Have you ever wanted to go on a treasure hunt?

ImageTreasure hunting is no longer just for children, or those storybook figures that find dusty maps in attics that fall apart at the seams. Whether you’re five or fifty, anyone can go on a spiritual treasure hunt.

You might be thinking, what exactly is a spiritual treasure hunt? It’s simple. First, you pray and ask God for clues of the people that you might encounter, people that are ready to receive Jesus’ love. The clues could be locations, a person’s name or appearance, or prayer needs. You write these down and use these words of knowledge to lead you to the “treasures,” the people who correspond in some way to the clues. Truly, it’s a grand adventure just waiting to be had – I have found this prophetic evangelism to not only be effective, but also a lot of fun!

At Journey Church we have life groups where we meet together weekly to grow deeper together in our relationships with one another and with God. My life group is geared around outreach and living a missional life, and last week our group went treasure hunting. What God did through this evening is CRAZY!

First, Leah and I prayed together, and we wrote down the various clues that we felt like God was speaking to us. These ranged from a streetlight, to Bob, to heavy bags, as well as the color red, a twisted ankle, the “pit,” and more.

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Then, we departed and asked the Lord to guide our steps…I felt like we were supposed to go to the Harvard Square “pit” first, and there we found a man sitting on a table with two huge canvas bags. We came up to him and said, somewhat hesitantly “Hi – this might seem a little odd, but we’re on a treasure hunt, and we think you’re on our list.” We showed him the clues that pointed to him, and then just listened and heard his story.

He kept trying to convince us that he wasn’t our treasure, but about halfway through our discussion, I felt prompted to ask him if he had a twisted ankle. To my surprise, he looked at me with wide eyes and said, “Actually, yes, as a matter of fact!” He told us how when he was walking there that night, a car had bumped into his foot and bruised his ankle.

We asked if we could pray for him, and he readily accepted. We asked God to bless his life and new job, to give him a happy summer (his request) as well as heal his ankle completely. He had no pain after we prayed, and it was obvious that the Lord had led us to him as our first treasure of the evening!

We then ventured downstairs and reviewed our clues, one of which was “guitar.” We stood in the middle of the subway station, watching and waiting, and not ten seconds later we noticed someone walking by that was carrying a guitar. He also had red on! We started talking to him, trying to find clues on our paper that pointed that he was our treasure, and I randomly asked him, “Is your name Bob?” convinced that it wouldn’t be, because he was Asian. To my surprise, he said, “How did you know that?” Turns out that he as from Taiwan but his American name was Bob!

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The crazy thing is that two days later, Leah had a dream that she saw Bob again, and this actually happened last night when we did our “Free Hugs” outreach!

Yes, God still speaks today, and He will lead us when we trust Him and step out to share his love.

Now, treasure hunting is something that has to be experienced to really appreciate it…so go out and do it!  I’d encourage you to check out Kevin Dedmon Ministries to learn more about Treasure Hunting and here’s a sheet that you can use to go on your own treasure hunt!

I can’t wait to hear about your crazy awesome Jesus stories and the people that He will lead you too!

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The Hug Experiment

New England is known for a few key things:

  • The Red Sox.
  • Clam Chowder.
  • And people who tend to be, well, stand-offish and aloof.

I am home-grown from the West Coast, where it’s common, even expected, to speak with strangers in the grocery store, or to engage in friendly banter in the coffee shop. But here, people tend to look at you like you have spinach growing out of your ears if you happen to strike up a conversation. It takes time, lots of time, to really get to know someone at heart-level, which is painstakingly aggravating for my not-so-patient disposition. Don’t get me wrong here – I love Boston – but sometimes I’m frustrated by the general detachment that seems to exist between people.

Last Sunday, my friend Sung Yun and I didn’t go on a quest to change any of these things, nor did it even cross our minds until after the fact. Rather, she just showed up to our Sunday afternoon outreach with an extra sign bearing the good news of “Free Hugs.” I instantly became her partner-in-crime for this spontaneous social experiment.

