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IT Project 2014 Update

Hey everybody!

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, so I thought I’d give an update. We’ve done a TON since our class ended, but the main focus has been on major world religions. Last week we learned about China’s religion, the Hare Krishna religion, & Islam. Along with a presentation for each, we also visited China Town, a Hare Krishna temple, & a mosque. Once again, I’d love to chat with you & tell you more about what I learned if you’re interested! This week we’re learning about Buddhism, Hinduism, & taking the whole weekend to travel to San Diego to learn about tribal religions (& how to surf) — it should be a great week!

Along with all of the learning, we’ve also done a ton of fun stuff. On the fourth, we had a cookout & ended the day at an event called Kaboom which included motorcross, monster trucks, fireworks & a whole lot of ‘murica. We also supported the LA Dodgers at a game seated in the all-you-can-eat pavilion. That’s right, an unlimited supply of hotdogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn, & soda — what more can you ask for at a baseball game, right? The night ended with heading to the field to watch more fireworks. Today we went to church & had the privilege of hanging out at a beautiful pool all day.

Tomorrow we have a day off so we’re heading to Hollywood Boulevard. Like I said before, it should be a great week!

It’s hard to believe I only have eleven days left in this beautiful city with these amazing people. There are no words to express my gratitude first of all to Jesus, for all that He’s taught me & done in me since being here & of course for giving me this awesome opportunity, but also to all my amazing supporters (prayerful & financial) who helped me get here & have kept me & my team in their prayers. If you gave financially towards my trip (which by the way I was fully funded before even arriving in LA — praise the Lord!) or have said a prayer for me even if just once, I am forever grateful to you! Thank you a thousand times — you will never know how much it means to me! You are in my prayers as well!

Lots of love from the West Coast!

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Small Group Weekend

Small Group Weekend

This past weekend on IT Project 2014 we had small group weekend which basically means we got to spend all Saturday & Sunday with just our small group doing whatever we wanted to do. Each group had about $100 to spend however they wanted.

My small group & I had many different adventures throughout our weekend. On Friday evening we ate supper together, shared our testimonies, then went out for ice cream. On our way back to campus, we helped an LAPD search-and-rescue helicopter find an old lady that went missing. (Okay, maybe we didn’t help them, but we witnessed the whole thing!)

Saturday morning we traveled just outside Malibu to Topanga State Park & made the hike up the mountain (approximately an hour & a half) to look out over the beautiful Santa Monica beach & eat our lunch. While at the top, we actually encountered another helicopter whose pilot waved & sounded his siren to acknowledge us then proceeded to circle the mountain three times. (We have a thing with helicopters I guess?) After our trek back down the mountain we were tuckered out & ready to get to the hotel for showers. We were all expecting to stay at your average, everyday hotel. But one of our awesome leaders had a surprise for us. Apparently she has sweet connections & was able to get us a room (complete with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, a balcony, & a complete kitchen) in a super nice, super expensive hotel resort just down the street from Disney Land for free! I think all the excitement of the surprise gave us an extra burst of energy, so we walked around downtown Disney for a bit & ate supper there (& since our hotel room was free we were able to have supper paid for with our $100 — I love free meals!) We headed back to our hotel where we went to the roof & watched some fireworks for a bit. Then, to finish off the day right, we sat around reading through & singing the script of Disney’s Frozen which brought lots of laughs despite the fatigue & soreness.

Sunday morning we traveled to Belasco Theater where Hillsong LA is located every other week for church. I’m not gonna lie, I was expecting it to be a mega-church with thousands of people. But apparently it was only their third service in LA, so there were only about two or three hundred people. It was an incredible experience, though — one that I will never forget. The worship was amazing (obviously, it was Hillsong!) & Carl Lentz, who is the head pastor for Hillsong NYC was there & preached about Psalm 123. It was so good! I love his passion for Jesus & his desire to make Him known to others. I was already so pumped about the church because I was just enjoying it so much, & then I see Kevin Durant walking in from beside the stage! What?! It’s like it was the icing to an already delicious cake. After church we went to eat at PF Chang’s where we were able to sit outside on the patio & enjoy the beautiful day. (Have I mentioned how much I LOVE California weather?) We were going to go to the beach, but since we were already pretty burnt from the hike on Saturday we figured that probably wouldn’t be the best idea. So we headed back to campus where we had a few hours of free team which I have not had since our class started, so it was a great ending to a great weekend.

