First club in Delaware!

IMG_7706

I’ve been resting and hanging out with friends and family since I got to Delaware a couple weeks ago, but Monday night I walked into my first Young Life club in Dover, besides the (only) one I attended when I was in high school.

It was hosted by a girl who (far L in photo), when I came into her house, was doing homework for math class at Polytech. I asked her who her teacher was- it was my old math teacher! We also discovered by texting our brothers that my brother played soccer with her oldest brother in high school. Small world. I knew this kind of stuff might happen, but it has been really crazy to experience firsthand.

Another girl I hadn’t met already knew who I was (far R in photo). She heard from her grandmother that I was coming after I was introduced at Grace Church. I recognized her last name, Rosello, and there I was, hanging out with their granddaughter at club. I helped her a little with leading music while she played her guitar and told me she learned how to play from my youth pastor, Rick. “No way, me too!” I said, and we high fived.

A student who participated in a couple games turns out is the son of a guy I knew who did music stuff at my church back in the day. He and a friend rode with me after club to Chick-Fil-A just because I had an aux cord and his leader didn’t (typical teenage priorities…).

I stood up and introduced myself at the end of club and when I said I had graduated from Polytech, everybody cheered. They asked me what shop I was in, asked me about my time in Germany, and a couple girls asked for my phone number already.

I almost teared up multiple times that night, first because I missed my high school kids in Georgia (OF COURSE HOW COULD I NOT), but also because I was looking around at all these kids and couldn’t believe how full circle my life had come. I was called to youth ministry when I was a teenager as I watched the struggles and pain of my friends at Polytech as we dealt with so many issues around us. To have an adult Young Life leader walk into our lives then and walk beside us would have been amazing. Now, ten years later, I get to walk back into my high school and get the privilege of being used by the Lord in the lives of high schoolers in to share His love and good news. How cool is that?!

To finally meet kids here and see the faces of the ones the Lord has called me to serve has really filled my heart. Everyone has been SO welcoming, including leaders and kids and staff. Many of the Young Life leaders here are in transition right now and so God’s timing couldn’t be more perfect (as usual) and I am so grateful.

The Lord has brought me full circle, and it’s good to be home. What a story He is writing and what an adventure I’ve been on!

“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.”
Luke 8:39

P.S. Additionally, my gratitude extends financially…I have, as expected, lost some monthly donations already in the move, but have gained $250 in new ones since moving back a week and a half ago! Not there yet, but a great start on my way to my goal of $2500/month! THANK YOU SO MUCH!! If you already give and haven’t yet moved your donations to my new area, you should have an email with instructions on how to do so. If you would like to donate for the first time, it’s easy, you sign up on http://giving.younglife.org, give to Area DE20 and put “Laura Reisinger” in the sponsoring box. You guys make this possible.

young life and prayer

Why don’t we pray more in America?

A few weeks ago at church we were blessed to have Pastor Shodankeh Johnson come from Sierra Leone, Africa to preach several messages on prayer and fasting. It has turned our church around.

10527589_798073410216608_5263291948342053962_n

Jim Rayburn founded Young Life on hours and hours of prayer. If you read the book compiled from his diary entries, you’ll immediately notice he spent hours per day praying and reading the Bible. It’s enough to make you wonder while reading it, when he did actual “ministry work.” But I’ve come to realize that ministry work IS prayer. We think it doesn’t work so we schedule our time for US to do things. We think it’s US who do the work, not God. Jim Rayburn knew that it was God who moved, so he prioritized prayer over everything else. He interceded for the work of Young Life, and for the teenagers.

DSC_0045

God really started teaching me about prayer in 2009, when he brought me a close friend with whom I spent countless evenings praying in one of our cars before we dropped the other one off. She was the first friend to consistently pray with me in my moment of need. At Young Life New Staff Training at Crooked Creek in Colorado in 2010. I will never forget the time all of us International Staff spent in the Prayer Room after one of us found out her father was dying far away in Brazil. I had only met this group of people a couple of weeks ago at Cross-Cultural Orientation, yet we became like family, all of us about to willingly give up our lives to go spread the gospel somewhere else. My British friend gathered all of us in the prayer room as we dropped everything we were doing to sit together on the floor in the room, taking turns praying out loud and grabbing Bibles to read a Scripture that came to mind, and someone brought out their guitar and without a word just starting playing “Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?” To this day that song gives me goosebumps.