We set up camp beside the subway entrance. As we clutched our signs, for a few moments no one even acknowledged us, defaulting to the typical New England tactic of ignorance. I shouted, “FREE HUGS!” and in that moment a woman entered the scene, saying, “I love hugs!” and enveloping me in a giant bear hug. People around her smiled. One man, uninterested a moment ago, took a detour to join us in our love parade in the corner. I was sold.

Click here to watch the video: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=998538548863&l=998012886798046199

There’s something about hugging that puts a smile on your face. I think it’s because as much as we try to hide it, all of us are longing for physical affection, for someone to enter our “bubble.” In fact, hugs are scientifically proven to boost happiness levels by getting oxytocin (the “love drug”) flowing through your body, which can lower the risk of heart disease, combat stress, and boost the immune system.

So that’s why a sign with “FREE HUGS” is a remarkable tool. It’s not forcing anything on anyone; rather it simply conveys, “Here we are! The invitation is open. Come on over.” I said a silent prayer for each person that I hugged and left them with the blessing of “Have a great day.” How many other things in life are quick, simple, and totally free, yet can transform someone’s countenance so deeply?

I’m now convinced that we can change the world, one hug at a time. So this afternoon, why don’t you grab a friend and some markers, and boldly proclaim to the world the opportunity for an embrace?

It’s just destiny!

There are so many tasks in getting a new apartment set up. Moving, climbing, sweating, placing, re-arranging, then sweating some more.  Unpacking, dust & dirt caked sweat lines in cracks in your body. Craigslisting, freecycling and roping odd-shaped furniture items on top of a car that was never made to haul furniture. Yet God can be in it all, if we allow Him.

The other day, I was on the phone with a guy who was setting up our electric bill. He was going through the standard procedure: “Name…Birthday…email…SSN…” and on and on. I was trying to not get annoyed by how long this was taking, when all the sudden I heard from the other end, “That’s weird! My wife’s name is Kelly and she was born on April 13th and I was born in 1985!”

I said, “Yeah that is kind-of weird,” to which he responded, “It’s like destiny! We were supposed to meet each other.”

Now after traveling the world, there’s been plenty of young men who have remarked about how we were destined to meet. But this comment didn’t make sense considering he had a wife, so I just shrugged it off.

A few more drab questions later, he said, “I have to ask you, do you know someone named Bruce?”

Somewhat startled, I replied, “Yeah, actually, that’s my dad’s name…”

To which he exclaimed, “Bruce is my name! It’s like destiny – We were supposed to meet!”

My spirit perked up. I responded, “Actually, it’s not just destiny – it’s God. There are no coincidences – God has a unique plan for each person’s life and brings certain people into our lives to shape us into who He wants us to become.”

And I heard, “That’s amazing…” And then we proceeded right where we left off.

At the end of the call, he asked me, “Is there anything else I can help you with? Do you have any questions?”

I paused. “Yeah, I do have a question… Do you believe in Jesus?”

And thus ensued a long awkward silence which tends to proceed any question about faith. But I’ve learned to be ok with the silence. Finally, I heard, “You know, I’ve been thinking about going back to church for awhile now. But my wife doesn’t want to go.”

I responded, “You should really go. I came to know Jesus in college, and He changed my life. There’s absolutely nothing like the love of Jesus Christ.”

He said, “Yeah, I could tell that you believed by the tone of your voice. Yeah, I think I’m going to go to church.”

“Great!” I affirmed. And then we ended the conversation and I hung up the phone, knowing that something very significant had just happened to me and probably Bruce too.

No, it’s not just destiny – there are no coincidences in life.

God envisioned your life at the very beginning of time; you are made for a purpose with a distinctive set of strengths that are uniquely yours. God has taken you through life’s ups and downs, and has brought people into your life to shape you into the person He desires you to become.

There is no greater joy than partnering with God to write the story of your life. If you haven’t done so already, would you surrender your life into His hands? If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that His plan is way better than my own.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

-Jeremiah 1:4-5

“I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”

-Mother Teresa

17 Best Ways to Prepare for The World Race

17. Once a week, go to an ethnic restaurant, then when you are handed the menu, close your eyes and point to something. Eat whatever you are served happily and graciously.

