Sunday, 11 December 2011

Going forward home

Our time in Fiji has come to an end! It was a great time of learning and ministry for all of us! We were able to learn so much about living in Fiji. Most of our time there we stayed on a YWAM base in Labasa. The weather there was very hot, reaching about 90 degrees by 10am. It also rained nearly every single day. Our way of transportation was mainly walking or a crowded bus. Because we are all white, we were like celebrities there. It is not often that a non-tourist town saw white people, especially a team of them. We were constantly being watched, greeted, and once a lady even asked to have her picture taken with us! We got to eat all sorts of interesting Fijian foods…and we often (by often, I mean every time we ate) heard the phrase “kana vakalevu” which means “eat big”! The Fijian culture is very big on hospitality, which includes making heaps of food and expecting your guests to kana vakalevu!  Along with Fijians, there is a very large Indian culture in Fiji, which brings the Hindu religion into Fiji. I was actually surprised as to how many Indians live in Fiji…in places it seems like they outnumbered the Fijians! Fiji is a third world nation and so poverty is pretty much everywhere. It was interesting though because poverty is so widespread that it just seems to be the norm…not really looked at as poverty.
We did all sorts of ministry there.  A few times we went door to door in an Indian village. They all welcomed us in and were eager to hear what we had to say. Many teams led people to Christ and saw how excited they were about being free from Hinduism. Many people said they felt trapped in Hinduism because of parents, spouses, etc. Several of them claimed to agree with what we would say, but would then respond with something along the lines of “yes but all religions are the same…all gods are the same”. Perfect examples about how it can be very difficult to break down the walls of deception.
We went to the local hospital a few times and would go to the patients and pray for them and their families. The hospitals were shocking. Very crowded, dirty and extremely hot. There were four beds to a small room and all would be filled with sick children or new mothers with their newborns. It was really interesting because there were several Indian/Hindu families in the hospital that were really eager for us to pray for them and/or their sick child. It’s like they knew there was power in what we would pray…something they do not have outside of Jesus. So those were really interesting opportunities and it was a great way to encourage the families there.
We were also really involved with a couple of the churches there. We would share messages, testimonies and do skits at Sunday services and youth groups. We got to pray for people and spend a lot of time in fellowship.
For our last week there we spent 5 days in a remote village. This was quite the experience! There was no electricity, no running water, no proper showers, and we were in the middle of nowhere! There were heaps of mosquitoes and several times we had to hike through knee-deep mud to get to our ministry places. It was a pretty intense time for all of us, but by God’s Grace we made it through! We got to spend so much time with the kids there who absolutely adored us…it was really precious! One night we all separated and stayed with a family in the village. They were so excited to have us in their village that they wanted to host us for a night. That was really cool! We did children’s ministry, youth group, and 2 Sunday services while we were in the village. We were pretty exhausted by the end of our stay, but so glad we got to spend time there!
We returned from Fiji on Dec. 9 after spending 4 weeks there.
And l I can’t believe I’m typing this….but this is the last week of my time in Australia. It is so hard to believe I will be coming home in one week. It is even so exciting to be back in Australia after spending two months in New Zealand and Fiji. I didn’t realize how much this place really has become like home to me. As excited as I am to be coming home in a week, it is going to be really hard to leave Newcastle and all the wonderful people who have become like family to me. It is hard to imagine what my life is going to be like without the team I have spent every day with for the past five and a half months. We are all really excited to go on with where our lives are taking us: some are returning to or starting college, doing missions in Thailand, and joining YWAM. God has grown us all so much from when we started DTS. For me personally, I’ve learned more than I ever thought I would have during my time in Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. When I reflect on the past couple of years of my life…I am truly awed by where God has brought me from. A girl who once lived life only to please herself has been redeemed by our Great and Mighty God to a life with Jesus Christ. I tell you I have never been more thankful for the Grace the Jesus offers each and every one of us. Two years ago I would never in my wildest dreams pictured myself traveling around the world as a missionary! But that just goes to show how Powerful God is. There is nothing special about me, nothing I could have done to deserve this. I simply prayed: “God, use me for something Big” and He heard my prayer and led me to do things even bigger than I ever could have imagined (Ephesians 3:20). All I had to be was willing. He loves us all so much, it is impossible to even grasp…and He is calling every single one of us to Love Him with everything we have to give. He does not require us to sit in church every Sunday, grudgingly offer our money, memorize the Bible, or try to do “the right thing” all the time. That was the law that Jesus Christ set us free from. God simply wants all of our heart, all of who we are…devoted to Him every day. That’s what this life is about-Loving God and His people…and giving all the Glory to Him. I don’t know who is even reading this blog right now, and I don’t know where you are in your faith…but I want to encourage you to think outside of yourself…forget about how little is in your power and recognize what a Loving, Gracious, and Holy God created You. Living a life to glorify Christ is one decision I can promise you will never regret. He will take you places you never even dreamed of…and show you a Love that can’t even be put into words. I am beyond grateful to have known this at 21 years old and I look forward to the rest of my life in front of me.  I’m very excited to not be going back home, but to be going forward home. I don’t know what my future will hold, but I know it will be Good…because that is the God I serve and He has shown me that in ways that are undeniable. He wants to show you too…what are you waiting for!?

