Thursday, May 10, 2012

My mom...

My mom, she lives far away… at least three flights to get from here to there.  Well, I live far away too.  Each of us now living thousands of miles away (in different directions) from the three bedroom house at the end of the cul-de-sac where she and dad raised me and my three sisters and our dogs and cat and bird and horse and rabbits and goldfish.  Once mom accidentally killed our little goldfish… he was seven years old.  Who knew goldfish could live to be seven? …or that they didn’t like to have real plants in their tank for that matter?  Well, he would have died eventually, and we got over it.  No mom is perfect, but if killing a goldfish is the biggest mistake I can ever remember my mother making… I’d say she comes pretty darn close to that mark of perfection.

We learned a lot from our mom, my sisters and I.  We learned to cook and bake and vacuum and dust and pull weeds and pick boysenberries.  We learned math and spelling and penmanship and science.  We learned to sew and cross-stitch and make quilts. We learned to go to church each Sunday and to get involved and to take care of each other.  We learned to penny-pinch and to clip coupons and visit the buck-a-bag sale on Wednesdays and half-off Hostess sales when money was tight.  We learned to respect our elders and to close the toilet lid (especially if grandma was coming over), and not to put our elbows on the table.

But three things that we have learned from the woman we are privileged to call “mom” can never be measured or taken for granted.
1. Mom taught us, by example, morning after morning after early morning: Don’t ever let anything get between you and your time alone with the Lord.  Every day without fail she would sit in that brown armchair with her Bible and her Daily Bread on her lap.  She tuned out the world around her so she could tune into Jesus.  Now that I’m grown and living as a missionary and needing Jesus’ presence more than ever, I realize more and more each day how priceless this gift, this habit of seeking Christ in the morning, has been to me.  Thank you, mom, for your example.

2. The second gift that I cannot begin to place a price tag on in this world of rampant divorce rates and broken families: My mom showed us what it means to be a Proverbs 31 wife.  My mom loves my dad.  She trusts him and respects him and honors him with her words, her actions, her love.  When he felt called to be a missionary to a church far away from anyone they knew and loved, she supported him fully, though it meant being taken far from her parents, children and now grandchildren.  She has always helped dad in his business endeavors, from personalized children’s books to filling toner cartridges to now running a lunch cafĂ©.  My mom is an excellent wife.  I never saw them fight.  I never had to wonder if mom and dad would always be together.  And now as I’m finishing up my sixth month as a wife myself, I have hopes and dreams of being the kind of wife to my husband that my mom is to my dad.  Thanks mom for your faithfulness to my dad.
3. My mom trusts God.  Through thick and thin, hard times and good times she has always placed her faith in Him, and He has never let her down.  When dad was laid off and we didn’t know where the next paycheck would come from… she never took her eyes off of her Savior.  When God led me to move to one of the most dangerous cities in the western hemisphere, she could have held onto her baby and refused to let me go, but rather she wrapped me in the arms of my Protector and sent me, trusting, on my way.  Then when He led them both to make the big move to unknown territory, far away from comfortable California and family and friends and into a new land where the lava was ugly and the "vog" was hard to get used to and forging new friendships was even harder.  But she continued to trust that God’s will was best.  And He has continued to show Himself true.  And when grandpa passed away and she mourned from afar and used airline miles to be there for her mom and siblings, she trusted that his Father had carried him home.  And even now as the future is uncertain (it always is), she continues with unrelenting trust in a faithful Guide.  And I look at mom now and I look at my bank account and my budget and it seems the numbers are going in the wrong direction, but I can’t help but trust that my Father who has started a good work in us will be faithful to complete it.  I look at mom’s unwavering trust and I know deep down that everything is going to be okay.  There are still a lot of unanswered questions and still a lot of room for growth, but I am choosing to place my full trust in the One who has always provided and will always provide.  And I thank my mom for showing me by example what it means to truly believe.

A “thanks mom for everything” just doesn’t encompass how indebted I am to you for all you have shown me, taught me, lived out in front of me.  My life is not the same thanks to you.  I have been blessed beyond measure and I hope to one day live out your legacy in the lives of my own children.  I love you dearly and I don’t tell you often enough.  Mom, you are my hero.

1000 Moms Project

Thursday, July 22, 2010

God is good… all the time.

I remember growing up, this was the mantra we would repeat frequently in church services. It became so routine I rarely thought about the words I was saying. But as I live my life day by day I seem to come back to this reality over and over and over again. God is good… all the time.

