Wednesday, October 23, 2013


           About a week ago, I was getting some work done in our student center with a friend.  When I asked my friend what he was about to do, he said that he was about to fix the screen of our associate pastor’s phone.  Marcus’s phone had been shattered for quite some time, and while the phone was still able to be used, the ability to see things clearly on the screen was crippled.  When my friend said he was about to fix it, I immediately said that I wanted to watch (I have always wanted to know how to take apart and reassemble an iPhone).

As we got into the process of repairing this phone, I began to see that in order to fix that one part of the phone, the entire phone had to be first deconstructed.  Each and every part that went in to form the iphone had to be taken apart, piece by piece.  Every single tiny screw and vital parts such as the camera and the computer inside the phone had to be removed.  As I continued to watch my friend take out every individual piece of the phone, I realized how meticulous he had to be.  Not ONE piece of the phone, not ONE screw could be lost.  It had to be handled with an extreme amount of care.  About 30 minutes into the process, I made a comment to myself, “Gah, this is such a process,” and as soon as I said those words, I heard the Lord ask me a question in my spirit. 

He asked, “Don’t you see that I’m taking you through the same kind of process right now?”

WHAT?!? I was just not expecting a question like that, but suddenly, things started to make a little more sense in my head.  In my life lately, the Lord has been taking me through a process, and with that question, He answered so many questions I had about the nature of the process He has been taking me through.

In my life, my screen is cracked.  Am I still usable with a broken screen? Yes. But can I be used to the fullness of my calling with a broken screen? No.

In my situation, I knew for a little while before the process started that my screen was cracked, but I got busy with other things and did not tend to the issue (in blatant terms, I was avoiding it at all costs).

Well, let me tell you something that I have learned: the Lord I serve does not let things stay broken for too long.  When I did not tend to my broken screen, He did.

Now here is the misconception: People see phone screens that are cracked and broken and they think, “Hmm, that’s just a surface level break, I can take that to someone to fix or even fix it myself (if you are a person who thinks you can fix it yourself, God bless you.  Now that I’ve seen it done, I would never want to try it on my own) and it will not be that complicated at all.” This was my perception of a broken phone screen, and you know what? That was FALSE… much like my perception of the broken screen in my life! I thought, when the Lord started the process of fixing my broken screen that it was just going to be a quick fix, and can you guess what? That was FALSE.

When the Lord began the process that He’s taking me through, I did not see what was coming at all. I did not realize that in order to fix my broken screen that He had to take out every tiny little screw, hinge, and piece of hardware in me that makes me the person I am.  I did not realize (yet) that what I thought was a surface level break, was actually a foundational crack.

And boy was it a surprise to me when I realized just what this process entailed… and in the moment, I cannot say that it was a pleasant surprise.

But here is the THING, here is the HOPE, here is the LOVE and the BEAUTY in the process that that so many times I perceive to be ugly:

I am being constructed by the ULTIMATE Creator.

I am being recreated in a process  orchestrated by the One who knows my inner parts, by the One who knitted my together in my mom’s womb.

Who better to take me through this deconstruction, repairing, and reconstruction process than the One who created me in the first place?

              With each screw that comes out, there is pain and brokenness and often humiliation, but when the Lord strips it all away and reaches the foundation, the broken screen, that for so long I thought was merely a surface deep scrape, and He begins to pry each piece of broken glass from the core of who I am, there is miraculous healing that comes.  The healing that comes is from the only One who can truly take me apart because He is One who originally knitted me together.

I have not reached the end of this process, but I am promised how it will end:

I am an overcomer in Christ.  (Romans 8:37)

All things work together for my good because I love Jesus. (Romans 8:28)

I am God’s MASTERPIECE and he makes me new in Christ. (Ephesians 2:10)

               …if I was going to let anyone take me through this process, should it not be the One who considers me His MASTERPIECE?

               At the end of the process of putting that phone back together last week, you know what the outcome was?  A phone that was able to be used to its full potential.  A phone with not only no cracks, but not even a scratch in sight.  A phone, which after the process was finished, had not a screw, hinge, or piece of hardware missing.  The finished product was a phone that was, once again, ready for use.