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
Romans 5:1-2


If you want to see all of my pictures from Fiji you can just click the following links:

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Beginning of the End

Bula! (hello in Fijian) We made it to the beautiful islands of Fiji on November 12. Our time has been good so far, but first let's go back to our last few weeks in New Zealand. Our time there came to a close so quickly! Our main ministry focus in New Zealand was discipleship- with friends our age and the youth groups we were able to visit. It didn't always feel like a ministry though, more like loving people, encouraging them, and leading them in their faith. Sharing our testimonies with the youth brought on some really cool small group conversations. One night we spoke at a church that was all older people-quite a change for us! We talked about YWAM and what we had been doing in their community. There was a question and answer time afterwards and it weas neat to hear their questions and see their interest in what we are doing. We got to talk to them afterwards and hear their stories about the earthquakes and how they were affected by them. The earthquakes pretty much turned the area into a third world nation. They had to use chemical toilets, no power, food shortages, dangerous conditions, not knowing if loved ones were okay, etc. Praise God we only felt a few quakes while we were there and that they were little ones! When we got home from talking with them that night, Susie (our leader) broke the news that she just found out earlier that morning that in order to do our ministry in Fiji, we had to purchase a Religious Workers Permit, which was going to cost all 7 of us an extra $90.....however, the church we had just left gave us a team donation of $800! Coincidence? Nah, God is just that awesome!! So that was a huge blessing to us. Aside from discipleship, we helped out randomly in the community and worked with an organization called 0800Hungry. We left Christchurch feeling a sense of completion and a knowing that we had done what we went to do-bring hope and light of Jesus to a city in much need. To top it off, we left with some great new friends!
Now we are beginning the end of our outreach. Fiji is beautiful! For the first few days in Fiji we stayed with a friend from YWAM Newcastles family. We got a real Fijian experience-living just as the locals. We had a bit of culture shock at first as we are no longer in the comfort of a first world nation, but we are resting in the truth that God will provide what we need and keep away what we don't! We have been sharing testimonies at youth groups, churches, evangelising door to door, and visiting hospitals. We have about 2 weeks left of outreach and we are determined to make the most of our time here! Please keep up the prayers for a strong finish!
-Nicki

PS: I will post pictures once back in Australia!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Life in New Zealand