Our dinner menu in Ukraine

16. At midnight, go to the nearest country club, then practice dropping your trousers and taking a leak in the golf holes without spraying on your clothes. Hole-in-one!

15. Buy a soundtrack of mosquitos buzzing and play it on high volume at night in your room while you crouch underneath your mosquito net.

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Kenyan bunk beds & mosquito nets!

14.  Volunteer in a kindergarten. Tell them stories one sentence at a time, giving room for a “translator.” Tell the kids to point and yell “Mzungu” every time they see you.

13. Live out of your backpack for a month, sleeping on couches and rotating between all of your friends’ houses.

12. Have one-on-one’s with all your closest friends and give them feedback.

11. Go on 8-hour bus or car ride without using bathroom. Use a waterbottle or empty chips bag if necessary.

10. While you are hanging out with your friends, insist that you need “alone time.” Then turn your back to the wall and turn your iPod up.

9. For a month, shower using only a bucket and a sponge and wash your clothes in the bathtub.

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Learning how to hand-wash our clothes in Kenya

8. Gather all your friends and pack yourself into the smallest car you own, then drive for at least one hour.

7. Don’t turn on your faucet for a day. Every time you need to use water, fill up a bucket at your neighbor’s house, place it on your head, and carry it carefully down the street to your house.

Snapshot 1 (6-27-2013 1-09 PM)

6 Speak entire conversations in gibberish with your friends. Smile and nod, even if you have no idea what they are saying.

5. Go shopping, then refuse to pay the full price. Haggle with them until they give or kick you out of the store.

4. For a week, eat only rice and sauce. And no, you’re not allowed to use silverware.

This is how you will eat rice in many parts of Africa and Asia

3. Buy a coke at the store, then insist that they pour it inside a plastic bag with ice and a straw.

2. Volunteer at the local clinic and learn how to pick lice out of hair.

1. Buy all the crazy creatures from the nearest pet store, then release them in your home. When one of them runs across your feet, act like it’s the most normal thing to have in the living room. When the cockroaches start to multiply, host a family game night to kill them.

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My bedmates that I woke up to in Malawi, Africa

Games Around the World

This month, we’re working at an orphanage called Cambodian Hope Association. I’ve had so much fun playing with these kids. When you’re in foreign countries, with no Nintendo or computers, you have to get creative with the games that you play.

So today, I thought I’d share some of the games that I’ve learned in my time traveling across the world. The best part about these games is that you’ll be able to find everything that you need right where you are! Great for youth groups.

The Flying Ship (Moldova)

Duck-duck-goose gone wild!

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Number of Players: At least ten, the more the merrier!

Materials: A large field

  1. Everyone joins hands together, forming a large circle.
  2. Two people hold hands outside the circle. This pair walks around the circle, then chooses another pair by touching their linked hands.
  3. These two people that they choose have to keep their hands locked and run the opposite direction around the circle (be careful where the two pairs cross paths!). Both pairs try to make it back to the open spot in the circle before the other.
  4. Whichever pair does not get there first becomes the pair who walks around the circle and chooses the hands of the next two people. A great game for big groups!

Achi (Kenya)

New School Tic-Tac-Toe

Equipment: Four pieces (usually rocks are used) of two contrasting colors

Create a board by making a square, then dividing the square in half horizontally and vertically. Then draw two diagonals to connect the two opposite corners. Boards can be made with pencil and paper, but to play like an African go outside and draw a Achi board in the dirt.

  1. Decide which colors to play and who will start first
  2. Each player drops one piece per turn on any vacant space on the board. “Spaces” are any of the intersecting points in the figure. Players alternate turns until all four pieces have been dropped.
  3. On your turn, each player moves one space at a time following the pattern. The first player who gets three of their pieces in a row – horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, wins!

Five Stones (Malawi)

A classic African game similar to marbles that you can play anywhere!

Number of players: 2 to 5

Materials: Five small stones

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  1. Make a small fist-sized indentation in the dirt, then place five stones next to it.
  2. On your turn, hold one stone in your hand, then throw it into the air, then grab one stone from the pile and move it out of the indentation, and then catch the stone you threw into the air.
  3. If you do this successfully, repeat with throwing one stone in the air, moving two stones from the pile to the indentation, then catching the one stone again.
  4. If you do that successfully, repeat with moving three stones to the indentation; then three, four, five and then all the way back down to one.
  5. As soon as you are unsuccessful at catching the stone you threw or moving the right number of stones into the indentation, your turn ends.