              I know that I am fighting a winning battle.  I know that I am fighting from victory and not for it.  And I know that as meticulous as the Lord has been to remove every tiny screw in me and every shard of glass that pierced my heart, He will be just as meticulous in putting it all back together.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


                “Okay, so before we leave we’re going to just cover these kids in prayer.”  This was the voice of my associate pastor at Riverpark as he addressed all of the volunteers that had come out for this evening’s backpack giveaway.  We had been in one of the roughest areas of Shreveport for about an hour and a half where we got to love on some kids and pass out some much-needed backpacks for their upcoming school year (and probably many school years to come seeing as many of their parents are not able to afford these school supplies for their children).

As soon as our pastor said, “Go,” and we began to pray, the Lord’s voice hit me like a ton of bricks. 

He said, “Elles, it is no coincidence that this was where you are on your last night of the summer.  This was the perfect ending to the summer I planned for you.  It was a summer of sacrifice.”

And you know what? He was right (duh).  This was my last high school summer and instead of going to the beach, Disney world, camp with my church, camp with all my friends, Wednesday nights with my youth group, etc… I spent my summer in a foreign country doing evangelism and loving on kids, staffing a camp of middle schoolers four days after I got back stateside, and spending nights like tonight, my last night of “freedom,” in a rough neighborhood playing with a bunch of smelly, sweaty kids.  This summer I sacrificed time with friends and family, comfortable resources that I take for granted in the states, sleep, but more than that I sacrificed me.  I put myself at the feet of the Lord and said, “Here I am. Use me.” And you know what? He did. He stretched me, pried me finger by finger from my comfort zone, and in the process taught me more about Himself than I’ve ever known before.

Now do not get me wrong: I am not writing this blog to say, “Look at me! This is what I did!” The purpose of this blog is quite the contrary.  I want you to see that NONE of this was my own doing.  The sacrifices I made were merely the cost of the availability that I laid at the Lord’s feet.  Did I willingly sacrifice my comfort zone this summer? Absolutely not! Most of the time, I did it kicking and screaming. And how did the Lord respond? He said, “Look you said, ‘here I am. Use me.’  So this is me using you.  I did not say it was going to easy, but you said you were available, and so this is me telling you that it is worth it.” 

So this is me, on the other side of the sacrifice, on the other side of obedience, telling you that what God told me rang true.  It was all worth it, and I would not trade this season of sacrifice for the whole world.  I would not trade the relationships I formed or the lessons I learned in this season for anything.

But tonight, there I stood in the bottoms of Shreveport, thanking the Lord for this season and praying over the next one I am about to walk into (school starts tomorrow), and somewhere I got off thinking that when the summer is over, the season of sacrifice ends.  And there was the Lord saying, “Hello!! Elles!!! Are you listening to yourself? These things that I taught you in this season were not strictly for this season! Take these lessons with you into your next season.  The sacrifice is not over, it has just begun.”

One would think that after the season I have just been through with the Lord that this would have been obvious, and it really probably should have been.  But then, there is the contrast (one of many) between me and God.  I am stubborn.  I do not see the things God sees.  I do not understand the things that He understands.  But that is okay! He is walking me through it each day.  He is revealing to me the things that I miss.  He is ever faithful and He is drawing me unto Himself even in times that I do not deserve it—especially in times I do not deserve it (let’s be real, I never deserve it)!

So here I am, on my last night of summer, my last night of this season, still being molded and taught by Jesus.  Being humbled at the lessons I am learning and the plans that He has for my future.  Nervous about how much more He is going to pry me out of my comfort zone, but excited because of His faithfulness to do so even when I put up a fight… and all just because I said, “Here I am. Use me.”
(above is the backpack giveaway from tonight... chaotic fun)

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Isaiah 6:8

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Intentional Evangelism.

This is a phrase that I became all too familiar with during my time in El Salvador.  After all, this phrase is, more or less, the anthem of the Hope 4 El Salvador ministry.  The entire point of putting on the block parties, blowing up the jumpies, painting nails and faces, making balloon animals, giving out cotton candy, etc., is to open up an avenue in which the Good News of Jesus Christ can be shared.  Without sharing the Gospel, all the work I would have done with this ministry while I was in El Salvador, while good work, would have been merely humanitarian work.  The Gospel, the Good News is what sets Hope 4 El Salvador apart from any other non-profit on the street.

                Shortly after writing my last blog about painting nails, I fell into somewhat of a slump. I would pray each morning that the Lord would use me to reach his children in El Salvador, yet when the afternoon rolled around and it was time for another block party I would do the same thing every time: help set up the tables, make sure the right supplies got to each table they needed to be at, and then retreat to the nail painting table where I would paint nails and pray for kids. That was not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination.  The Lord had appointed me to be there to intercede for those children, and I knew that—for goodness sake, the Lord told me that Himself! …but I had become content in doing only that.  I thought if I stayed right there, painting nails and silently praying for the little hands in front of me, then I was exactly where God wanted me to be. Did He want me to be there, painting nails and praying for kids? Absolutely.  Was I outside of my comfort zone? Hmm, not really. Was He calling me to more? Yes.