Updates from New Zealand
Hey everybody! It has been awhile since I’ve updated. We have been in Christchurch, New Zealand for about a week and a half now. We had a very smooth trip over and all of our travelling went very well! We got started right in with ministry about 10 hours after getting here. For the first 3 days our team split up for the morning. My team (Me, Marika, Ali, and Daniel) helped out at Brynwyr Baptist Church with a “Kidz Alive” program, which is similar to a vacation bible school. We helped out in crafts, games, worship, and in any other ways we were needed. We had so much fun and the kids really enjoyed their time! One thing that really caught our attention was on the first day the pastor was giving the kids announcements regarding the building: bathrooms, rules, etc, and then explained to them what to do “in the likely event we would have an earthquake”. The kids all new to assume the turtle position! For the afternoons we went to Breezes Baptist Church and met up with the rest of our team. We helped people around there houses with gardening and some moving boxes. What would take one person a whole day to complete, eight of us were able to work together and get the job finished in an hour or two. It really meant a lot to the people we were able to help. They were really glad to see people coming in to Christchurch to help when so many people have been leaving the city because of the uncertainty and destruction. It was interesting to hear them tell their stories about what happened to them with the earthquake. Then on Saturday we went door to door in the community to see if there was anything we could do to help them around their house and let them know about the event Breezes Baptist was holding that afternoon. Saturday and Sunday afternoons we helped with this event called “Love Avondale”.  Avondale is a community in Christchurch that was hit very hard by the February 2011 earthquake and about 25% of people are losing their homes from it. This event was a really nice way to get the community united to have some fun together and to see some hope for their future.  There were shops, a choir, jump-jumps, food, and a lot of fellowship. I got to monitor the jump jumps- not a bad deal! On Sunday Bo was able to share a short testimony of how God has been working in his life since coming to YWAM. It was really cool and a lot of people were really encouraged by his story.
This past week we have mainly worked with another church, Linwood Baptist, taking door to door surveys of how their church could help in their local community. It was definitely challenging to do this and very humbling. I wasn’t thrilled about “bothering” people at their homes and not to mention…this is outreach!? Not what I pictured when I heard we would be doing earthquake relief. It has continued teaching me the importance of doing a job if I’m told to do it whether I agree with it or not! Also really trusting that God is in it, and even though I may not see it, there is purpose in what we are doing. It did lead to some cool opportunities to talk about what we are doing and what we believe. One of the days, Daniel and I knocked on the door of a Jehovah’s Witness (tables were turned..haha!) and ended up having an hour conversation with him about our beliefs. It was really cool and he definitely was taking to heart a lot of what we were saying. Other people on our team got to pray for people, talk to atheists about their faith, and really encourage several others. It turned out not to be as awful of a time as we were all expecting!
One night we went to a young adults group at Breezes Baptist. Most of us shared a bit about how we got to YWAM and the awesome ways that God has been working in our lives. It was really cool to be able to share with people our age. We split into guy and girl groups and us girls got a lot of insight to how fear and paranoia are still major parts of their lives. Keeping emergency kits in their cars, making sure their petrol tanks are always over half full, looking for what could fall on them when walking into a building, planning their nearest exits, etc. I will admit that a lot of their fear transferred to me that night as well. Seeing the destruction and then hearing about how fear of another earthquake or tsunami haunts them daily all of a sudden became a reality to me. My heart really broke for them. Many of their childhood memories are destroyed, friends and family have moved away, and home no longer holds the comfort it once did. I can’t imagine being afraid to be in Wauseon, in my home. But that is what reality is for them here in Christchurch. It is heartbreaking.
Even though the big earthquake was about 8 months ago, there is still so much to be done-roads still need to be fixed, houses need fixed, and people need healing. We have talked to people who saw bodies scattered in the road, walked out of a shop where most of the people were killed literally seconds before the earthquake hit, lost a daughter, and several who are losing their homes. Since the February earthquake there have been over 2,000 aftershocks. We were prepared to feel them and to not panic! So far I have not felt any, but a couple in our group has felt two of them (due to me being asleep and in a different location!) It is something you have to just not think about otherwise it will make you paranoid! Liquefaction is a substance that oozes up from the ground after a big earthquake and it is still covering many yards and sidewalks. Parts of the city are marked “Red” and are unlivable and dangerous to be around. What the people of this city have been through is unimaginable; a true nightmare.
This city needs the light of Jesus Christ and they need hope. It is a privilege to be here serving the people of this city. One of the greatest ways we have been able to serve is through building relationships with the people here. Daniel and Bo have talked to a few guys who now want to do a DTS! It is really cool to see how God is working through us to reach the lives of others. It means so much to them to know that people from all over the world really do care about them and want to help.
So many times it is hard to see God in the middle of disaster. It is too easy to shift our eyes to what we are lacking instead of the many things we do have to be thankful for.  I don’t know why God allows the hard stuff, but I know I don’t always need to know why. God’s way of doing things is a lot of times out of our comprehension, yet we still spend so much time trying to find answers that simply aren’t there for us to find. Lucky for us, we don’t need the answers…we just need the One who has them.

