It is his joy to reveal himself to you as your Daddy. It is His delight to encounter you in a way that changes your life. And it’s Jesus’ will to transform you into his likeness. He will take you from glory to glory, it only gets better! And Holy Spirit is wanting to lead you into all truth!

Merry Christmas friends! Blessings, joy, and peace to you!

Love, Crystal.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What a Little $3 gift can do!

On the flight home  from Minnesota, I had the chance to pay for a young lady’s snack. She was sitting behind me, and I overheard her asking the stewardess for food. The stewardess said there was only snacks to buy, no free meals. (This girl had a hard time speaking English, so the stewardess was taking extra care for her).

“You can only pay by credit or debit card,” the stewardess said. “No cash.”

“I have only cash,” said the worried girl. “I will not eat.”

“Oh honey, you’re starving,” said the stewardess. “Listen, I will just pay for you with my card and you can give me cash.” The stewardess explained that this was not actually legal, but she’d do it for her this time because she simply had to eat.

I right away had the urge to pay for her. After all, this was only a $3 snack! I dug out my wallet and found my Visa card. I caught up to the stewardess and held out my card. “Please allow me to pay for the girl sitting behind me, for the snack.”

The stewardess said it was fine, she’d already arranged to pay with her own card and etc.

“No,” I insisted. “I want to pay for her. I want to actually buy her snack for her.”



“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m certain.”

“You are so kind.”

So she took my card and brought the hungry girl a selection of snacks. The stewardess explained to her that I was going to be paying for her snack. She was surprised and wanted to refuse, but I insisted. She seemed to have misunderstood me, for she began pulling out cash from her wallet. She handed me a $10. I said no. “I just want to bless you. You eat.” She accepted, and devoured her snack.

When the flight was almost over, she poked my arm to get my attention.  “Thank you so much! You was like an angel. Kind.”

“No problem it’s my pleasure.” I said.

When we had landed, she touched my shoulder again. In her hand was a new CD. “For you,” she said, smiling gratefully.

I was surprised that she so readily had a gift on her ready to give on such an occasion. I accepted the gift to honour her. Then I noticed that the picture on the cover of the  CD looked very much like her. The name of the artist read LuÍsa Maita. “Is this you?” I asked.

She nodded. “It is mine.”

“Are you LuÍsa?” I asked.

“Yes, I LuÍsa,” she answered. “I wanted to sign, but there’s not time now.”

“My name is Crystal.” We shook hands. She said she’s from Brazil. “Maybe if we meet after getting off the jet,” I said. “If there’s time. If not, I’m so glad to have met you.”

As I walked off the plane, the stewardess thanked me for my kindness. I kept going off the plane, but saw out of the corner of my eye that the stewardess was talking to the other attendants/captain, pointing at me and saying, “That was her.”

In the airport I was on my way to the bathroom when a lady I hadn’t seen before approached me. She said, “Hey, I just wanted to say that that’s a very kind thing you did on the plane, paying for the girl’s food.”

“Oh thank you!” I said. “It was entirely my pleasure, you know?”

“Oh I know it was. I was going to do the same, but then I saw you already got it. So thanks. It was really sweet of you.”

I went with my team to a restaurant in the airport, and there I saw LuÍsa by herself at a table! Seeing my opportunity to get the CD signed, I went over to her. She willingly signed it, now that there was more time. She wrote: “Thank you Crystal. You was an angel with me.” I gave her my email address, and then she had to hurry off to find her next flight.

Ahh… it’s crazy what a TINY little bit of $3 kindness will do to everyone around. It seems to have affected a lot of people. I didn’t try to get any recognition or anything. I just felt compassion for this Brazilian girl who had no means to pay for a little $3 snack when she was very hungry. Lars (my team member) later told me he’d heard LuÍsa tell the man sitting beside her what was going on—she had missed her previous flight and hadn’t been able to buy food before boarding. It had been a terrible day and nothing had gone well today for her. So she was in need of an angel today! God is so good. Kindness is so fun!

After I got home, I looked LuÍsa Maita up online. I discovered she is indeed a Brazilian recording artist who is right now on concert tour in all of North America!!!! She’s touring Canada, USA, and Mexico. She was at the time on her way to San Fransisco for her next concert.  

Sunday, November 28, 2010

An Author's Secret Yearning

How can I be a writer, an author, without baring my spirit?  Being a writer is not possible without opening my heart up to the whole world. I’m allowing the world to look into the most private places of my soul, and I can’t hide what’s in there. What I am on the inside will come out in my writing; the things that make me cry will be broadcasted. The things that make me blush get put out there where I can’t take it back. I guess that being a writer is simply to be ‘an open book.’ When you read what I write, you’ll be reading my spirit. You’ll know my secrets. You will see my wounds and my scars. You will see facets of me that I probably don’t even realize exist. Writing anything that others read is inevitably the same as keeping a private journal that gets uploaded in a public internet blog.

How can I hide? There is no hiding place. I’m vulnerable. If I write, I become vulnerable to every human who can read. Writers can get hurt. Infection can easily set into the wound if the readers don’t understand and respond negatively, or don’t respond at all. What I write is like a precious baby that I’ve conceived, developed in the womb of my spirit, and gave birth to with great labour pains; and yet this very beloved child of mine can easily be ridiculed, stepped on, and despised just because I put it out there for others to see.

But being a writer is maybe also the most rewarding, the most beautiful life to live. My heart may get stepped on and responded to in a very disappointing way; but the human spirit is created with a hint of compassion in it. Surely the human spirit can be swayed by words—be influenced and touched by the writing of another human spirit.