We all hear the questions… “If God is good, then why did He let an earthquake destroy thousands of lives in Haiti?” “If God is good, then why did my dad have to die and leave me and my family alone?” “If God is good, then why do cancer and AIDS and human trafficking exist?” I’m not going to go into a long discussion to try to answer these questions. Indeed, some situations are impossible for our finite minds to find answers to, at least in the context of our time frame. But despite all of the sin and hurt and death in the world, I continue to believe that God is good… all the time.

Sometimes it’s hard to see through the tears and pain. Sometimes it’s hard to believe God’s promise to “work all things together for good…” But I can testify that at least in my life, that promise has proven itself to be true over and over again.

It has been months since I have written to you all, but I want to thank you for your continued faithful support and prayers in the meantime! They have been needed and have not gone unnoticed. God has been good, all the time, and I’m grateful that He has used YOU as conduits of His goodness towards me and towards the Micah Project.

I will briefly update you on the latest things that have been going on with me and the project since I last wrote in February. That month we had the pleasure of seeing God bring yet another young man, David, off of the streets and into our home. David has now been living at the Micah house for 5 months and although he has his conflicts here and there he is quite the joy to be around and can rarely be seen without a smile on his face. At 14 he is the youngest in his 4th grade class, and is a joy to work with.

In March, God was at work once again and we welcomed 12-year-olds Axelito and Miguel Angel into an already overflowing Micah house. These boys had been living on the streets since their infancy and were already addicted to yellow glue, the drug of choice for poor street kids here in Honduras. These two little guys are balls of fire, ready to explode at any minute. In their first few months with us we had to break up so many fistfights that I lost count and even a few rock-throwing instances as their bodies have gone through the confusing and sometimes overwhelming process of detoxing from the glue. Thankfully they are now learning to resolve conflicts in a healthy manner and have really become such sweethearts and love to give and get hugs as frequently as possible.

“April showers” could not have been more true or more welcome this year! After many months of drought and rumors that we would not see rain until mid-July, April was looking to be a painfully hot (and smoky) month. However, on the evening of Good Friday, we had just finished sharing a meal with a group from Biola University (my alma mater), when God opened up the heavens and poured down water from above. The Micah boys were so excited that they played soccer on the patio in the rain for hours, slipping and sliding all over the place and enjoying every minute of it. And with that, the much-needed rainy season had begun! Within a couple of weeks the hillsides had turned from a deathly brown to a beautiful luscious green, the smoke from all the brush-fires had been washed away and we could once again breathe free and clear. God is good, all the time!

The month of May was a pretty typical month at the Micah project: boys being boys. Classes continued as normal, we visited a few parks on the weekends and rested a bit before all of the mission teams started coming down for summer break. Something exciting that happened in my personal life in May is that I started dating Israel! Israel (Izzy) is from El Salvador and has been working as an intern at the Micah Project since January. He is a really great guy, very responsible and respectful. He loves Jesus and enjoys helping to lead worship at our Sunday night worship meetings at Micah. He speaks very little English, so it has been a fun challenge having my first relationship be in Spanish… forcing my ability to communicate in Spanish to increase by leaps and bounds.

June was a difficult month at the Micah Project. We had the joy of seeing Marvin (who I’ve written to you about before) enter a 6-month Christian rehab program, only to see him give up and walk away after just 4 weeks. We also walked the hard road with little Miguel Angel as he saw cervical cancer take his mother’s life. But again, God was being good through it all. We were reminded of His sovereignty as we realized that He had brought Miguel Angel into our family merely 3 months earlier, so that he would have so many people to love on him and encourage him through this tragedy.

And now, July! But this month has been full of its ups and downs as well. We are hosting group after group after group, which is a blessing because they are providing manual labor to take on projects like repainting the Micah house and replacing the leaky roof. But at the same time, having a group here means a lot more work for us, and a lot less rest! We have been doing our best as a staff to make sure everyone gets the rest they need. Two weeks ago a 21-year-old man from our neighborhood was shot and killed on the steps in front of our apartment building. It was a huge wake-up call to us, and we are now working even harder to take the steps necessary to move the project out of our dangerous neighborhood and into a safe place about 20 minutes from where we are now. Also this month we have seen Hector hospitalized for four days with dengue fever, but praise God he is finally getting his energy back and is recovering well! And now we are praying for Axel, a tall gangly 13-year old who left the Micah house on Saturday for a one-night home visit and never returned. We think he may fear that someone is after him due to past gang activity. It is a strange situation, but as we look back at God’s faithfulness over the past few months, we continue to trust Him to protect and care for Axel wherever he may be.