Please keep praying for our team and the people in Christchurch!
                                                                house getting held in place
Gardening

Leading worship

Last day of KidzAlive program

Just doing my job ;)

Watching the Rugby game....Go the All Blacks!

Earthquake damage at Linwood Baptist Church

                                                                      Liquefaction
More gardening!

6 girls on mattresses on the floor for bedtime!

New Zealand countryside

more of the country

Sheep!!! In New Zealand of course

Pictures hardly do this any justice

Sunday, 9 October 2011

First 2 Weeks of Outreach!

Hello! It has been awhile. I’ve been keeping busy these past couple of weeks of outreach! Last week we took the 36 crew (kids) from YouthStreet up to the Gold Coast in Australia for 5 Day Escape! It was so much fun, but also very exhausting. As staff, we were on the go from about 6:30am until about 10:30pm for those five days. We did different things with the crew each day such as shopping, BBQ at the beach, team games, tubing & wakeboarding, bowling, Lion King in 3D, and went to an amusement park called  Dream World. The crew had so much fun. Each night we had a night program that consisted of different team challengers, skits, a talent show, and other sorts of fun. On the last night one of our staff shared a message about Jesus being the only One we can always count on during the difficult times and how even though we may feel helpless at times, God is the One who will always come through for us. Several crew made decisions to follow Christ that night and even more crew talked with us about questions they had. It was truly a wonderful night to be a part of. I got to pray with a couple of girls in my cabin and then share with them some more and encourage them. A lot of the crew said they never knew that they could have a personal relationship with God, or that God wanted a relationship with them! A couple told me how they had never felt such power in prayer before that night. It was an honor to be used by God in such a moving way.
This past week we spent at the Island Breeze Sydney YWAM base in Sydney Australia. They had a Nations 2 Nations conference that we were able to attend and help at the base. We did some evangelism, scrubbed the kitchen floor, and helped in the kitchen a few times. The conference focused on God’s love for all the nations and how one day we will be one nation in Heaven! Revelation 7:9 “After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands”. Speakers taught a lot about identity in Christ and destiny and how this related to people from every nation. It was amazing because there were people there from Australia, America, Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, England, Cook Island, Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, Fiji, Africa, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a couple of nations! It was amazing to talk to people from all over the world. We got a glimpse of different cultures through dress, watching dances, tribal dances/calls, and worshipping God in different languages. I’ve come to the discovery that I love islanders!! They are seriously so much fun! Definitely got me even more excited for Fiji! We all had such an amazing time. I definitely gained a whole new love and appreciation for all of the people in different nations!
As I write this we are on our way back to Newcastle for the weekend before flying to New Zealand on Tuesday! Ali actually had to fly to New Zealand last weekend because of visa issues so we are missing her and excited to see her!
Please continue praying for breakthrough in finances for our group. There are still a couple people who need their money by next week to be able to come to Fiji. If they end up not being able to come it will reduce our team to 5 and I reckon if 2 are better than 1, then 7 is better than 5! Amen? So please keep the prayers flowing!
Our first 2 weeks of outreach have been really wonderful and I’m so excited to see what God has in store for the next 8 weeks! Thanks for praying for me and my team. God bless!
Crocodile feeding at DreamWorld with 5DE

At DreamWorld


<3

Chloe, Ali, and Danielle on the way to Sydney!