DSC_0046

Because of that night, days before my friend Steven went to be Jesus later that next year, I gathered my friends in a living room and brought my guitar and we prayed and worshipped as we waited for him to go. The beauty of a people that comes together to worship their God in the midst of pain and confusion can’t really be explained here.

When I was in Germany, I got to know a group of German Christians. In Germany, true Christians are hard to find. This Christian group knew this, and got together for prayer EVERY SINGLE DAY. They set a time every day that even if only two people could make it, they were getting together to pray. They didn’t spend an hour sharing prayer requests, or reading the Bible, they just prayed. They didn’t have an agenda, they didn’t talk about praying, some some even prayed more than others, but they just sat before God in someone’s living room, or outside by a bench in the street. Even hearing it in German was enough to bring tears to my eyes. Prayer was the air they breathed. They saw it in the Bible, so that’s what they did. Soon my American young adult Bible study on the military base started this habit together after mixing with the German group.

My German best friend, who was part of this prayer group, changed the way I prayed as she lived life with me. I’d talk about something stressing me out, and she would just say “let’s pray.” And I’d be like, “Like right now?” and she’d say very matter-of-factly, “Well, yeah,” like it was obvious. In America, we like to say “I’ll pray for you” or just take prayer requests. These Germans just stopped and prayed. They knew the importance of actual prayer. Once when wewere driving to Berlin for a fun weekend trip, she asked, “Do you want to pray together for a bit?” I was taken aback. “About what?” I said. She just wanted to pray. Just because. We prayed out loud together in the car for at least an hour if not two (don’t worry I didn’t close my eyes while driving). The sense of peace that came over me was amazing. From then on I started praying with some of my high school students as soon as they shared something tough with me.

When I was in Italy, I met a Christian family who owned a vineyard and knew what it was like to depend on the Lord to bring them a harvest. They literally depended on God for whether they could make a living or not. This couple got up early every morning, drank espresso at the table, read part of the Bible, prayed, and sang a hymn together, just the two of them, before he went out to the vineyards and she went to the kitchen to prepare lunch. When I took my parents to visit this family, an older man working at the vineyard begged us to sing Amazing Grace with him, just spontaneously as we were hanging out, even though he only knew one verse. He just wanted to praise God with Americans. He then offered to pray for us, in Italian.

At singles worship night Pastor Shodankeh spoke on the power of faith and raising the bar of expectation for what God can do. At church on the weekend he spoke about how prayer and fasting was an integral part of Jesus’ ministry and a useful weapon in the hands of the early church and it is ALL OVER THE BIBLE, so why don’t we do it? Pastor Shodankeh’s messages were so impactful because he told REAL STORIES- stories of prayer answered in Africa when people prayed and fasted. Stories of the gospel spreading and miracles happening that could only have been The Lord. Our church experienced a sort of revival as our pastor came up and in tears he admitted to not being the man of prayer he needed to be as a leader of our church, and he committed to changing that. We immediately entered 3 days of prayer and fasting as a church and got back together Wednesday night for our monthly prayer night and it was a holy night of surrender to the Lord. We were all renewed to become a people of prayer.

As my pastor got up and choked up with conviction, so did I, because in the last 7 months I seem to have lost something I gained by living in another country and meeting Christians from other countries. I seem to have lost the spirit of prayer. I found myself initially praying my way through my transition with hope and expectation about what God would do through Young Life and in my own personal life… But somewhere along the line I stopped praying and started trying to control everything. It’s not because life and ministry has gotten easier, because it’s actually gotten harder. My response? Work more, do more, put the pressure on myself, stress out about money and the spiritual lives of students, etc. When my German friend visited me in the first couple months of my move she said to me, “I can see why it is hard to be a Christian in America.” Folks, it really, truly is. we need to be aware of how the enemy works in our country. He’s sneaky. He tells us that we don’t need God, that He can’t truly work the change we want to see in our lives and others’. That we need to do it ourselves.

So my response in the last couple weeks has been to get back to a place of prayer and fasting. And I have been seeing God work all over the place…

Instead of stressing about a students’ spiritual life, I set an alarm on my phone to pray for them at the same time every day. A parent has even joined me in this prayer for their kid. I was literally on my knees for these kids while we were at camp every day, sometimes with tears, and I want to pray with that kind of fervor for them at home.