Praise be to God that even in the hard stuff, He continues to make His goodness evident in our lives. He truly is good… all the time! It’s hard to believe it has already been nearly a year since I started working at the Micah Project. And daily I continue to learn and experience God’s goodness and faithfulness in my life and in the lives of everyone at Micah. I hope this update can be an encouragement to you and a reminder that God truly is good all the time. And these triumphs I share are YOUR triumphs as well because it is your financial support and your continuous prayers that make all of this possible. I continue to firmly believe that this is the place God has me for now. He is using me daily, stretching me, testing me, loving me and calling me to be a faithful steward of the gifts and talents he has given me. And I want you to know I consider each one of you as a gift given to me by my good God. So be blessed and encouraged, because God is good… all the time!

If you are interested in supporting me financially in my work with the Micah Project, checks can be made to World Outreach Ministries (Attn: Jenna Miller #41) and sent to World Outreach Ministries - P.O. Box B - Marietta, GA 30061, OR you can donate online at

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord: "The LORD looked down from His sanctuary on high, from heaven He viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death." - Psalm 102:18-20

I can't think of anything much sadder than seeing someone imprisoned who thinks they are free. Addiction is an awful form of imprisonment. I have witnessed firsthand too many people chained to their addictions. By leaving the structure and rules of the Micah house, they consider themselves "free" to do what they want (which usually involves some form of drug abuse), but they don't see that it's the drugs themselves that are hindering their freedom... their freedom to change, to do something with their life, to study, to enjoy true friendships and experience genuine love. They choose to trade all of this in for the high and excitement of no rules, no chores, no homework, and all the while they are handcuffed to their captor (a 50 cent bottle of glue).

The day I wrote the last post about Marvin and about thriving, another one of our young men, Hector, age 13 couldn't bear the anxiety any longer, and chose to hit the streets as well, falling back into the false satisfaction of the glue bottle. A couple days later we were able to convince him to return, but it has been a rocky couple of weeks for him. Yesterday, he again returned to the streets and the glue. The devil would love nothing more that to reclaim this young life from the path to freedom he has been walking for the past year and a half. But, I remember that we have someone so much stronger than the devil on our side. Christ's power is infinitely greater than the power of addiction.

AND we have it right there in scripture: He looks down... to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death. Satan has condemned Hector and Marvin to death. But Christ has come that they may have life and have it abundantly! Please join with us in claiming these promises over these boys' lives. PRAY for true freedom.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

You only get one life...

I have now been working at the Micah Project in Tegucigalpa, Honduras for six months, and boy have I learned a lot! I can’t even put into words all of the lessons I have learned in my first 6 months here at this ministry. Things like… a hug is the best way to start and end any day… you can never tell someone enough times that you love them… it takes a lot of positive comments to counteract one negative one… God is merciful and generous, and we should be too… There are so many more lessons I have learned, but I want to focus on one in particular.

You only get one life…

A quick google search of this phrase, completes the sentence in a variety of ways: …don’t waste it on video games. …what to do with it? …so paint it in bright colours. …so don’t let anything get you down.

If I had to choose a single word to complete the sentence, it would be: THRIVE.

The dictionary defines the word thrive as “to grow vigorously and healthily, to do well.” I think to thrive includes many aspects… to thrive in life means you figure out what God created you for, and you do it. You don’t do it half-heartedly; you do it to the very best of your ability. God created each one of us uniquely and has given each of us unique talents, skills, and passions. And when we use the talents, skills and passions God has placed within us to bring glory to Him by serving others, it is then that we THRIVE! When we take advantage of the opportunities that God has given us, we thrive.

In my six months at the Micah Project, I have seen boys that have come from unfortunate circumstances, seemingly destined to a life of drug addiction and failure, but given the opportunity they have chosen to thrive! I have also seen boys who have been given opportunity after opportunity to live and succeed and thrive, but for some reason that I cannot understand, they reject it. It makes no sense to me why anyone would choose death and destruction over life and growth, but sadly I see it on a weekly basis and it breaks my heart.

Marvin is one such person. He entered the Micah project in June of 2007 after living many years on the streets addicted to yellow glue. At age 15, he has already lived a life more difficult, and filled with more pain than most people will ever experience. Abandoned by his mother as a child, he has hardened his heart to the possibility of experiencing love again, for fear of getting hurt again. He is a funny kid who loves to laugh and smile, but he cannot seem to thrive. He picks fights and just can’t let himself be loved. Two weeks ago, Marvin made the decision to leave the Micah project after two and a half years of opportunities to do something with his life. After running away at least 5 times in 2009, it was clear that if he wanted to continue with the project, he was going to have to fight for it. All this time we had been fighting to keep him there, but he had been leaning the other way. It seems like an easy decision for most: The Micah Project with 3 square meals a day, an education, structure, staff members who love and care for each of the boys; or the streets with their false idea of freedom coupled with rampant poverty and drug abuse. He chose “freedom.” It breaks our hearts to see these kids with such great opportunities in front of them and then see them throw them away. Sometimes we imagine how their lives would turn out if we could just make their decisions for them for 6 months. But God gave each of us a free will, and we have to make our own decisions, whether they be constructive or destructive… whether we choose to thrive or to wilt.