Bo and I on the way to Sydney!

Sydney Base

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Update from Aus

Hey mate J The start to my last week of lectures has begun! It is so crazy! I had a very eventful week this past week . Lectures last week were over Bible study. I was so excited for this because over the past year and a half I have grown to LOVE studying the Bible…I mean, it’s the Word of God! That’s awesome! So anyways our speaker, Henk, was amazing! He won me over when he quoted “Coffee is God’s gift to this generation” Amen! Anyways, Henk is an older man with the sweetest heart! He is very wise and offered a lot of cool insight for getting the most out of studying the Bible. Summarizing and questioning what you read is very important! He also shared with us some pretty amazing statistics about well known people in history and how what they did was recorded. Apparently there are 10 manuscripts of Caesar, 7 manuscripts for Plato, but here is the amazing part: there are about 24,000 manuscripts of the New Testament! I never knew that before last week and I found that absolutely amazing! This was the first time I have actually felt sad to see a speaker leave!
We found out last week that one of our leaders, Susie, is unable to come to Fiji with us. Because of this, they asked me to co-lead that portion of the outreach with Daniel. So this is a huge honor and I’m excited about it. I will by no means be staff, I will definitely still be a student, but I just may have some extra responsibility when Daniel needs help.
As I mentioned last week, the April DTS returned back from outreach and so we were able to hear all of there really amazing outreach stories! It was very encouraging and made me even more excited for outreach! Their commissioning was Thursday night and it was crazy to think that in less than 3 months, that will be our group!! It was bittersweet to think of that. Commissioning here is like graduation, except it is not signifying an end to something, but the beginning to go out and change the world in which we live. It was a really great time!
I was back on evangelism teams for YouthStreet this week. My group went to the skate park to hang out and talk with people. I think that was the first time I have ever been to a skate park! It was pretty cool. Skaters are very talented! The crowd there was mainly people who were too old for YouthStreet, but we still did have a couple of opportunities to hang out with younger people and invite them to YouthStreet.
Sunday was Amazing!!! It was one of the best days! A group of 5 of us girls left our house at 5am to watch the sunrise at the break wall at the beach! We had our quiet time there and it was amazing. The pictures we took don’t even begin to do it justice! It was stunning! Afterwards we went out for some much needed coffee! Then we headed off to see the kangaroos. The place where they all hang out and are tame enough to feed even though they are wild is actually an old abandoned mental hospital! It was about an hour drive so we had a typical girl road trip. Complete with Taylor Swift and windows down! J  The kangaroos were so amazing although I was a little scared of them! They were so cute! And fun fact: they growl! Pretty nuts. They were eating bread right from our hands-it was amazing! And there were so many of them! After that we went to a Reserve Park and saw some koalas. They were so cute too! It ended up being a beautiful 90 degree day! Some spring weather, hey?
If you were a part of the picture video, God is Good, I want to say thank you so much and enjoyed seeing each and every one of your faces in it! It made me cry like a baby the first time I watched it, but it reminded me of how loved and supported I am, and of course that God is always Good! It was so great! Seriously, words can’t even express how much I love it!!

We begin outreach this Saturday, Sept. 24! We are taking 40 YouthStreet crew up to the Gold Coast-so pray for some real transformation in their lives! It is going to be great. Please also pray for our team finances. As a whole, my team needs $8,000 for every person to be able to go on outreach with us. Please be in prayer for this as well. We do not want to be separated. If anyone feels lead to give you can e-mail me at nicole_rae21@hotmail.com. Please really keep up your prayers-we are believing God for all finances and we know that He is more than able to provide! Thank you for your continued prayers!


Sunrise at the break wall

feeding the kangaroos!


Look at that little joey!!!


