Friday, September 12, 2008

Pictures from India


Early January 2005: I joined a team of 17 Liberty students on a trip to India. For most of us, it was our first time to visit the highly populated Hindu country, and little did we know the impact India and its people would leave on our hearts. We flew into New Delhi and made our way south into Rajasthan by bus, visiting schools, churches, hospitals, leper colonies, and orphanages all founded or sponsored by a ministry called Hopegivers. We were all profoundly moved by the faith of the saints in India and deeply stirred by the physical and spiritual needs that were evident on every street corner. Yet perhaps what changed us the most during our short trip to this beautiful land were the little beacons of light called Hope Homes that penetrated the darkness with unbelievable force. 

These Hope Homes are made up of orphaned, abandoned, and impoverished children from India and its bordering countries and are teeming with life like I have never seen before or since. Many of these children sleep 4 to a wooden slab bunk bed or with a mere blanket on the floor because there are so many of them and not enough beds. Everything they own in the world can fit into a little trunk only slightly bigger than a shoebox. Their meals consist of rice with some kind of Indian sauce or spice with the luxury of meat only every once in a blue moon. But do not be fooled, these are the happiest, most vibrant, most joyful kids I have ever met in my life. They know what it is to be in want, but they know even more the reality of having their daily prayers answered by the hand of God. In their youth they have experienced hunger, cold, thirst, disease, death, and persecution, but the light in their eyes is evidence that their hope does not lie in their circumstances, but in the One whom they believe to be loving and holding and guiding them through it all. 

I was (and continue to be) greatly affected by the faith of these precious children, and went back to India the following year to spend Christmas at one of the orphanages. The images of their smiling faces are forever etched in my mind, and the sound of their laughter, their songs to Jesus both in English and Hindi, and their fervent prayers to the God who has shown Himself faithful to them are ringing in my ears and melting my heart to this day. I have not been able to forget these little ones that make up the "orphan army," and have been praying for the last 3 years that the Lord would make a way for me to somehow be a voice for His children in India. That prayer was answered about a month ago when I was contacted by a Liberty grad who now works for Hopegivers and asked to link up with their ministry and champion their cause wherever I go. Turns out, they had been praying for me for quite sometime as well. It's amazing how the Lord works, and Jacob and I are now planning to visit India as well as the new Hope Homes in Haiti before the year is out. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to visit Hope Homes on a regular basis and to share the stories of these children that have forever changed my life. I have a feeling I will be talking about what the Lord is doing through this ministry long after my music is said and done. If you are interested in taking a short-term mission trip with Hopegivers to India, Haiti, or Malawi, Africa, want to get involved by supporting these kids, or just want more information on their ministry, visit You won't regret it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Discouraged No More

Discouragement is a very real thing. It is no respecter of persons. I'll even go out on a limb and say that we all, at some point or another, have been discouraged. These feelings of dread and defeat generally sneak up behind and take hold of us in our most vulnerable state and don't tend to let go without a fight. This battle takes place in our minds, and the thoughts we allow ourselves to dwell on will either serve as fiery darts or a fire hydrant to the wildfire of discouragement ablaze in our hearts. 

Here's what I mean. Discouragement is most often triggered by a news flash that something has gone awry or nothing is working out as planned. During these unpleasant doses of reality, our world often seems to come to a standstill and our initial knee-jerk reaction is to throw up our hands and give up. Throw in the towel. Call it quits. Run away. Far away. Can I be honest with you? I felt like that today. Sometimes things just don't pan out the way we so hopefully envisioned them, and when they don't, discouragement sets in and the doubt begins to rear its ugly head. "Am I really being used by God? Does God really care about me? Am I even worth anything to Him? God says He loves me, but how can I believe it when everything I know is crumbling around me? Where in the world is He?" Yep, been there. And I want to tell you it's a very real place. But you don't have to stay there. You don't have to be defeated. Life is hard, that's for sure, but we must resolve to look beyond everything our circumstances are screaming at us and be still before the God who created us and loves us through it all. How do we do that? We focus our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. He was sovereign and loving enough to call us to Himself and set us on the journey of a lifetime, and He will be faithful to complete the good work in us, rest assured. 