About three weeks into the trip, I was at a block party in Alta Vista, El Salvador (a small town plagued with much gang violence).  We had been out on the street for a couple of hours and we were packing up to leave. I had already packed up the nail painting table and was walking towards the other tables to help take them down when two young boys approached me, one was 12 and the other was 14.  (A little back story: a team from Broadmoor Baptist was in doing ministry with us that week and they brought 1000 multi-colored evangelistic bracelets to use that could help when sharing the gospel. These bracelets were very popular when it came to the kids.  There were way more kids who wanted the bracelets than there were bracelets available.)  When the boys walked up, they pointed to my bracelet and told me (in Spanish… yes, I understood! Woohoo!) that they wanted it. Honestly, the easiest for me to have done at that point was just say “sure,” give them the bracelet, and walk away. It was hot outside, I had been out there for hours, we were about to leave, and the list of excuses goes on and on. At the same time though, I knew the prayer I had prayed that morning. I remembered having asked the Lord to use me to reach His children, and here I was, with His children right in front of me! Not only were they right in front of me, but they were asking for the very tool that I could use to share the Good News with them!! I knew what the Lord had called to and I knew the only thing standing between those boys and Jesus was my obedience. 

I called one of our translators over (her name is Jessy and she is a truly amazing woman of the Lord) and told the boys that I would give them the bracelet on one condition: I would first tell them a story about what each of the colors on the bracelet represented, and if at the end of the story they could repeat each color and its significance back to me then the bracelet was theirs.  In the midst of explaining  this, a third boy walked over and joined the first two.  By the end of the story, the three boys were hanging on every word I (and Jessy) said.  They quickly and easily repeated the colors back to me and their significance, and by the end, all three of these guys wanted to accept Jesus into their hearts.  After praying with them we were able point them towards the church we teamed up with that day in Alta Vista (that is where they would receive discipleship and accountability—we were there to evangelize, but evangelism and discipleship go hand in hand).

We loaded up to head to San Salvador just minutes after that and the Lord started speaking, “You see? My plans and purposes for you are bigger than you know.  Do not become content or complacent in only one of my plans for you—you see a smaller picture, but I see things so much differently. I have given you a voice and I am giving you opportunities to use it as I am also entrusting you with some of my children. Step out and be willing to let me use you in whatever ways I have planned for you.”

Here is the thing: so many people will tell you that if you do not share with who the Lord tells you to, or if you do not fulfill a task that the Lord gives you, then He will raise someone else to reach those people or walk willingly into that promise, but I believe that is false. I believe that the Lord has specific plans for each of us and that, as believers, if we are not obedient, than that will prevent others from entering into or furthering their relationship with Jesus.  In the Bible, when Moses refused to walk in what the Lord had promised him and not enter the promised land out of fear of the unknown, God let an entire generation of people die before He raised up another person to walk the Israelites into the will of God.  I believe that if I had not been obedient that day to share with those boys, then too much time would have passed before another person would have had the opportunity to speak into those boys’ lives, and by then they could have pulled into the gangs or worse.  After all, we were almost all loaded up and about to board the bus when this conversation went down.  Who else would have shared with them?

                I have been back in the States now for a little over a week and a half, but this is still one of the things from my trip that I think about each day. Intentional evangelism.  That block party opened up an avenue by which I could share Jesus with them.  The thing about intentional evangelism, though, is that it is no different in El Salvador than it is in the States.  ANY TIME a believer is in the same place as an unbeliever that is intentional by God. The Lord desires to draw all people unto Himself.  As believers, we are mandated to share the Good News.  This is not a suggestion, this is a command.  One of the things I learned over the course of this trip was that I was not there to learn just about being on mission in another country, I was there to learn about being on mission everywhere I go.  To be willing to step out and tell people about Jesus anytime and every time the Lord asks me to.  Is that easy? Heck no! At the end of my life, am I going to regret sharing the Good News with those boys on the streets of El Salvador or the random woman at Walmart in the United States? Absolutely not.