Below, a young African girl is playing this game, looking upward to catch the stone that she threw.

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The Spitting Frog (Cambodia)

Number of players: Five or more

Materials: none

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  1. Form a large circle, with one person standing on the outside and one person sitting in the middle.
  2. Everyone closes their eyes, and then the person on the outside of the circle walks around the circle and taps someone on the back who becomes the “Frog.”
  3. The person walking around the circle then sits down at his/her original spot and tells everyone to open their eyes.
  4. The frog “kills” people by sticking their tongue out at them. When the frog sticks his tongue out at you, you must immediately groan and slump over, dead.
  5. The person in the middle has to figure out who the frog is, with only three guesses.

Siku (Cambodia)

A fast-moving card game that is a lot of fun!

Number of players: 4

Materials: Deck of cards

  1. Deal everyone six cards, and the dealer gets seven cards, with the rest of the cards face-down in the middle of the table.
  2. Look at your hand, then put down any pairs that you have face up on the table.
  3. The dealer starts by laying down one card, face-up on the table in front of them (A king, for example). Then anyone who has that card puts it down (king), and then one other card of their choice (a 3) face-up on the table in front of them. Anyone who has that card (a 3) puts it down, and then lays another card of their choice face-up (a 7). Only the first person who puts that number on the table can play.
  4. If no one has the card, then the dealer deals a card from the middle stack face-up in front of one of the players, which becomes the card that everyone else must match.
  5. Once you are down to one card, it must be matched by a card that someone else lays down.
  6. The winner is the first person to run out of cards.

Before I went off to school, my dad always used to ask me: “Kelly, what’s the most important thing?” and I would always respond: “To have fun!” I’m excited to go home in a few weeks and teach these games to my family. Have fun playing these games – when you try them, comment below and let me know how it goes!

Seven Indian ladies, a bowling alley, and KFC

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that not everyone has grown up living in America. But at the very least, you’d think that most people in the world would be familiar with escalators and Western toilets. But that’s not the case at all…So when you cross seven Indian ladies, a bowling alley, and KFC, you get a seriously hilarious afternoon.

Since we are approaching the end of the month, our team wanted to do something special for the ladies that we have built relationships with in the Red Light District of Mumbai. We found a bowling alley at the top of the mall only two train stops away from their district, which seemed perfect. Not only would bowling be fun, but it would center the afternoon around an activity which conveniently avoids the awkward silent moments when you can’t speak the other person’s language. Little did we know that language was the least of the cultural differences that we would encounter, turning a fun afternoon into one of the highlights of my year. I wish you could have been a fly on the wall during our outing – but allow me to attempt to depict the chain of events:

It started just as many all-women’s outings go – with each woman making the difficult decision of what to wear. In America, there have been countless times when I have tried on dress after dress while my girlfriends finally settle on the perfect outfit for the evening. But in India there is one slight difference – while dresses have specific cuts which accentuate different parts of your body, Indian saris are simply one looong piece of cloth that is rolled round and round your body. Saris, I hate to say, have absolutely no form or shape. So, as each of the women went back and forth to their home time and again trying on different outfits, what I couldn’t figure out was how they determined which sari was most flattering. Just as I was getting impatient, I reminded myself that this afternoon was not about me, and then we were off – five of us World Racers, seven Indian ladies, and Hoinu, our contact and lone translator for the afternoon.

We strolled to the train station, then hopped on the train as usual. Over the course of the month, our team has deemed ourselves to be expert train riders, and as the train began picking up speed, Meghan grabbed hold of the pole and stuck her head out, hair flapping in the breeze. One of the women gasped, yanked Meghan inside and gave her an unintelligible lecture which concluded by a hand motion that looked like breaking a corn cob in two. Translation: If Meghan sticks her head out the train, her head would be chopped off. So we conceded to ride the train conservative Indian-style for the rest of the journey.