All that being said, I want to ask two things of you, my friends.

1.) Please pray for Marvin, who is currently choosing destruction over life. Pray that God will break down the walls Marvin has built around his heart, penetrating it with His unconditional love.

2.) THRIVE – Please, please, please use the unique talents, skills, resources and passions that God has given you to bring glory to His name! Take advantage of the opportunities you have in front of you.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Oh, the characters… (part 1)

My plan is to make this a series, so that with each new blog post you can start to get to know some of the amazing people that make up the Micah family. Each and every person has such a unique personality, and they all do things that make me laugh all the time. I wish everyone could have the chance to come down and meet all of these people, but since I know it’s not probable for many, I will give you a little introduction to some of the characters that I have the pleasure of sharing life with! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Junior is one of the newest members of the Micah family. He is 18 years old and will be starting his junior year of high school tomorrow. He can frequently be found in the Micah computer lab watching hours of Smallville (in 8-minute segments) on youtube. Junior loves dogs… so much so, that he will occasionally cuddle on the floor with the Micah dogs and even pretend to be one! He is learning English on Rosetta Stone, and can happily spend up to 6 hours a day sitting in the office conversing with the computer. When he’s not watching Smallville or practicing English, you can usually find him hanging out with the micah moms, watching them sew or helping cook and clean in the kitchen.

Mochacchino Supreme (Mocha for short) is a 115-pound, 3-year-old chocolate lab. He is maybe the biggest Labrador you’ve ever seen. His collar tells all passers-by that he is on a diet, but he doesn’t do a very good job of following it. His favorite thing in life is to have his butt scratched. When he has something in his mouth (a wallet, keys etc.) he will literally sing out of excitement! He is super loyal, loved by all, and does an amazing job of putting up with the two puppies that try to torment him.

Nelson has quite the unique sense of humor… it is very rare that you can spend time with him without you and him both cracking up. He is 13 years old and in Kindergarten, but he is really very bright… he just came from a background that didn’t value education, so he never went to school as a child. He is an excellent Frisbee player and will happily play for hours with a group of people who are all at least ten years older than him. He makes friends very easily, regardless of age or gender. He is missing a front tooth, which makes words difficult to pronounce, but it makes him even that much more precious! He absolutely loves taking photos, and will walk around the house taking pictures with special effects of everyone he sees. Although his older brother lives at Micah, you won’t easily confuse Nelson for anyone else because he wears the same outfit for a week at a time.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

I am SO blessed!

I'm not sure what it is, but over the past several months I have been deeply impressed by the fact that God has blessed me in SO many ways. Maybe it's because several times each day people come to the door of the Micah house asking for a bite to eat because they have nothing in their house... meanwhile I have a refrigerator and a pantry full of food. Or maybe it's because I spend friday afternoons with street kids who nearly trample me to get a warm pair of socks to put on their filthy, scab-ridden feet. Or maybe it's because I spend day in and day out trying to demonstrate what love is to boys who were abandoned and/or abused by their fathers and mothers - the very people who should have been protecting them from such evils. Or maybe it's the fact that I don't understand the pain of significant life. But whatever the factors are, i feel my best and only response is to run to my Savior's arms with complete and total gratitude for the life He has given me - my amazing, God-fearing family, wonderful, encouraging friends, plenty of food, clothing, a home, clean water to drink, people who believe in me and the work I am doing and support me in it both financially and with prayers, the love and salvation of my Father in heaven... and the list goes on and on and on!

Yesterday was another example of how blessed I am, and a good reminder to be grateful.
I celebrated my 25th birthday. An idea I had had for a while was that since baseball is my favorite sport, it would be fun to get a bunch of friends together and play it for my birthday party. But for lack of gloves and bats and balls, and quite the varied skill level, we decided that kickball would be a better option. And when I get an idea in my head, it's almost impossible for me to not do it, so that led to me (with some help from some friends) buying and painting 60 shirts, with 4 different team names on them in prep for the party.
We headed down to the field around 11:00 Saturday morning for a fun day with friends. It was so cool to see over 50 people come out to celebrate my birthday with me! We had a kickball tournament, ate hot dogs and watermelon and cupcakes, got sunburned, and had an all-around fabulous time!! Some of the boys had no idea how the game worked, but they learned it fast and really enjoyed it. Wilmer was telling me when we got there that he wasn't going to play, but shortly he was trying to be on every team so he wouldn't have to sit out and watch when his team wasn't playing. My little buddy Kevin (who is sadly back on the streets... keep praying!) even came along... and even though he didn't have tennis shoes, he kept commenting to me how proud he was that he kicked the ball so far with his bare feet.
the Marlins get ready to bat against the Cardinals
Michael pitches it to the opposing team