Instead of stressing about how I’m going to pay my bills, I prayed for money, and it has literally been handed to me on two occasions. Also things got sorted out with my YL business card. I’m still struggling, but turning that struggle into prayer. I’m starting to trust Him more to give me my daily bread.

Instead of stressing about how on earth I’m going to find time to raise money for my salary for Young Life when I work 32 hours a week at this new job, I prayed and 2 people messaged me about supporting me without me initiating it with them.

With my new job at a group home, I’ve had to grow tougher skin. I’ve been driven to my knees because of it, and I know God is doing work in me and I pray in those kids as well. I’m now praying for opportunities to share Jesus with them, and bring them to Young Life this year. I can’t wait to see what God does.

God is looking for that man or woman who will stand in the gap of intercession with prayer and fasting for God to restore the nations. Ezekiel 22:30. Will you stand in the gap with me for teenagers in Northwest Georgia? For the seemingly impossible amount of funds we need to keep ministry going? For new leaders to go out into the schools? For current leaders to be leaders of prayer themselves? Do you believe that God can change a nation and a people towards himself?

For me personally, this journey to having more prayer in my life has meant and will mean a lot of changes and re-prioritizing. 

But here’s the thing: imagine what could happen if we ask God to change things, to change others, to change US, to change this area, to change lives. To reach the unreachable. Do we believe He is as big as He says He is? That He can still work the way He worked in the Bible? That Jesus was on to something when He spent so much time in prayer to His Father? Father, may we believe this and may it change the way we live our lives in total dependence on You.

il_570xN.289217234

P.S. If you feel called to join my prayer team, whether it’s the long distance email one or the one I feel like God wants me to start here locally to pray for teenagers in NWGA, please let me know.

P.P.S. I’m currently re-reading this incredible book on prayer, the best book I’ve ever read on the subject, highly recommended:

9781600063008

the best way to spread Christmas cheer…

I always thought it was really cool that Jesus’ mother was a young teenager when she was asked to birth the Savior of the world. Just more proof that Jesus likes to do things backwards from the world. I feel like a lot of times there is a negative view of teenagers. One of my passions is changing that view, even if it’s only a few people.

There’s not a ton of Christmas spirit around here, at least not like there used to be. With the base closing, things are dying down, and events are smaller or nonexistent, decorations scarce, and it’s just not the same spending the holidays this far away from family, which many people do. Off post, the Christmas market saves our sanity, but in general, Christmas is kind of not as big of a deal.

One of my volunteers came up with the idea to go Christmas caroling this year, something we have never done in Bamberg so I wasn’t sure how many would show up last night (our kids don’t exactly adore singing), and neither was she. THIRTEEN students showed up to sing in public, in the FREEZING cold, for over an hour (some claimed they were only there for the hot chocolate…of course).

Our first stop was at the MP (Military Police) Station. As we walked in, the MPs started coming out from behind the glass, and one who was a friend of mine saw me and then looked relieved as he said, “Dang, we saw you guys on the video and we thought it was like the zombie apocalypse or something.” They took pictures as we sang.

The next stop was the Shoppette gas station, and there weren’t many people in there. Someone was checking out in the line but kept his head down while we sang. The German lady who works the register, though, stopped was she was doing and turned around to watch us with the biggest grin on her face and tears in her eyes.

We went to various houses and apartments of families our students knew on post…even though the occupied houses are now very few and far between! Little kids pressed their noses to the window, they came out on the porch to listen, and many looked surprised but pleasantly so. One guy even offered us money afterwards, even though we yelled that it was a gift about 50 times. I think it can be hard to accept gifts you’re not expecting or not used to.

We sang outside the Command Sergeant Major’s house (2nd in command of the entire post), and he came out in his PT clothes and socks and he and his wife shook every single kid’s hand.

As we walked back to chapel, I was behind one of my leaders and 2 of his guys that he was talking to. This leader almost wasn’t able to come to camp with us here in a few weeks, because he didn’t think he could get leave. Well, he got it and I found out yesterday! I teared up walking behind them, because not much gets me in the feels like seeing my leaders care for “the least of these,” the teenagers, the ones you only hear about in the context of a school shooting or the “knockout” game in the news. When in fact I know and we know that they are instead the kinds of people God chooses to further his kingdom, like he chose Mary. He chose these kids to brighten so many familys’ Christmases this year just in an hour.