Ahh… I won’t hold back. I keep telling myself it’s okay that my wounds and scars show through. Someone will see my scar, and then they’ll nod saying, “I know exactly how that feels. This happened to me once…” and they’ll recount a tale of their own. Someone will see my wounds and bleeding heart in my writing and they’ll weep with me, feeling each pain as I did as I wrote it. Someone will read of the joy I experienced, and they in turn may end up feeling joy they never felt before.

But it goes deeper than even all that. Maybe someone will read of my breakthrough, and hope will be restored in their own spirit; they’ll get hope that maybe their own breakthrough is coming. Maybe someone will read of my healing, and they will begin to pursue their own healing. Maybe someone will read my love story of falling in love with Jesus, and suddenly the desire will be awakened in their own spirit to pursue that same relationship. Or maybe someone will read of my journey into the heart of my Daddy, God, and they will begin to wonder if they too could have Him as their dad.

So I’ll just write! I’ll stop trying to hide! Just be real... I think most of my readers are real, and they will understand. If they don’t, I’ll just not take it personally. I know who I am, and I won’t let go of my identity. I’ll just relax and enjoy the journey.  There is someone out there who needs to hear what’s in my spirit. I’ll just write without hiding or watering it down.

Also, I’ve decided it’s okay to be sentimental. I once was taught that it was wrong or at least silly to be a sentimentalist—one who writes to evoke emotions for emotion’s sake. But it’s not. I think it’s profound! Emotions are beautiful. If I can cause my reader to cry the way this thought made me cry, then I am powerful and have allowed them to touch a place in their own spirit they may not have been able to access on their own. If I can cause a reader to laugh just because of what I wrote, I am powerful because I just caused them to experience a certain joy I carry that they now get a taste of.

Write. Be vulnerable. Write out the things that make me cry, and the things that make me laugh. Somebody’s spirit will be touched because of it.

Maybe someday someone will write me and tell me how my writing touched them. But maybe they won’t. It doesn’t matter. The shift has happened, whether I know about it or not. God made me powerful like that.

Monday, April 26, 2010

... For the Love of Africa ...

Hello my dear ones,

I know you've waited so long for an update, and I'll tell you why it's taken so long. There are so many details within each day that I struggle between whether I should give you the details that will make you fall in love with Africa too, or if I should consider the fact that some people might just scan over it if it's too long and miss the thrust of what I wanted to say. I decided to just write and see what happens. So it's kinda long, but these are still not all the intimate details i could have shared! If you have questions about a specific day, ask!

On my 19th birthday (march 18) our two week trip began. We flew from San Fransisco, California, for around 10 hours to Amsterdam, Holland (netherlands). We had close to a ten hour layover in Amsterdam which gave us the chance to go out of the airport and visit Fritz & Jacqueline's bookstore/ministry in the center of the city. They minister to the prostitutes in red light district. We ministered to Fritz & Jacqueline and some more people who work with them in this ministry. Some of us, including myself, had the chance to actually go out in the streets and minister to the prostitutes one on one. I got to step inside their window/rooms and talk with them and pray with them. (this is a good one to get more emotional details about!)

In the evening we went back to the airport and flew from Amsterdam to Nairobi, Kenya. From Nairobi we had a 7 hour drive through Kenyan countryside and villages to Bungoma. Bungoma is the city where Global Children's Movement (led by Jennifer Toledo) is located. This is where we were the first week of our mission trip.

And then BAM the very next day we were thrown into the 'mission life'.... we went in groups of two to 8 different churches to preach Sunday morning. I got to go with my leader Andy Mason, which was special. First we taught the children, and then preached at the main service. When we went into the church during worship time and I was thrust into real African worship setting, I couldn't keep myself from crying. This is where i realized full force God has made my dreams come true. This is what I DREAMED about since I was only seven years old - going to Kenya. African worship is beautiful. It's a unique experience you can't get anywhere else... and cd's would not capture the feeling of how it feels to be inside a building that's almost shaking with the intensity of their pure worship. They even started dancing for us! When the time to preach came, I spoke about how when God created you, he created dreams in your heart. And you need to pursue them, because your dreams are God's dreams. My message really spoke to the pastor's wife, who came and hugged/thanked me after the service. 

After church, we got 4 children from each church our team had been to, to come over for lunch and afternoon. We fed them, and then taught them that they are princes and princesses in God's kingdom. Then we taught/demonstrated how to heal the sick and raise the dead. We took all these newly taught children of God and went to the local hospital in the city to pray. Many people got healed. One man who was paralized from the neck all the way down his body from a spinal injury, by the end he was sitting up and absolutely filled with joy! There were so many testimonies that came out of these few hours of praying in the hospital!

On Monday was street boys day. They were supposed to come at 10, but the pastors picking them up were having trouble with convincing the government that they could come to our mission base. People warned us not to do this event with the street boys, as they're dangerous and just not worth the risk. How wrong they were! While we waited all morning, we had a worship service and declared freedom in the land. We also felt led to take communion together. However, we didn't have wine, juice, or bread in the house. So we each took our water bottles and used that as the wine, and Joylyn (our leader from the Kenya side) got out a homemade tortilla which we broke and passed around the circle. 

We all really felt that all this was in preparation for the boys.... because when the boys came there was absolutely NO problem with them. We had 40 boys that were picked up from the streets of Bungoma. In the beginning we had a teaching session with them. We performed a drama that really touched them, a drama introducing Jesus as the friend who trades their anger for peace, their sadness for joy, their fear for love. Annabelle asked all who wanted to meet Jesus and give their life to him to stand up. Some stood immediately. One by one, more stood up until almost everyone was standing. I could tell by the seriousness on their faces that they were comprehending. We led them in a prayer of accepting Jesus as their saviour, and receiving the Holy Spirit. We had them repeat after us that Jesus was always with them... Jesus saw them in each situation and they could turn to him for help, etc. And then we just went around the boys, laying our hands on their heads, praying blessing and protection for them. It was a very real, touching moment for all of us and all of them. These boys have gone through and still go through a lot more than any of you or I ever have. I'll talk about some of these details more on the Wednesday update.