Watching happily from the sideline before the Dodgers take the field

Head-on collision at first base!
We were so prepared... but you always have to forget something. This time it was matches

It was an all around great day at the baseball field yesterday, and although all of my muscles are sore today, I can be grateful that the soreness is a result of a fun fun day with lots of friends. And for those of you who couldn't make it, we will just have to do it again when you come to visit!

Saturday, January 16, 2010


In just a few short hours we are heading out to the northern border of Honduras to a town called Copan Ruinas. It is a well-known Honduran landmark filled with Mayan ruins. In my two-and-a-half years of living in Honduras, I have yet to visit this popular tourist destination. So let’s just say I am a little excited! John, Becca and I, along with our two Micah interns: Hannah and Israel, are taking Maycol, Yeison and Cristofer to help out with a medical brigade that will be coming down from Houston. The bilingual ones of us will do translating for the doctors, while the others will help run a vbs-type program with the kids in the small village we will be working in. It should be an exciting week of ministry and an opportunity for the boys (and us) to do something out of the normal routine!

And while I am very excited to be going on this trip, my heart is heavy. A few months ago I got the chance to get to know a very special street kid, Kevin. Here is a blog post I wrote about him in early December:
Kevin is 17, and has been coming to our weekly street kid soccer games for some time now. However, about two months ago, he decided he wanted to do something different with his life, and after a couple of failed attempts he was finally admitted into Casa Alianza, a group home/rehab center for over 150 teenagers in Tegucigalpa. He was doing well, and over Christmas vacation a few of us started going regularly to Casa Alianza to visit with him, encourage him, pray for him and occasionally bring him gifts to show him how proud of him we were. Last Saturday we were on one such visit… (actually Marvin Morazan, one of the older Micah guys who was on Christmas break from his university in Costa Rica, planned a little concert for the kids in Casa Alianza). As we were there hanging out with the kids, I began chatting with my friend Kevin. He complained that he was bored of living in CA and that he planned on leaving the project the next morning. We talked and talked with him, trying to convince him otherwise, trying to help him see what he would be throwing away if he left. Finally, he decided to make a deal with me.

Here’s how the conversation went:
K: If you take me right now to go get some Chinese rice, I will stay in Casa Alianza.
J: You’ll stay?
K: Yeah, I will stay, I promise.
J: For how long?
K: For three years. I will stay in Casa Alianza for three years… I will start studying again… come on, let’s go.
J: So you’re telling me that if I buy you one plate of Chinese rice, it will determine your future for the next three years?
K: Yep. You don’t believe me?
J: Not really.
K: And if you don’t, you can bet that I will leave here tonight, I will go upstairs right now and get my stuff and leave…. and you can tell your friends that I left because you wouldn’t buy me Chinese rice.
J: Well, I guess we better go find some Chinese rice… but you promise you’ll stay?
K: I promise, for three years.

So… we went and got the Chinese rice! Kevin was still in CA two days later when we went to pick up a few of the girls for a couple hours of bracelet making, which Kevin decided to tag along to. He seemed to be doing really well.

Then tonight, we were at soccer with all the street kids, and guess who shows up. I look over and there is Kevin, standing at the edge of the soccer field with a bottle of glue in his pocket. My heart sank. I hurried over to him, “What happened?” “Kevin, what happened? What are you doing here?” He said that the project had given him 3 days leave to go visit his family. Yet here he was, not with his family, but with his glue bottle instead. Several of us chatted with him, trying to encourage him to make good decisions, and in the end, he said he would be back at Casa Alianza on Monday like he’s supposed to be.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE PRAY WITH ME THAT KEVIN MAKES THE RIGHT DECISIONS. Please pray that he chooses to spend this weekend with his family, not wandering the streets like he used to. Please pray that he will return to Casa Alianza on Monday, clean and truly ready to give what it takes to turn his life around for the best. Pray that Christ’s love touches him in the deepest parts and gives him purpose in his life. Thank you for hearing my pleas for Kevin. Please know also that there are hundreds more Kevins in the world… and keep them in your prayers as well!