We came back to chapel, had hot chocolate, and hung out with Sarah and Rachel for the last time because in just a few hours they would be on a bus to Ramstein to catch a flight back to the states. It was a bittersweet night with a lot of tears at the end, but I was feeling the Christmas spirit anyway.

I came home to discover that a friend of mine from my church in Delaware had gifted me her car. I don’t even have words right now to describe how grateful I am for everyone’s prayers and for the way God has answered them. He truly provides. Over and over and over again. He’s confirming that Georgia is where I’m supposed to be, and He’s showing me the blessings of having been here for 3 years, even through all the struggles.

My heart is full.

 

just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

I just have to say, what a blessing it is to receive messages like this right now:

“So I know right now you’re having to trust God with a lot of things and some things that are really hard to put trust in someone else for because they are so important but I know God is going to provide for you… You’ve been following God’s plan for your life and your continuing to do that even though it’s definitely not the easiest thing and because of that he’ll provide for your needs and make it all worth it because what you’re doing has helped so many people and helped people find him”
-a former student from Bamberg

“We are overjoyed that you will be close to us and truly want to keep you involved with our lives. I feel like you could truly help be a spiritual mentor to ______ and _____ as they face this challenging world”
-a supporter from Chattanooga

“We are really looking forward to you being back in our town.  I pray that you will take this opportunity to reconnect with _____. She needs the positive influence you could provide.”
-a former NWGA YL parent

 

middle school retreat

Two weekends ago I took a student named Rebekah to our Bavaria Middle School Retreat, and led music alongside Jaclyn, the Community Director in nearby Schweinfurt. It was a great time! Here’s some pics from the weekend!

We went to a Schwimmbad

We went to a Schwimmbad

And ice skating!

And went ice skating!

I got to do ministry alongside my friend Erin for the first time, who brought some middle schoolers with Young Life Munich!

I got to do ministry alongside my friend Erin for the first time, who brought some middle schoolers with Young Life Munich!

We stayed in this really nice youth hostel

We stayed in this really nice youth hostel

We had a pizza party after getting our t-shirts and played Ninja

We had a pizza party after getting our t-shirts and played Ninja with 2 boys from the Bamberg Hospitality House missionary family who just moved to another post

Rebekah made a cool new friend in a chaplain's daughter from Schweinfurt

Rebekah made a cool new friend in a chaplain’s daughter from Schweinfurt

My regional director led a game where Rebekah was chosen to blow a tissue in the air with a straw while another kid tried to catch it with one of those party favor horns

My regional director and his wife led a game where Rebekah was chosen to blow a tissue in the air with a straw while another kid tried to catch it with one of those party favor horns

 

We played lots of other games too

We played lots of other games too

David Martin, YL Germany Director, spoke about receiving God's gift

David Martin, YL Germany Director, spoke about receiving God’s gift

It snowed a lot! This is Schweinfurt & Bamberg :)

It snowed a lot! This is Schweinfurt & Bamberg throwing some snowballs!

 

 

every new beginning starts with some other beginning’s end

I’ve been trying to explain my feelings as of late to people in this way: It’s like I have one foot in America and one foot still in Germany. I’m trying to figure out how to live in the present. How to say goodbye well and make the most of my time here while also looking forward to the next adventure God has for me. Here’s some things that have been happening lately that are “the end” and demanding my attention here, and some things that are “the beginning” and exciting and making it very clear that God is preparing the way for another new beginning in the states:

The end:
-Today I went to T-Mobile to set my cell phone to be shut off January 15th
-Today was Bamberg Middle High School’s final football game EVER 😦
-The other day I packed several boxes to start mailing to the states
-My car has been sold for over a month now
-It is now officially cold. Summer and fall are gone, only one season left to experience for the last time. My iPhone says it is 37 degrees F at the time of writing this (in the middle of the night).
-I am planning my last trips to see other countries.
-I am getting ready to train my local hire to take over for the last few months
-Bamberg is closing fast and businesses are consolidating and it is sad and weird.
-My last Staff Conference is coming up in a couple of weeks where I will be goodbyed- looking forward to quality time with friends but not the emotional goodbye where everyone says nice things to you while you sit with everyone looking at you. Awkward!