Afterward, we had lunch, and games and activities. I played soccer with them! I felt like I was "speaking their love language" just by my playing with them for hours.

On Tuesday morning we went to the hospital again, although this time it was just us, not the kids.

Tuesday morning and afternoon we had a pastors conference (there was supposed to be 75 pastors, but only around 25 to 30 showed up due to another pastors event in the city). It was so good connecting with pastors of Bungoma and just ministering to them, refreshing them, and teaching them how to prophesy and things like that. They really learned well. We had good practice in praying for healing when one of the pastor's brothers came in who'd been in an accident last night. He was limping because he'd hurt his leg, and couldn't move his right arm, and was depressed. When we got finished praying, he was able to walk without limping, he could bend his arm up and down AND wiggle his fingers and clasp a handshake. AND.... he said his heart felt light and joyful... no more feeling depressed! Glory to Jesus! Every person we prayed for at this meeting got healed (about ten people or so)

Wednesday was our day off, to refresh and relax before heading to uncivilized territory-- the Turkana Desert. We spent this day out in Bungoma finding an internet cafe, shopping a little, and eating at a nice restaurant. This day was in particular hard for me, because as we walked along the street, instantly many of the street boys we had been with found us. Some of them still wore their burger king crowns that we'd crowned them with, and were still wearing their new shirts we gave each of them. That was touching. I had hoped these precious things they'd received would not get stolen from them. It was so hard sitting in the restaurant where no street boys were allowed into. As I got my food from the table near the open door, I could the gaze of the hungry boys as they saw what I took and didn't take from the buffet. And then I sat down, and I sat where they were fully in my view if I looked up. As I ate my food, they looked and kept looking. But, not being able to fill their own hungry stomachs, they slipped out their glue bottles and took a loooong deep whiff of it. That's their drug. They carry nearly empty glue bottles behind their shirt or behind their sleeves and sniff it because it drugs down their feelings of hunger and cold and exhaustion. They hide it behind their shirts because most white people get mad at them for doing this and try taking their bottle away. One of my friends, Sunneye, bought a mango for herself in the market. Out in the market, the boys were a flock around us, and one of them desperately wanted her mango. He wanted it so badly he bit into it through the plastic bag, so Sunneye just gave it to him. And then ALLLLLL the boys wanted it and fought for it. The mostly uneaten mango soon lay trampled on the dirt street.

On Thursday the second week of our mission began. We flew to Turkana by small jet. When we arrived, the 'airport' was merely a little roof under which we ran for cover from the rain when we landed. The runway itself was bumpy and it was muddy all around. Welcome to Turkana. 

Every day in Turkana was a unique adventure, but the worst of it was our first immediate experience. There was a river we had to cross, and there was no bridge. Twenty minutes before we got here, there had been no water pouring over this road, and now there was a strong current that was like knee to mid-thigh deep, flowing over the road. It was a pretty wide river. Waiting another ten minutes would have completely made it impossible to cross so we had to act fast. The van's engine had to be turned off so the water wouldn't fry the motor, so the village boys had to push us across the river (we couldn't help because the weight in the van was what kept us from washing into the river). It was slow but steady going until we got closer to the middle, where it was the deepest and strongest current. The boys stopped pushing and just maintained our position a while as they bolstered up their strength to get us through the worst part. We were all praying hard and calling on Jesus for strength and that we'd get across without being washed into the river. When the boys began pushing us again, we immediately hit the strong current, and the van aimed for the edge! I had the window seat on the side where I could see how close the van was getting to the edge of the road, and it was pretty much the scariest moment of my life! My heart pounding  300 km/p/h, I was like "Jesus! Jesus! Help us Jesus!" The van was faster moving toward being washed into the river than it was moving forward for a while! Somehow by God's grace, the boys were able to keep us from washing away (we got about 3 ft from the 'waterfall at the worst point and we had started like 8 to 12 ft away) and we got across safely! Pastor Wilson, our Turkanan connection and pastor, said he'd never crossed such a dangerous river before and he said he'd never try this again! So if even the Kenyans say this, then it's not just the inexperience of white people. haha.

On that first day we settled into our guesthouse, where we were surprised to find two showers after all! And even electricity. That was not what we'd expected - we all expected to have to take baths with wet wipes, so this was luxury. Then we went to the IDP Camp (Internal Displaced People... people from within Kenya who no longer have homes due to tribal wars and fires). We did the drama for them, and then we prayed for healing individually. We also had a medical station where we cleaned wounds, checked their heartbeats, gave certain medication for certain things, etc. It was really cool how some people got healed before getting to the medical station, others got their medication there, etc. But prayer they all got. Almost every woman in Turkana wants prayer for her head/forehead, back, and chest/collarbone because that whole bone system in them is in pain from carrying heavy loads on their heads their entire life, starting at around age 7. Many that I prayed for said that this pain either lessened or completely disappeared. I really enjoy praying for Turkanans... they receive so willingly, because getting healed really is their only option because they can't afford the hospital. 

Friday was meant to be a bush drop day, but we were unable to get to the villages where Pastor Wilson had planned to take us because of the rain and not being able to cross another river. So he took us to another village closer to Kakuma (which is the name of the little town where our guest house was). This village was 20 km into the desert past the IDP camp. Story of this village: Pastor village came there, and prayed for healing for the witch doctor. When the witch doctor got healed, he gave his life to Jesus! As a result, the entire village gave their lives to Jesus! So Pastor Wilson built a church there, a little mud building with a dirt floor.