Today we went back to class & didn’t have anything planned for the evening (more time for homework — yay..). We now officially only have five more days of class which is really bitter-sweet. It’s sad that it’ll be over since we’ve been learning so much good stuff, but I am so ready for all this homework to be done — our brains need a break!

So that was my eventful weekend, but I hope you all had a relaxing one as well & that your summers are going great! Thank you for taking the time to catch up on my life! Much love!

PS It’s late as I’m writing this since I have no time during the day, so I apologize if it seems monotonous &/or poorly written. I may or may not wake up in the morning & be embarrassed about it, but oh well.

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Intensive Training Say What?

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Holy cow guys. Remember how I said this class is going to be intense? Boy, was I right! Tuesday was our first day of class, & I spent six hours reading afterwards. Wednesday I spent five hours reading. & Thursday I spent another six hours reading. I have yet to complete my reading for Friday’s class (which is how I’ll be spending my Sunday). The reason it’s so much is because it’s usually spread out over fifteen weeks whereas we’re compacting it into fifteen days. This means that what would normally take a week, we do in a day. Yeah, it’s that intense. Along with all these articles to read, we’re also doing what’s called an Inductive Bible Study over 1 Thessalonians which takes about two hours of work on your own each week. What makes all this work even more difficult for me is that I have this thing called FOMO (fear of missing out) so realizing I have to sit by myself for hours everyday reading instead of building relationships with all these wonderful people is quite difficult to accept.

Okay, I’m done complaining. Let’s focus on the positives.

I am learning soooo much! This class is stinkin’ awesome, which is an understatement, but I don’t even know how else to put it. Though the readings are long, they are jam-packed with some great stuff. I am surrounded by amazing, selfless people. I am in a beautiful city where the sun always shines. & every morning when I wake up & all I can think is that I’m too exhausted to get out of bed, Jesus gently reminds me that He is my strength & He will sustain me. I may be a little overwhelmed & slightly stressed out, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Life is good. Jesus is better.

Also, in case you’re wondering what else we’ve been up to, we had our first temple visit Friday evening. We went to a Mormon temple (see photo above) which was very interesting. I learned a lot, & it was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. If you’re interested about our visit or what I learned, I’d love to discuss it with you. Feel free to contact me via Facebook, email (taylor_4733@hotmail.com) or of course the next time you see me in person! But I would rather not discuss it on here. Today we went to Santa Monica Beach to do evangelism. Though I haven’t talked much to my teammates about their experiences yet, I do know there were some good conversations taking place. Tomorrow we will visit Saddleback Church in the morning & have free time afterwards for the rest of the day. Then it’s back to class on Monday!

Thank you all for caring about my life & the work that Jesus is doing — you all rock! Much love from Cali!

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Week One of IT Project 2014

Alright so week one isn’t quite over yet, but I figured I’d give you all an update on IT Project so far anyways.

I’ll start us off with a fun story! On my flight from Phoenix to LA, I just so happened to be on the same plane as a group of college students from ASU who were on their way to India to share the Gospel — pretty cool, right? I got to talking with one of their pastors, & I think we were both able to encourage each other in our pursuits. After we got off the plane three of the team members prayed over me, & it was a completely humbling experience. The Lord is so good.