If you find yourself in that dark place of discouragement, Beloved, I beg you. Do not give into the lies. Do not entertain thoughts that are untrue. Choose to believe the cold hard facts that are found in God's Word and dwell on His life-giving promises. Read through the Psalms of David and notice how he cried out to God in the bleakest of situations and do the same. Pour out your heart before Him, He wants to hear from you, even if all you have to offer are tears and questions. Ask the Lord to help you focus your eyes on Him instead of the ever shifting circumstances. May we train ourselves to constantly meditate on the excellent and praiseworthy things that Paul referred to in Philippians 4:8, no matter how dark the night may be. Let us trust the Lord at all times, for He is good. I leave you with one of my favorite passages of Scripture found in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away,  yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Hello friends! Just a few updates and recaps from the past week or so. I made my first trip to Canada (Toronto area) to help lead worship on August 24 at the Hershey Centre in Mississagua for a Primerica business conference. Because many of the top Canadian executives for this company are Christians, they wanted to provide an opportunity for conference goers to attend a worship service and hear the Gospel. There were probably about 1400 people in attendance, and almost half of that number came forward that morning to receive Jesus for the first time! It was amazing. You never know where God is going to show up and start changing people's lives. I was humbled to be a part. 

After Canada, Jacob and I were able to meet up in North Carolina to spend some time with my family. We were able to relax, get some good ole' home cookin', have quality time with family and friends, and meet my parents' new white lab puppy, Ranger. He's the cutest ever, and I confess that I contemplated stealing him. (Our landlord wouldn't be too happy with that decision though.) My favorite part of being home was the conversations I was able to have with my brothers. I love all three of those boys so much, and know that the Lord has His hand on their lives although they may not be able to see it at the moment. As long as I can remember, I have prayed that my little brothers would come to know and love the God who has loved and pursued them relentlessly, and I'll be the first to admit that discouragement often sets in when I see no fruit of those prayers. Yet I will continue to remind myself that God is sovereign in all things, He loves them more than I ever could, and He makes all things beautiful in His time.

On Wednesday of last week Jacob and I were in the Baltimore/DC area for radio interviews and a Live XM taping. Jill from Word also joined us, and we had an eventful and fun-filled day. We started out the morning with Angela and Brennan from WGTS in Tacoma Park, MD and as early as it was, still managed to have a blast. A couple hours later we headed to the XM station in DC where our new friend Jim Epperline gave us a tour of the entire building. It was amazing! I highly recommend taking a tour! Our live concert was from 1-2, and some of our friends from McLean Bible Church and Liberty along with new friends from the DC area joined us for a sweet time of worship. (The live taping will be aired on XM's channel 32 The Message sometime in late October.) After we said goodbye to the wonderful people at XM, we headed to WRBS in Baltimore and met up with Chris and Erin. I happen to be quite fond of the crew at WRBS, mostly because of the extensive time I spent with them at GMA. After lots of laughs and fun times there, Jill, Jacob and I ventured over to the Inner Harbor and had dinner by the water. What a fantastic day! 

This past Saturday I was in the lineup for Celebrate Freedom outside of Atlanta, and was accompanied by Aaron Shust's band. Because of being on the last two tours with them, those guys have become good friends, and they did an awesome job on my songs! I decided I really like having a band. We may have to look into making that a more regular occurrence. :) Atlanta was hot as blazes, and I'm pretty sure I don't even sweat that much working out, but it was great to catch up with old friends and make new ones as well. 

I arrived at O'Hare International Airport later that evening, and since no one I knew was available to pick me up, I opted for the Airport Express. My driver's name was Hassan, and before we could even make it out of the airport we were talking about life. I found out that he comes from a Muslim family from Jordan, and has lived in the states for about 7 years. He was my age and very friendly, and we ended up discussing religion versus relationship with God the whole way home and then sitting in my driveway for a while talking about Jesus, why He came, why He died, and the difference between Christianity and Islam. I invited him to Harvest (my church), and he told me he would come when he could take off from work. He seemed very curious, and I know there was a reason no one could pick me up from the airport that night. His name is Hassan, and I would ask you to join with me in praying for his salvation.

It has been a wonderful week, and I am thankful for every opportunity that was given. Thank you for letting me share these events and stories with you. My only hope is that with every note sung, with every word spoken, with every person encountered, with every blog written, that the name of Jesus was lifted high and that above anything else, God was honored. Let us make it our goal to please Him.