When we arrived at this church we heard the clapping and cheering even before we had parked! We parked quite a distance from the church (like 200 yards or so), but as soon as we came to a stop, the mud hut erupted in loud African singing and dancing! The mud building had basically no windows, so we still coudn't really see anything. But as we got closer, we could see into the door how they were dancing and singing in celebration of our arrival and worshiping Jesus. My heart almost stopped when I stepped into the door. This place was literallyvibrating with their worship. Everyone was dancing/jumping. They were all singing at the TOP of their lungs and clapping their hands. They were smiling and tears ran down some of their faces. They are soooo in love with Jesus! And they know how to honour Him! It was in this moment once again where I got emotional about God fulfilling my 13 years of dreaming about coming to Kenya one day and worshiping with the Kenyan bride of Christ. One of the most beautiful things I've experienced... And you see, these weren't just black Kenyans... these were the most traditional, tribal people... many of them only wearing a scarf tied around their body... the women wearing hundreds of colourful beaded necklaces up their neck, barefoot, etc... (you can look at my pictures on facebook)

Our time with this precious church was however cut short when we saw a dark blue sheet of rain coming our way across the desert! Quickly we ran to the vans and brought them the food we had brought, and then we jumped into the two vans and started for home. My van load of people had a head start, but the minute we began driving it was already pouring! We kept driving for almost ten minutes, just swerving and hydroplaning over a thick sheet of water on the red clay desert. The second van, however, didn't even get that far. Their vehicle had to be push-started and it was too stuck in the mud to push-start! When they did get it started, they immediately got stuck again, so they had to walk the entire way home. MY van however, got further because we hydroplaned at full speed for a while. But when our driver slowed down, we right away sank into the mud, stuck. That was the start of hours of pushing the van, driving a bit, and then pushing it another twenty minutes. In the midst of all our pushing the van through slick, deep, clay mud, some tribal children from nearby villages curiously joined us. It must have been exciting watching these mzungus (white people) get dirty with their mud! (Some of these children were completely naked.) African children, whether in Bungoma or in Turkana or out in the villages, they all LOVE the camera! Which is really nice because that's better than having to hide the camera like we have to do from the adults. The adults in Turkana believe that taking photos of them captures their spirit (not the saved ones, they've been freed from this fear). At last, we gave up pushing the van and walked the rest of the way home (2 more km). Pastor Wilson had called a rescue vehicle an hour or so ago, and when we were almost to the IDP camp, the vehicle came. So 18 people fit onto that little Land Rover! Many crammed inside, a bunch on the roof, and several hanging from the back. haha. We were covered in red mud from head to toe, and cleaning up took the entire evening, as this very evening the showers and sinks produced no water!

On Saturday we did a more normal/planned bush drop. We went to a village where we split into smaller groups and went hut-to-hut handing out food and praying for the families. There were almost no men in the village I was in, because the men are out working, either herding goats or working in town. Their homes consisted of three small mud/straw huts. One hut is the sleeping quarters for mom n dad, one hut without a roof is like the kitchen or living area, and the third hut I think is the children's bedroom. The three huts form a semicircle, and in the centre is a fire pit. The women sit on the ground to cook. The first home we got to was the leader of the village. Her husband, too was out to work. She was an old woman with the hundreds of beaded necklaces (the more they have the higher value or important they are, which raises the dowry price). I also met a girl here who got saved in a village hours away, at the age of 8. Her parents were angry about her decision and beat her up daily for it. When she prayed for sick animals, they always got well, so the villagers would always bring their sick or dying animals and they would become well. Then they started bringing her their sick children and when she prayed for them, same results. So at age 13-16 she began a church. Her parents/the tribal leaders were angry about this so they sent her to a village far far away from home... which was this place where I was. She is now 25-26 years old (she doesn't know for sure)

The second home we went to, there was another very very old woman who was very blind with cataracts and could only make out shapes (see light and dark). When she said yes we could pray for her, she sat down on the stoney, thorny ground. I sat down with her, and held her hand and placed one of my hands over her eyes. I declared clarity into her eyes. I declared that she would be able to watch her grandchildren grow up and see the smiles on their faces. I declared that she would see the grass grow in this desert as the rains came to heal the land. When I finished praying, she looked up. Now, for the first time she was able to focus on my eyes! I could feel how now she was seeing me, which she had not before! She looked down at our clasped hands. When the translater asked, "what are you seeing" she replied, "She's white!" She looked back up into my eyes and gazed at me, leaning closer as if completely in awe at seeing a white person's face. Then she gazed down at our clasped hands again. Back and forth like that. It was a very precious moment for me, and I have a picture of it on Facebook. I will never forgot that moment!

On Sunday we split up into groups again to preach at three different churches. Andy (my leader) and I went to the Refugee Camp new church plant. This refugee camp has 70,000 people from all over Africa; mainly Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, and Uganda. The church was small, a new plant, but it was really fun preaching to them. Once again, my message to them was to keep dreaming, because God wants to fulfill their dreams! Imagine what that does in the heart of a refugee who has completely given up on their dreams! That thought made me come alive as I spoke. Afterward, by Andy's 'command' I pulled out three people from the audience to prophesy over from the pulpit. That was scary because when I picked them out I had basically NO idea yet what I would say. The first one happened to be the pastor's wife of this church. The second one was the one I remember the most. She was an elderly lady named Esther, and I told her she was like the biblical Esther who would save her people and be super-important in bringing freedom to the refugees. The third one was the pastor's daughter who was maybe 7 years old. She's going to be known in her generation as one who is full of abundant life, and her children will not have to go through the very hard things that she has gone through. Her life will be one of hope and refreshing, and she is the start of a new generation who will not have to suffer the way she did. 

In the afternoon on Sunday we went to the small Turkanan hospital in Kakuma to pray. Afterward was pretty fun running up the hill to the HUGE cement water tank. We danced on top and attracted villager from north, south, east and west to gather at the bottom to watch! Was great!