I arrived Thursday morning & for lunch had my very first experience at In-N-Out Burger (highly recommended, by the way). Friday was a bunch of orientation, but to close out the evening, one of the staff members delivered a powerful message about the Gospel & what exactly it consists of. I wish you all could have listened in — what a great reminder of how sinful man is yet how holy & gracious is the God we serve. Saturday consisted of training & evangelism on two different college campuses. (Sidenote: CalTech is probably the most beautiful college campus. Ever. Period.) Heaven was full of rejoicing that day — my team (although not me personally) had the privilege of seeing two people accept Jesus’ gift & come to know the Lord personally! Yaaay! Sunday & today we had a pretty large amount of free time. So I’ve mostly just been enjoying this beautiful California sunshine :).

I have been absolutely loving it here. The weather is perfect & the people are wonderful. There are nineteen participants & I think fifteen staff members. It’s such a cool experience to be surrounded by so many people who are so in love with Jesus & who share my vision & desire to go out to the nations sharing the Gospel — talk about a huge blessing! They are all such beautiful people & I am so very excited to continue getting to know them better everyday!

Tomorrow I begin summer school, or so I’ve been told. We are taking a class called Perspectives which is about the history of missions & major world religions. Guys, for once in my life, I’m actually excited to learn — this is a big deal! I am so very excited to absorb all of this knowledge about the world, God’s heart for the world, & how we can reach the world with the good news of the Gospel. “IT” in IT Project stands for Intensive Training, & that’s exactly what it is. For the next three weeks, we will have three hours (9am-12pm) of teaching & speakers in the morning, lunch, & then probably about three hours of homework. I’ve been told it is difficult & takes a lot of effort, but I’m so ready for the challenge. Let’s get this thing started!

A few random thoughts that you probably don’t care about, but I’m going to share anyways: my pinky is still fat & still hurts & still cannot be bent very far, but I’m finally able to not wear any bandage without it constantly aching. I took my longboard out for a ride for the first time today & still have not face-planted. I saw a 36″ pizza in real life right in front of my own two eyes. Also, in case you didn’t realize, there is a three hour time difference between LA & home, so sometimes it’s hard to communicate with people.

P.S. Saturdays are set aside for evangelism, so if you remember please keep us & all the people we come in contact with in your prayers especially on those days. Thank you all so much for all the prayers, support, & encouragement — I would not be here without you! You all rock!

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Random Thoughts from the Airport

I’m currently sitting in the Phoenix airport, soon to board my final flight to LA. While waiting, I can’t help but feel blessed & laugh all at the same time. I feel so incredibly blessed by all the people who have come behind me, showering me with love, support, & encouragement as I embark on a new adventure in life. I would not be here without all the wonderful people in my life & I truly cannot thank you all enough! I laugh because we serve a God with a pretty cool sense of humor. I sit here with a possible broken pinky, which happened less than a week before I left, but it doesn’t worry me at all. Last summer on the day before I left for Haiti, I rolled my ankle pretty bad. At that point I was worried, how would I be able to play soccer with the kids or serve the people of Haiti, let alone haul my luggage around? Just like He did in Haiti less than a year ago, I trust that the Lord will be faithful & be glorified even through a broken pinky — He’s just good like that.

Like I said before, I’m so very grateful for all the people in my life. & my guess is that if you’re reading this, that includes you. So thank YOU not only for all you’ve done for me, but for just being a part of my life. You are loved & appreciated dearly! May the Lord bless you for all the ways you’ve blessed me. Much love from Arizona!

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Summer Summer Summer

Since I am officially home from school, I thought I would share an update on my life right now & my plans for the coming months. So if you just so happen to be interested in this life of mine, this is for you.

My first year of college is done. I survived. Early in the spring semester I declared a major of International Studies with a focus on Global Development in Africa & the Middle East. I also hope to attain a double minor in Islamic Studies & Health Promotion. Early first semester I started getting involved in a campus ministry called Campus Crusade for Christ (also known as Cru). It’s a fantastic ministry that is focused on sending out young adults to fulfill the Great Commission. Looking back, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience as a freshman. The Lord made Himself known in more ways that I can remember throughout the year, & His hand was so evident in so many different situations.  If I were to sum up all that the Lord has taught me within the last nine months it could be packed into two simple statements:

1. I am a dirty, broken sinner in desperate need of a Savior.

2. The Lord is literally all I need.

Those are some pretty awesome lessons to be taught, if you ask me! But throughout the entire year, the biggest blessing by far has been the relationships He has set before me. I recently reread a journal entry I had written from early first semester. I prayed not just for friendships, but I prayed specifically for friendships with people who would love me through all of the junk in my life, people who would encourage me in my faith but at the same time challenge me to never stop growing, people who love Jesus more than life & would be an example to me. & that is exactly who the Lord brought into my life. The relationships I have made at school are unlike any relationships I’ve ever experienced. Words cannot describe how very grateful I am to the Lord for the awesome people He’s brought into my life!

 

I’ve been home for two days now & have already been asked what I’m doing this summer more times than I can count. No, I am not working anywhere. No, I am not taking summer classes. But yes, I am going on a missions trip! I am very excited to share that I will be living in LA (yes, Los Angeles, California) for seven weeks this summer! I’m heading out very early the morning of June 5th & will be back July 24th. The trip is sponsored by The Traveling Team which is a non-profit, inter-denominational ministry. They travel across the US sharing biblical basis for missions & God’s heart for the world with college students. On project, I will be taking the Perspectives course held at the US Center for World Mission, which is a four week course on the biblical basis for missions, the history of missions, and missions strategies. I’ll also be spending three weeks visiting local temples & mosques while learning about the major religions of the world (such as Islam, Buddhism, & Hinduism), & the other cultures & their world views while getting experience with evangelism. If you’d like to learn more about The Traveling Team or my trip, you can visit http://www.thetravelingteam.org.

Ever since my very first trip to Kenya, Africa about three years ago, the Lord has been growing my heart for the nations, & these past months at college have been no exception. My hope is to be able to do long-term missions at some point after school, so I believe the IT project will be extremely beneficial to me in helping me become the most effective missionary I can be.

The total cost of my trip is about $3,230. I am happy to share that I have only about $865 left to raise! Praise the Lord! Raising support has been an incredibly humbling experience. If you are someone who has given financially to my trip or has committed to praying for me & my team, thank you thank you thank you! Words cannot express how grateful I am to have you as a part of my support team! May the Lord bless you for all the ways you’ve blessed my life!

When I return from LA, I’ll be home once again for about two-ish weeks. I’m hoping to move back to Lexington in the middle of August so I can get settled in & have some fun with my friends before classes & responsibilities start up again.

So that, my friends, is my life right now in a nutshell. If you’ve read to this point, you’re a champ for sticking through all my rambling. Thanks for taking the time to read this, but more importantly for being apart of my life! You are loved & appreciated!

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The Great Rescue

I once read a book called Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris. Although the book is about courtship, there’s a section about the Cross that I have never been able to erase from my mind. It discusses the Cross in a way I’ve never thought about before. It makes it personal. But it won’t do any good for me to try & describe it. The only way to fully comprehend the power of it is for you to read it yourself. I searched on Google (hoping I could find it somewhere so I wouldn’t have to type it all out myself) & found it on a website called The Rebelution (http://therebelution.com/blog/2008/06/the-great-rescue/#.U1DES1eTIjU — not a bad site to visit, PS). It’s a site created by the brothers of the author, Alex & Brett Harris–they shared it in a blog. This description is so powerful I just can’t keep it to myself. I saw it fitting to share on such a day as this (this being Good Friday & all). So without further ado, Joshua Harris’ excerpt from Boy Meets Girl:

 

 

The Great Rescue

Why the Cross? Because sinners have no other hope. Why the Cross? Because it is the unassailable proof that we can be forgiven.

Let’s gaze on it together. As we draw close, don’t assume that you already know or understand what happened there. Come to the Cross as if for the first time. In the book When God Weeps, Stephen Estes and Joni Eareckson Tada give the following account of Christ’s death. As you read, refuse to let the scene be familiar. Let its reality shock you and break your heart.