About ten minutes later, we arrived at Vashi Mall. The bowling alley was on the top floor, so our team casually hopped on the escalator, thinking nothing of it. Foreign chatter erupted behind us, and I wish I could have captured the look of shock and amazement that I saw on their faces. For many of the women, it was the first time they had ever seen an escalator. A few brave souls finally ventured aboard the strange metal moving stairs, their hands grasping for dear life onto the railing while their bodies clumsily followed two stairs behind. Despite our reassurance, two women insisted on ascending to the third floor via the staircase.

After surviving the escalator, we arrived at the bowling alley, where two staff members were practicing their bowling skills in an empty lane. Suddenly it dawned on me how absurd bowling must seem to these women who have barely ventured outside their neighborhood. Throwing giant heavy balls down a wooden lane to knock down little white pins: Are we crazy? But I already knew the answer to that question. The answer is yes. We Americans are definitely crazy.

Katy then gave everyone a brief demonstration on proper bowling technique, and one daring woman stepped up to the line. Rather than pulling her arm backward to generate momentum, she twisted her hand side to side and then released – straight into the gutter no more than one foot beyond the line. We cheered anyways. The next woman got a gutter ball too. And the next. In fact, probably 90% of all the balls that were thrown that afternoon were gutter balls. But every single time that even one pin was knocked down, the loudest cheer erupted from that bowling alley in the middle of Mumbai, India. I wish you could have been there. We had a blast.

After bowling, we stopped for a quick bathroom break. You’d think that would be simple enough. Nope! We entered the restroom, and one of the ladies opened the stall door. She gasped, then uttered exclamatory remarks to her friends that I wish I understood. We figured out that she was afraid of the toilet seat. Imagine being twenty-some-odd-years old and never seeing a Western-style toilet! We assured her that it was safe, but she said that she would rather wait until home, thank you very much.

Our final stop for the afternoon was the food court’s Kentucky Fried Chicken. If you’ve traveled abroad at all, one thing that will never cease to amaze you is the strange assortment of American restaurants in foreign countries. The best thing about Mumbai’s KFC is their cheap soft serve ice cream – at only 24 cents each, it’s one of the best deals around and a favorite evening treat of ours. What we didn’t realize is that dessert in India is actually a very odd occurrence. After we had all finished our cones, one of the woman asked if she could get some chai. I smiled, then explained that no, they don’t serve tea at KFC. That erupted another round of Hindi gabbering. What kind of restaurant doesn’t serve chai, they asked. I didn’t really have an answer for that. I considered our options, then remembered that KFC probably served cold coffee. Out came a frappuccino, which she tasted and declared positively disgusting. At least we tried.

The hilarity of the afternoon came to a close on our way back to the train station. As we said our goodbyes, we saw Sunita, one of the ladies’ 14-month-old daughter, turn around in a circle, then pull down her pants and squat down over a crack in the ground. Yep, that’s India for you – anytime and anywhere is a good spot to relieve yourself.

Seven Indian ladies + a bowling alley + KFC = A little awkwardness. A lot of cheering. And an abundance of love.

Mission accomplished.

Never off the clock

Life on the World Race is not all roses and chocolates. Some days you wake up at 4:30am, pack up your life’s possessions in a bag, and then travel squished in a bus for hours. Some days you get served mysterious sauces on rice and when you ask what it is you can’t understand them even though they are speaking English so you just eat it with a smile, saying “delicious.” Some days you walk and walk for hours and then engage in conversations with people while they serve you cup after cup of tea that has so much sugar it is more like syrup than tea and would honestly go much better on pancakes than in a mug.

It’s easy in the midst of all this to have the attitude of “clocking in” during ministry and “clocking out” when we finish. On the World Race, personal time is some of the only time we have a say in what we do and when we do it, and thus we have to guard this time because not only do we rejuvenate our spirits but it keeps us sane.

But one thing that I’m learning is that when you are serving Jesus, you are always “on.” Being in full-time ministry isn’t a step you take when you raise support and become a missionary; rather, when you become a follower of Jesus, you are serving Jesus full-time. There is no clocking in and clocking out because Jesus is always in the midst of doing something.