Very early Monday (like 5 am) we left Turkana to wait at the river to cross again. After waiting an hour or two, we decided that this isn't going to work, so we walked across! The boys carried our luggage across and then came  back to escort us girls across. Walking felt a whole lot safer actually than driving that first time. In the river was an upside down car from last night, they'd washed over and 2 people died. But God is good and we were safe!

We flew to Nairobi. We stayed there that night, and the next day we went on a safari and went shopping at the Masai Market. And then we from back to Amsterdam, to San Fransisco!!!! We arrived back in Redding on Wednesday. 

Our trip was fun, adventurous, challenging, and life-changing! It was always give give give receive. Give give give give some more, and then receive. Now that I'm back I have to learn to adjust to not constantly be giving out, and actually relax, receive, and just sit and enjoy life in a country that's not as warm, loving, or relational. I definitely plan to go back!!!!! After 13 years of dreaming of going to Kenya, one short little two week trip to Kenya is not the fulfillment, but the start of a dream come true for me.

Thank you SOOO much for keeping me and my team in your prayers. I have really appreciated it, and I've told my team out there when we needed to hear it, that I have people praying every day of my trip! I often thought of the fact, today someone is praying for me. So thank you. I needed it. My testimonies are now your testimonies, because you took part in making my trip successful. 

Please see my pictures of the trip (I was the official photographer) on FaceBook. The albums are called: Getting There, Bungoma, Street Boys Day, Turkana, and Safari/Nairobi.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Time for Fresh Flames....

January 1, 2010       Friday        12:16 AM
Happy New Year!
January 1…… oh it sounds so fresh and new. And 2010—such a strange sound on the tongue!
The evening of December 31, 2009 our family (minus Daddy, he’s on ministry trip to Toronto) watched the movie Faith Like Potatoes. We finished about ten to midnight. I ran upstairs, put on my shoes and jacket and scarf.
I brought in the new year outside on my veranda in the dripping rain, writing the names of my characters of Tibilet on my arm, watching fireworks a quarter mile away, and cuddling my Bible under my arm.
Lately I’ve really felt a longing for my writing again, sort of the way I did near the end of the summer when I wanted so much to write but simply couldn’t before something changed either in me or my circumstances. I haven’t written again for quite some time. But not so much because of a reason like I had during the summer—rather because I’ve spent so much time on other things. Things like school. Adoria. FaceBook. Adoria. School. Facebook. BSSM parties. Etc.
You see, writing—it’s a passion of my heart. MY heart. I have no accountability. No one that’s really prodding me forward in it. Yes, my parents do very much support me in writing. I know my book writing teacher Aaron McMahon is waiting to read it (he said so). Clarice likes it and Dylana does, and countless friends of mine have said they want a copy when I publish it. But there’s nobody immediate who prods me and asks me every day, or even every week, when I will finish. When will I finish? How much did I write today? Or this week? How close to publishing am I? But the other things—school, Adoria, BSSM parties, Facebook—those are real people, real entities who want me, ask for my time, will notice my absence if I drop it. Who has noticed my absence in writing? No one. Only me and God, and my beautiful people of Tibilet who only exist in my imagination. In my spirit, at best.
I’ve ony two more chapters left to write of my first book in the series of two. I’ve already chosen a model for my book cover. I’ve even had offers from people to do my book cover design/layout. I’m only THIS far from the finish line. But those other priorities, commitments, assignments have dragged my attention away from my Tibilet. I’ve felt grieved, but I didn’t know how to fix it. Because my commitment to my people in Tibilet has been that I only write when I can focus my attention on them—not when my mind is at mostly somewhere else, chatting with a friend on Facebook, attending a BSSM party, or making supper downstairs. Or even designing a new piece for Adoria. I have to have at least a full one or two hours to be able to write with my mind focused enough to produce a meaningful story. Otherwise I could not do justice to my Tibilet. My Tibiletans deserve my full attention.
But you know how a passion inside you does. A calling, a preset destiny. It burns in there. The flame may have gone down for a few months. But the coals are alive. Waiting for the flame to be tended to again, nurtured back to the roaring flame it once was.
But I have an outside force that is on my side. I do have one. There is a reason why the coals do not, will not die.  The Holy Spirit. He hovers over the dark places, he hovers over the area that have become formless and void. He hovers there and keeps the coals alive until the moment shall come when I break through and pick up the pen once more. There is a cycle that has brought me to this point where I am right now, writing with a pen the names of Tibilet on my arm. The cycle sees the Holy Spirit hover over my void spot. My spirit within me leaps a little, and the coals get hotter. The Holy Spirit sees my spirit become alive to the feeling of that old flame, and so He breathes on that coal. At this point that vague feeling turns to a longing. I want to write. I want the passion back. I tell you, a taste of that former first love leaves you ravenous for the original thing. The Holy Spirit stirs the coals. At this point my spirit within me bursts with desire and yearning to fulfill the call inside me. “Give me again the grace to write!” I cry.
And at that point, the fire is rekindled. Oh yes, softly at first. It is gentle and pale in colour. But it is there, and it’s alive in my spirit. It is so light that all it is, is dreaming a little more of it every day. I open the folder almost daily to look at how much I’ve written. Soon I shall write again. I can feel that tiny little flame. Only a moment longer and it shall become a sturdy, crackling blaze that’ll have me finishing the book .
I have felt God telling me that whatever I set my hand to do, that he will give the grace for to prosper in that thing. I have felt torn between Adoria jewellery and my writing and creating my online business. I really do want to write, no matter what else I do.
So tonight I felt like God said he would provide an extra measure of grace for the thing that I choose to do a prophetic act on midnight. And that’s why I wrote the names of my Tibiletan people on my left arm and inside my palm, with a black pen as it struck midnight.
God said, “Crystal, I will give you the grace to do whatever you choose to do. If you choose to give yourself to Adoria and your jewellery line, I will prosper you in that. If you choose to write, I will be the one to breathe life in the books that people will want to read. If you choose to do both, I will give you the grace to do both. You can do both. Not by a stretch—you’ll have full grace to do both IF you keep your focus on me. If your perspective is in the right place, the grace will be there naturally.”
I want this year to be a year of soaring to new heights, resting in him, meditating on his word. And in the same while, be productive in my writing and my Adoria commitments. Because I will have my perspective in place. By the grace of God, I will. So God help me.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Update from Redding