The face that Moses had begged to see—was forbidden to see—was slapped bloody (Exodus 33:19-20). The thorns that God had sent to curse the earth’s rebellion now twisted around his own brow…

“On your back with you!” One raises a mallet to sink in the spike. But the soldier’s heart must continue pumping as he readies the prisoner’s wrist. Someone must sustain the soldier’s life minute by minute, for no man has this power on his own. Who supplies breath to his lungs? Who gives energy to his cells? Who holds his molecules together? Only by the Son do “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). The victim wills that the solider live on—he grants the warriors continued existence. The man swings.

As the man swings, the Son recalls how he and the Father first designed the medial nerve of the human forearm—the sensations it would be capable of. The design proves flawless—the nerves perform exquisitely. “Up you go!” They lift the cross. God is on display in his underwear and can scarcely breathe.

But these pains are a mere warm-up to his other and growing dread. He begins to feel a foreign sensation. Somewhere during this day an unearthly foul odor began to waft, not around his nose, but his heart. He feels dirty. Human wickedness starts to crawl upon his spotless being—the living excrement from our souls. The apple of his Father’s eye turns brown with rot.

His Father! He must face his Father like this!

From heaven the Father now rouses himself like a lion disturbed, shakes his mane, and roars against the shriveling remnant of a man hanging on a cross. Never has the Son seen the Father look at him so, never felt even the least of his hot breath. But the roar shakes the unseen world and darkens the visible sky. The Son does not recognize these eyes.

“Son of Man! Why have you behaved so? You have cheated, lusted, stolen, gossiped—murdered, envied, hated, lied. You have cursed, robbed overspent, overeaten—fornicated, disobeyed, embezzled, and blasphemed. Oh, the duties you have shirked, the children you have abandoned! Who has ever so ignored the poor, so played the coward, so belittled my name? Have you ever held your razor tongue? What a self-righteous, pitiful drunk—you, who molest young boys, peddle killer drugs, travel in cliques, and mock your parents. Who gave you the boldness to rig elections, foment revolutions, torture animals, and worship demons? Does the list never end! Splitting families, raping virgins, acting smugly, playing the pimp—buying politicians, practicing exhortation, filming pornography, accepting bribes. You have burned down buildings, perfected terrorist tactics, founded false religions, traded in slaves—relishing each morsel and bragging about it all. I hate, loathe these things in you! Disgust for everything about you consumes me! Can you not feel my wrath?”

Of course, the Son is innocent. He is blamelessness itself. The Father knows this. But the divine pair have an agreement, and the unthinkable must now take place. Jesus will be treated as if personally responsible for every sin ever committed.

The Father watches as his heart’s treasure, the mirror-image of himself, sinks drowning into raw, liquid sin. Jehovah’s stored rage against humankind from every century explodes in a single direction.

“Father! Father! Why have you forsaken me?!”

But heaven stops its ears. The Son stares up at the One who cannot, who will not, reach down or reply.

The Trinity had planned it. The Son endured it. The Spirit enabled him. The Father rejected the Son whom he loved. Jesus, the God-man from Nazareth, perished. The Father accepted his sacrifice for sin and was satisfied. The Rescue was accomplished.

Don’t move too quickly from this scene. Keep gazing.

The Rescue accomplished here was for you. John Stott writes, “Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us (leading us to faith and worship), we have to see it as something done by us (leading us to repentance)… As we face the cross, then, we can say to ourselves both ‘I did it; my sins sent Him there,’ and ‘He did it; His love took Him there.’”

Did you see your own offenses on the list of sins that necessitated the Cross? If not, name them yourself. Name your darkest sin. Now reflect on the fact that Christ bore the punishment for that sin. He took the punishment you deserved. Do you feel His passionate and specific love for you? He died for you. He was condemned and cursed so that you could go free—He was forsaken by God so that you would never be forsaken (Hebrews 13:5).

That’s what Jesus’ death on the cross has to do with our past sin right now.

As you celebrate Easter this weekend, keep the Cross at the forefront of your mind. But even as the holiday passes & time goes on, always, always, remember the Cross & what Jesus did for you.

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