                Coming home after this trip has been quite an adjustment.  Being at home doing ministry presents extremely hard, and equally as difficult, challenges as doing ministry in another country.  One thing I am sure of more than ever before though, is how thankful I am for the life God has called me live.  It may be a life of various sacrifice, but it is a life full of Him.

(Pictured above is me with Jessy and the three boys who came to know the Lord from that conversation-- they were so proud of their bracelets!)

30 Then Jesus told them, “The voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. 32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”
John 12:30-32

Friday, June 21, 2013


¿Quieres pintar tus uñas? (Would you like your nails painted?)
Hope 4 El Salvador is a children's evangelistic ministry run out of San Salvador, El Salvador by a family from the United States who is now living in ESA.  The main action step this ministry takes is partnering with more than 200 gospel-preaching churches and communities all over El Salvador, and hosting block parties to draw the people and communities in to hear the Gospel.  I am spending a month this summer living with the family who runs this ministry and interning for Hope 4 El Salvador.

Block parties are very high energy events.  There are many things that go into pulling one of these off.  There is face-painting, nail-painting, balloon-animal-making, inflatable jumpies, loud music, cotton-candy-making, and many more activities for people to participate in that are packed into these two hour parties--and in the midst of all of those things, the Gospel is shared with every child and parent who shows up.

Last year, while I was here doing block parties with this ministry I worked mainly making the balloon animals.  The balloon-making table is crazy.  It is one of the first tables that is absolutely swarmed with kids. There is no such thing as personal space and there are kids pressing in from all sides yelling “Espada,” “Flor,” and “Corazon,” which, if you do not speak Spanish, are words that one would not know until being put in this situation.  This year, however, when the team that is here this week showed up, most of the people on that team wanted to be the balloon-makers, so I went to try and find a new place at the block parties to serve.  Somehow, by some crazy chance, I ended up on the nail-painting team.  Now, if you know me, you know that nail-painting is a particular weakness of mine. I cannot adequately paint my own nails or even when I do I cannot keep the paint on them without chipping for more than a day, much less make someone else’s nails look good.  None of that mattered. Nail-painting was where there was a need, and really, at the end of the day, nail-painting is not all that different from balloon-making.  There are still kids pressing in from all sides yelling, they are just yelling the colors, “Rosado, “Rojo,” “Verde,” and “Azul,” (and many more).

            As soon as I walked over to the nail-painting table and got to work, the Lord starting revealing some things to me.   In the Bible, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet.  He knew that although he was their leader, it was important to humble himself that much to serve them.  When the Lord brought this story to my mind, I realized that we do not wash kids’ feet at these block parties, but the closest thing we do is paint their nails.  We know from the Bible story that the disciples feet were probably disgusting from walking around in their sandals, traveling, walking through mud and manure, etc… and knowing this, Jesus got down and got dirty with them.  See, when we paint kids’ nails, we see a plethora of things: cracked nails, oozing sores, infections…etc. Does that stop us from picking up those little hands with a smile and painting those nails anyway? Absolutely not.  The look of joy on these kids’ faces when they see bright pink, or green, or red, or really any color of the rainbow (the favorite so far is anything with sparkles in it) is priceless, as I can only imagine the disciples’ faces looked when they looked down and their feet were no longer caked with filth.

            Another thing that I realized while painting nails, something that actually really blew my mind, was that these little hands that were in front of me have been in a lot of places, situations, and circumstances and no doubt will be in many more in the future, but for this split second in time, this INSTANT, that little hand is reaching to me for something only I can give.  As I started thinking about this though, the Lord instantly said, “Painted nails are not the only thing you have to give when they reach out for you.” And then it hit me--prayer.  In all the places, situations, and circumstances that these children have been in and will be in, the chance that they are being interceded for in prayer is extremely small.  In the short moment that they reach out to get their nails painted, the Lord wants more for them than a fresh coat of nail polish, He wants someone to come to Him on their behalf. 

            After this revelation, I began to pray for each child whose nails I painted.  (I try to pray for each one by name, but hearing all those Spanish names can get confusing.  I realized it was more important to pray for them without knowing their name if I could not understand it the first two times I asked, than to waste my precious moment with each kid trying to comprehend their name rather than praying for them.)  It began to be reaffirmed in my heart the promises from God over these kids’ lives.  He has plans to prosper and never to harm them and to work all things together for their good.  Through this process, He has given me a little more of His love to love them with, because in that moment, I am the one interceding for them.  I am the one entering the throne room on their behalf.  I may be the only one who ever does this for them. And that, is the most humbling thing I can imagine.

12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.
John 13:12-17