Hello my wonderful friends and family in distant lands,

Once again we have flipped over another page of the calendar. I find it astonishing how time flies. This year is going by so much faster than last year did. Let me tell you, there’s something about attending a school of supernatural ministry that somehow seems to speed up time in comparison to lazying through grade twelve homeschooling (last year)! I love it though; it’s just scary and exciting at the same time.

Every time I send home an update from here (which I apologize has been only two or three times so far), I feel like I still have not captured the essence of what is happening out here. So I  figured that this time I will try to update you on what REALLY is going on here. If THAT is even possible.

There’s something about the atmosphere that one can’t easily put into words. There’s so much churning, changing, winding, and resetting in my mindset—and most of it has nothing to do with certain events happening here, but rather just being nonstop exposed to the culture out here.

There’s several things that come to mind when I think of what it is about the culture here that is changing my life like this. Here at Bethel, we have even named the different aspects because everyone knows about it: the culture of honour, the grace culture, and of course the culture for the supernatural (English experts, I know that’s not ‘parallel’ but those are the common names given to those parts of culture). Each is extremely important for revival and keeping fresh with what the Holy Spirit is doing inside and outside the church.

The culture of honour here is possibly one of the most important in the atmosphere. Without honour, no move of God can last very long. We are taught right from the start that we are an honourable people, and therefore we honour those to whom honour is due. There are leaders who had spent decades seeking the Lord’s face and receiving revelation, giving their lives to become intimate with God, and opening the way for the rest of us to follow. They deserve our honour. Not only must we honour those in authority over us, but also the people around us. See, I am an honourable person, because in Christ I am royalty. And because I am honourable, I honour other people. Not because they deserve it, but because I deserve it. It actually dishonours me when I am dishonourable to my fellow students or less fortunate people.

A large part of being a part of a culture of honour is pulling out the gold from a person’s heart. Nobody needs to hear about the dirt in their life. They KNOW it’s there without you telling them. Instead, we learn to draw out the beauty God has put inside. For example, when we prophecy over someone, and we sense  anger has taken hold of this person, we wouldn’t say that. We ask the Lord what he wants to say in response to this. So instead of saying, “You are struggling with anger and God just wants you to know that until you get rid of it, you won’t receive breakthrough in your leadership”; we say something like, “God just wants to fill you with His love right now. He has placed in you a passion that, when yielded to the Holy Spirit, is your strength to lead people with love. You are an amazing leader. You have the fire inside you that it takes to lead a generation to following the move of the Spirit. You are also a carrier of peace and joy, something that will draw the people to you because they feel so joyful and peaceful around you.” Guess how this person would feel? Suddenly they realize the good that God has placed in them. This is highly likely something they’ve never heard about before. Me, a leader? Peace and joy carrier? Lead a generation? And they start believing it. It clicks with their heart, because it really IS the truth, the truth of heaven. The desire to be angry or take revenge begins dissipating because love feels so much better than that heavy baggage of anger. God starts working in their heart. You know, according to God’s Word, it is the goodness of God that leads men to repentance.

The grace culture is a beautiful thing. It really runs right along with the culture of honour. Grace. God loves grace. We are no longer under the old Covenant, but under the new. Now we walk according to the Spirit, and not according to the letter of the law. This is not a permission slip to sin. In fact, the expectations are much higher under grace than even under the law! The law said, “Don’t’ murder.” But grace says, “If you hate a person, you’ve already committed murder.” The said, “Don’t commit adultery.” But grace says, “If you so much as look at a woman with lust in your eyes, you’ve already committed adultery.” But the beautiful thing is that by the grace of God, He’s given us the Holy Spirit who guides us. He empowers us to overcome temptation. And whenever we have made a mistake or sinned, God is not there with a big stick ready to strike us over. Instead, he extends his grace to us and forgives, the instant that we turn our heart back to him. It is not our place to judge the hearts of other people. We are to give grace the way God gives grace. Jesus was the perfect example. Did he not extend grace to whoever he passed? Instead of condemning the adulterous woman to be stoned to death, he looked her in the eye and said, “Go and sin no more.” I can imagine her life was never the same after that. Somebody believed in her enough to give her a second chance in a situation where she should have been killed instantly by stoning.

Lastly, there’s the culture of the supernatural that Bethel has cultivated for years and years now. There is a general air of expectancy here. We expect the miracle to happen. We expect that God is going to do something amazing today. We are certain that Jesus is the same today as He was yesterday, and will be forever. It pays off having this faith, you know. There is an open heaven here that’s been created with a mix of faith, honour, grace, and testimonies. With open heaven, we mean that literally. Heaven is open over us, pouring out blessing after miracle after testimony! It often does not even take a literal prayer for diseases to be healed. Cultivating a soil where miracles happen on regular basis takes a LOT of dedication and patience. Some people have to pray 100 times for deaf ears before the deaf start to get healed by their prayers. But there’s a certain atmosphere at Bethel that has already received that breakthrough due to our leaders’ decades of dedication. Claiming the power of testimonies that God wants to do it again, is as powerful as prayer for a miracle even! Did you know that the word testimony comes from a Greek word that means “do it again”? So if you declare a testimony of what God has done, that releases the power of God to have it happen again!