The beginning:
-While we were packing my stuff, my best friend wrote an encouraging sticky note and put it on every single thing she bubble wrapped so that I would “not be so sad when unpacking” ❤ Also, she bought her ticket to the states for 2 months in February. What an awesome thing to look forward to- introducing my German best friend to the US for the first time!
-A donor recently gave $5,000 (yes you read that right) to help with my moving expenses!
-Skyping with a wonderful mentor in my life who does admin for YL Chattanooga and she suddenly exclaimed “Oh my gosh I didn’t realize you’d be coming to weekly Young Life staff meetings! Let’s have lunch every Tuesday after them at a different place in Chattanooga!” and both of us teared up at the thought of how good our God is!
-A friend I knew in Chattanooga and wished I’d had more time to get to know is moving back there soon and is going to try to look for a house we can be roommates in.
-I’ve had so many people stateside tell me how excited they are that I’ll be closer, including club kids and families from Bamberg.
-Witnessing God healing friends and friendships in the states recently.

I’m in a strange place in life, praying for contentment and motivation and trying to live in the moment and not in fear. Perfect love drives out fear- so for now I’m trying to stay close to the One who is with me through all of this and understands. I find myself spending a lot more time in solitude and prayer. Not a bad thing at all, and I think it’s what will carry me through this transition, as well as your prayers and encouragement! Thanks to you all for that, by the way. I am blessed.

Roadblocks and windows

I was meeting with a parent for coffee one day, one of my favorite things to do, when a bird flew awkwardly and clumsily through the open window of the coffee shop, landing on the ground near some tables and chairs. It took us a second or 2 to realize what in the world all that noise was. I’m sure it took the bird a few seconds too. The mom took off her sweatshirt even knowing she’d probably get some weird bird disease on it and gathered the little injured thing up in it gently and we headed to the vet. We weren’t walking long before it magically recovered from its bird concussion and flew away. We just shrugged.

This week I feel like I’ve been flying into about, oh, 1937134510384 glass windows.

Government shut down. Post shut down. Background checks. Trying to get a medical bill re-sent to me as I am referred to one person, then another, then another, then a phone number, and passed around to 3 more people. Plans I make for fun trips keep falling apart as people back out. I’ve been spending my work days mostly sending emails, filling out paperwork, making phone calls, and waiting. Not exactly fulfilling parts of the job. Just this morning, my bus route was disrupted and I was late to a staff meeting because of a bomb threat to the train station. I felt all kinds of derailed (sorry- pun, couldn’t help it). Even something like the printer not working was sending me into mini-rage blackouts.

Yesterday, as I was complaining, our priest, who is awesome, convictingly sat me down in his office and simply said, “Laura, if you really want to do this job, you’re just gonna have to decide to deal with it.”

Sigh. 

We think birds are stupid because they keep flying into windows, but look at it from the bird’s perspective. You see the other side and you think you can totally make it, but your perspective is all wrong because, well, you’re just a bird, and frankly windows don’t make any sense whatsoever to you. What’s a window? How does it work? What’s glass? Why can I see through it but not go through it? A bird will never understand windows. Period.

I will never understand roadblocks, disappointments, waiting, walls, and windows. Period. I am just a human. I can’t see that far. I can’t comprehend the big picture.

Today I woke up and asked Jesus for a better day, and I don’t know why but He gave it to me. I felt like I was soaring through the day. However, I can’t decide if good stuff actually happened or if I was just not as focused on the crappy stuff and actually looked for and saw the good stuff today. What about the days where I can’t see grace? When I’m dazed and confused from hitting all the frustrating walls and forget how to fly? Sometimes I feel guilty for how long it takes me to get back up on my feet.

But I think that’s when Jesus carries me in His sweatshirt, even if I’ll get it dirty. He felt my dirty sins on the cross already and He’s all like, “Whatever, I’ll wash it later, not important”. He’ll carry me until I’m ready to fly, no matter how long it takes. He doesn’t mind, He’s already decided to give me all the help I need until I’m ready to see His grace and see that I’m not really hopeless. My identity is not in my job and if I’m doing something that feels “purposeful” or not. My identity is not in my relationships and whether they are going well or how many people I still have around. I can still have joy and full, true life because He’s safely and gently carrying stupid, confused, fragile little me around and I can trust Him not to drop me. That’s how I can “deal with it” when life throws roadblocks at me. It may take me awhile, I might not bounce back right away, I might panic that He’s gonna drop me and need to hear His reassurance to me over and over again, but He is eternally patient and understands.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-11

If you really, truly, know you are deeply loved by someone who is compassionate and strong and gentle and powerful, you can straight up take on anything.