It’s our duty and privilege to take part in His kingdom, but God leaves it up to us to make that choice. I once heard it said that the Holy Spirit is always moving; but our role is to put up the sails, so we can hear what God is already doing. I’ve given myself a challenge to ask periodically throughout the day, “God, what are you doing here? How can I share your love with the people around me?”

Yesterday was one of these moments that I asked God this question. And you wouldn’t believe what happened next.

We were in the midst of a four-hour ride from our ministry site in Hetauda back to Kathmandu. There were eleven of us crammed in an SUV-type vehicle with our large black bags haphazardly roped to the top, causing me to silently pray that our possessions would make it to our destination. As we set off, it soon became evident why big city busses didn’t travel this route. The route twisted and turned up the valley, with huge grassy terraced mountains extending on either side, on a road that was really only wide enough for one car. Our driver seemed unnaturally comfortable with the tight curves – speeding up in places where I would definitely slow down – while aggressively beeping to alert any unsuspecting vehicles of our arrival. The other people in the vehicle seemed unfazed by the car lurching forward every ten seconds as we slammed on the breaks so that the oncoming traffic could get by. Our ride became even more interesting when we got stuck behind trucks which were going plenty fast for me but evidently not fast enough for our driver. My life flashed before my eyes time and again as large vehicles barreled towards us carrying chickens, grains, or God-knows what, getting larger and larger in the windshield as I hope and pray that we’ll make it back to our lane in time.

In times like this I’m thankful that I believe in Jesus. Time and again, I have seen the way our Father has protected us in difficult situations. I exchanged looks with my teammate Meghan whose hip was jutting into my thigh (Nepalese vehicles are made for Nepalese people, who are exactly 2/3 the size of us Americans) and she whispered a simple prayer: “Thank you, Jesus, for protecting us and giving us a safe journey. Amen.”

My mind drifted and I gazed at the grandiose Nepalese landscape. One thing I love about Nepal is the colors – bands of yellows, pinks, and florescent green stretched for miles down the valley. No, they definitely don’t make mountains like this in America. After a few minutes, I said a prayer that would change the course of the duration of our ride, and potentially the rest of eternity:

“Jesus, how can I show your love to these people?” Immediately I sensed a prompting to talk to the man sitting on the left side of me, a young dark-skinned man with black-rimmed glasses. As I pondered how to initiate this conversation, he interrupted my thoughts:

“You know, Jesus will protect us.”

I was a bit taken aback. Evidently, he had heard the prayer that Meghan had whispered a few minutes prior. I responded, “Yes…I definitely believe He will. I have seen it happen time and again” (pause) “Do you believe in Jesus?”

“Yes, I believe in Jesus, just as I believe in Ram and Buddah and all the other gods.” And that was the beginning of our conversation together. I learned that his name was Sarad, and that he was an English literature student studying in a local college. His parents were Hindu, and I asked him to tell me more about his beliefs. After some time, he asked about Jesus and why I believe in Him. I shared the gospel and the story of Jesus…but honestly I did a terrible job with it because of the churning of my upset stomach. I said a silent prayer thanking God that it is not up to me and praying that the Holy Spirit would do what needs to be done in His heart.

For the next two hours, we talked about family, truth, literature, miracles, sports, God, life. He asked me some tough questions about faith, and it was evident to me that God was working in his heart. As we entered the outskirts of Kathmandu, I asked if I could pray for him. He said yes. I prayed a blessing over his life and that God would guide and lead him every day. I asked that the Holy Spirit would come right then and show him how much Jesus loves him. A sense of joy bubbled up in my heart and at that moment he started giggling. I asked what he was feeling. He said, “It feels like…indescribable joy.” I told him that what he was feeling was Jesus’ love for him.

I asked him if he would like to meet with someone locally to learn more about Jesus. He excitedly agreed. We exchanged Facebooks and emails and parted ways a few minutes after that.

As Christians we are never off the clock. At any moment, we can make the choice to ask God, “What are you doing here? And how can I be a part in it?” In the midst of a crazy van ride, Sarad had an encounter with Jesus Christ that will be a part of his story forever.

Will you be one to dare to ask God this question? Who knows what God will do when you put up your sail…