Again, breaking down what Bethel’s culture is really like, is quite a monumental task. I could rewrite this email fifty times and each time I could go into greater detail, say it a better way, and think of other important aspects. But these three unique characteristics are what most of us feel to be the most defining for Bethel.

So… that is the thing that’s molding me out here. Constant exposure to the Bethel culture. I love it. It’s challenging at times, but such a good challenge!

Now for those of you who prefer to hear actual ‘day to day’ type updates, I’ll satisfy your curiosity a little bit as well.  In October our family celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving by inviting over our family’s great friends, a Texan couple Jeff & Julie Brown (I’ve talked about them before, I think). But then of course, along came American Thanksgiving which gave us a one week break. Many students went home for the break, but we stayed here.

We’ve had one week of school so far after Thanksgiving, and now there’s only two more weeks to go and then we have a three week Christmas break!

It’s crazy how time flies! I find it almost unbelievable that our time here is basically one third up. Last year, by Christmas it felt like we’d been here for a year. Now it feels like a mere one or two months, and yet it’s already four months that we’ve been here since summer.

We’ve been blessed with having Canadian visitors here for a weekend—Jake & Annie Wiebe were here three or four weeks ago. And soon we get some more visitors! My mom’s brother and sister, Wilmer and Florence, are coming here for a week, right before Christmas! It’ll be so good having family here from home!

In January I am anticipating seeing Clara, who is in Toronto at a similar ministry training school, as she’s coming to Oroville, California. That’s a 1 hour and 45 minute drive from Redding, where we live. Yaya for best friends from home coming to visit! J

Right now my mom is in Rwanda, Africa, on a ministry trip with the prophetic art team. I am really excited for what they are doing out there. Rwanda has lost its very own drumbeat due to the intense suffering they’ve gone through. Some years ago, there was a genocide that lasted a hundred days in which everyone was killing everyone. MORE than one tenth of Rwanda’s population are orphans. Everyone in Kenya has loved ones who were killed, and everyone has loved ones who killed others. The ministry team is working with these orphans, using the arts to help open their hearts so they can experience inner healing. Most of these orphans have never yet opened up and told anyone about the tragic, horrific things they’ve witnessed. So that is what my mom is a part of right now. My mom has written us one email already from Rwanda. She says it’s REALLY intense. There was one night where no one in the entire team had slept. On Sunday my mom preached at a church, and she said she had done amazing! J

So while my mom is gone we older girls (myself, Clarice, and Dylana) take turns getting up at 6:55 AM each morning to get breakfast and lunch ready for the school babies.  So far it’s gone well, and I’m quite sure we’ll continue to survive and maybe even thrive till my mom gets back! Heheh.

I cannot close this entry without sharing at least one testimony. And this time it’s my own! YAY! Jesus said, “Go heal the sick.” So sometimes you just gotta be brave and do it. I was on outreach, and a ten year old girl named Shyanne was complaining about her hip hurting really badly whenever she walked or did anything. At this point I wasn’t there yet, but another first year student, Sam, prayed for her. Nothing happened, so Sam called me over to come help pray. I prayed with Sam, and Shyenne said it was better. But when she started walking on it, she groaned that it was hurting again. By this time Sam went to tend to another child, so it was up to me to keep pressing for healing. I prayed for Shyanne again. She walked and was delighted to tell me it was completely fine! So she decided to try doing a cartwheel, as that’s what had put her hip in pain. But when she did her cartwheel, her hip instantly was in pain again! So I prayed for her again. She did another cartwheel. It was better, but not completely gone. I prayed AGAIN. And this time, when she did cartwheels, there was no more pain! She went on through the rest of our time there without pain in her hip! Praise Jesus! Later, she slipped and hurt her thigh. She came to me, whining and rubbing her thigh where she’d hurt it. I looked at it and said, “Aw, should I pray for it too?” Before she even thought to say yes, she realized the pain was no longer there! Haha! Sometimes you just don’t even need to pray and God heals you!

All right. This update is by far long enough. It might take you a week to read… haha. In any case, I love you all! And I would love to hear back from you and hear what’s going on with you wherever you are! Blessings to you!

All the way from California….
       ~Crystal Dueck~

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Update about Life in California

Hey everyone!

God is doing so much stuff! I don't even know where to begin! Because it's been so long since I've written, there would be so much to update. But I'll just start rambling on about the more recent stuff, whatever comes to my mind.

First in my mind right now is my mission trip. Everyone in Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry is required to take a mission trip in order to graduate. So everyone has to apply for their top five choices, and then the mission trip leaders hand-select the team they want to take on their trip. Last year, my parents were sorely disappointed, as they did not get ANY of their five choices, in fact, they got the trip they had been Hoping they wouldn't get. So I was somewhat anxious as to whether I would get a trip of my choice. It was kind of one of those things where you KNOW God sees the desires of your heart and He could totally let you go to your preferred place, but you also know that hundreds of people out the 1000+ people here will not get their choice trip. And that could easily be me, as well as any of them.

Well, about a week or ago I talked to a girl who already knew she was going to Siberia, Russia. And her friend had already gotten an email that she'd been accepted to go to Mozambique Iris (Heidi Baker's ministry). Well, Mozambique was one of my highest choices (#2), so my heart kind of sank, knowing I'd obviously not been accepted for that trip. I went home thinking, I hope I won't be disappointed. But if I am, I'll try to still be happy and find God's will in that. So I went home, and basically did my "nightly rounds" in checking my facebook and my email. I found an odd looking email titled "BSSM Recommendation." Hmm. Sounded weird to me, like why would they recommend me and to whom? Well, I was quite the shocked girl when I read the first sentance of the email...!!!!!!!! "Hi Crystal... Congratulations, Im delighted to have you as part of the team to Kenya (Bungoma)!"

Kenya has been in the dreams of my heart since I was in first grade. So although it was the third choice on my application (Thailand was first, Mozambique second), Kenya has always been the first choice of my heart! We will fly to western Kenya first. There we'll partner with the Global Children's Movement and minister in churches, hospitals, businesses, police stations and the streets of the city of Bungoma. Then we will fly to northern Kenya to release God's Kingdom in a multi-ntaional refugee camp and also to the remote and mostly unreached Turkana tribe. The Turkana tribe is one of two tribes in all of Kenya that has not really been touched by western civilization, to my understanding. I can't wait to see what happens when a "despised" people group experiences becoming children of the living God! 

This trip happens to be right over my 19th birthday. March 17-30. And my birthday is the 19th. It's kind of interesting where I've spent my birthdays the last few years. My fifteenth birthday is the last birthday I've had at home in Canada. For my 16th, I was in Argentina. For my 17, I was in Belize. For my 18, in California. And now for my 19th, I'll be in Kenya! Wonder where I'll be next year! hahaha

Talking about mission trips, my parents are going to Israel. And Clarice, who is living with us, got her first choice as well: the Philippines. 

Wow this email is already so long and all I've talked about is mission trips!

We have started outreach time already. I do Sidewalk Sunday School, and it happens every Thursday. What we've done the last two weeks is just walk around knocking door to door, meeting the parents and inviting them to send their kids outside to play and hang out with us. Next week we will begin the real thing, having somewhat of a Sunday School program and teaching them about God and how much God loves them and how important they are. the first time, only a few kids showed up. But that was still fun. We basically just stood/sat around and chatted with them. One of the leaders, Oskar (from Iceland) found out the one of the boys' knee had been hurt in an accident and it had been in pain for a year. So Oskar prayed for the knee, and it got better! The boy began bending it around, surprised that he could kneel on the ground without pain! The boy beside him said that he'd also had some kind of accident, and now he had staples in his ankle and couldn't really run or bend his ankle as a result. At first this boy (Billy) didn't want prayer, but finally agreed. Oskar prayed, and Billy's ankle started crackling! He freaked out. Part of what freaked him out so much was that he could feel the Holy Spirit's presence and he's never felt that before. Well, Billy started bending his ankle around, rotating it. Then he started jumping on it! He exclaimed, "I've been through a haunted house and this is scarier!" People on the street who have no real experience with the true God usually have no idea how to express themselves when they do come in contact with God. Kris (the other boy who got healed) said, "Billy, you should try running on it!" So Billy took off running around the block on the sidewalk! So I would say that was a great first day of outreach. 

I'm learning so much out here. A very big emphasis is God's love and our identity. We have to realize that God made us amazing. He created me amazing, and if I don't be who I am made to be, then I am robbing the world of seeing one side of God that only I can represent! I'm also really experiencing more of the joy that the Holy Spirit gives. Have you ever cried in God's presence, just because the presence of God somehow touches you so deeply? Well, have you ever thought of it that it is also possibly to laugh in the same way? Sometimes the Holy Spirit touches a deep place in my heart that I can't help but begin laughing. And it's a deep laugh that comes from way deep down. It feels so good. The joy of the Lord is my STRENGTH, not a weakness. 

Another very huge thing we're learning here is the power of testimonies. If God does something for a person, and that person retells the story, that releases for the same thing to happen again. In fact one of the meanings of the word testimony in the Bible is "to return, repeat, go about, do again." And remember how much power words have? God spoke and created the universe. Life and death are in the power of the tongue. So the things we declare are filled with power. So imagine this: when you speak a testimony of what God has done in your life, you are declaring a thing that has the power to "repeat" or "do again"!!!!! This has been proven numerous times. For example, Bill Johnson (our senior pastor) once prayed for a child who had club feet (toes curled up and the feet awkwardly curved inward making it very difficult to walk) This was a 3 or 4 year old boy who had never been able to run and play because of her feet. As Bill prayed, her feet became straight! A little girl, the boy's friend, exclaimed, "Run, Timmy Run!!" So Timmy took off running around the inside of the church, for the first time in his life. Imagine the joyful tears of his mother who had only dreamed of how it would be if her child could be normal enough to play games like normal children! I cry each time Bill Johnson tells us this beautiful story. Well anyway, a few months later, Pastor Bill tells this testimony in church. Well, sitting in church is another mother whose 5 year old daughter also has club feet. Knowing the power of testimony, she silently says in her heart, "I receive that testimony for my daughter, may she be healed." After the church service when this mother goes to pick up her daughter from Children's Church, her daughter runs into her arms, her feet completely straight! And then, another few months or so later, Pastor Bill was preaching in church about the power of testimony and he used the example of the girl's feet being healed as a result of this mother claiming the testimony for her own child after hearing about the boy whose feet were healed. This time, another mother was listening to this message being preached via the podcast a few days later. She had an older daughter (I think 10 years old or so). This mother was so encouraged, she thought she would try it on her daughter. So she called her daughter, and as her daughter walked toward her the mother watched her feet slowly straighten! By the time she reach her, the feet were completely straight!

God is so good. He is ALWAYS in a good mood! He loves to bless his children, love his children, heal his children, and surprise his children. If earthly fathers know how to give their children good gifts, how much more will our heavenly Father give us good gifts? He is the same today as he was yesterday, and will be forever! I praise God that I am alive at this time in world history - it's an exciting time to be alive! 

All right, I'll leave it at that for now. Again, I love to hear your feedback to these updates. It's encouraging to read your responses, and I love to stay in contact in a two-way conversation, not just having it one-sided. 

Have a great evening!

.....Heavenly dreams....