Kangaroo crossing!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Missions

Hey everybody! Hope you’re doing great. I am doing well here in the outback! I have had a very fun past week, but first I need to update what I said about our outreach on last week’s blog. We are no longer going to Auckland, NZ but instead will only be going to Christchurch, NZ. No more fun road trip, but that is ok because that’s not what we are going there for anyways J Arrangements for Auckland were just not working out, so our leaders told our group about it and decided we all needed to pray together to see if we feel we should even be going there. We were told to pray and then write either “Auckland” or “Christchurch” on a piece of paper. So we all prayed and wrote down where we felt we should go…..and 4 of us wrote Auckland and 4 of us wrote Christchurch. We had to laugh about that. We discussed a little bit about why we felt led toward one or the other and then decided to repeat that process. This time everyone wrote down Christchurch. So that was really neat! And we will be there in ONE month!!!!
We had lectures over the topic of “Missions” last week. Our speaker, Merv, was really great. He presented a lot of good information that opened our eyes to how necessary missionaries truly are! At one point in the week we watched a video about tribal people who received the gospel for the first time. It was amazing! Before being preached to, they had absolutely no hope. The video had footage from a funeral and the people were actually jumping down into the grave site because they couldn’t let their loved one go-they didn’t know where they were going, if they would ever see each other again. Public mourning of the people lasted weeks. It was heartbreaking. A couple of missionaries went to them and lived with them for some time and taught them about Jesus and how amazing He is. The people listened with such intent-they wanted to hear this Good News so badly! They knew they NEEDED it! When they finally realized what this meant for them, they rejoiced. And I mean they jumped up and down and danced around for hours straight! They were completely filled with hope and joy. It was absolutely wonderful! The missionaries then trained the tribal people how to tell others about the Good News. A tribal group a few miles from this one came and actually offered to pay the missionary to come and live with them and teach them what they knew! What I took from this was that a lot of time people want to hear what we have to say. They want to know how they can stop trying to work towards being saved, or where they can find a True Hope and Love. They want to know Jesus, even if they don’t know it!
Thursday  afternoon ,Merv (our speaker) arranged for some of us to go to the Mosque that is right down the road from our house and speak with some Muslims to learn about Islam. It was quite the experience to say the least. Never thought I would have tea with a few Muslims! It was shocking to me how much Islam and Christianity are similar. We learned  a little bit about their religion a couple of weeks ago during our Evangelism week, but hearing the beliefs from people who are actually living that out was pretty interesting. Part of what they believe is that there is an angel who writes down all the good deeds in their life and then another angel who writes down all the bad deeds they do. Whichever one outweighs the other determines whether you go to Heaven or Hell. There is no grace. It is all about how you can earn salvation yourself. There is no freedom.
I was put back on dance team for YouthStreet this week-just in time to perform what we have been working on the past couple of months. The crew had so much fun performing for their friends at YouthStreet Live (as did I!!). It turned out really neat. It is so cool to see how many middle and high school students are so talented! It was heaps of fun for me to learn how to break dance and just have fun with the crew! I was really sore on Sunday though…I must be getting old or something!
Outreach is right around the corner! Less than 2 weeks away. Please continue praying for God to prepare His way for us and to provide finances for those who still need them. Hope everyone has a fantastic week!
”Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.  Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should”. Colossians 4:2-4
                                                           Danielle and I at the break wall <3
                                                     Just some random surfers...neat!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

It's Spring!!.........in September!

G’day! I can officially say I have seen spring in September! How cool is that? Last week we entered into spring and it’s been really nice! A group of us are going to the beach today after lunch. How being in Australia during spring does have its benefits!

Anyways, last week our lecture topic was “Calling and Vision.” Our speaker was a lot of fun and really engaged u s in his teaching-it was neat! The overall message I took from the week is that we shouldn’t be so focused on what we are to be doing, but instead focus on being in right relationship with God, and trusting Him to direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). When we have begun living our lives for His glory instead of our own, He will show us the right way. I believe He will speak to us through desires and passions He has placed in us. When we commit ourselves to His purposes He will guide us. We don’t have to worry about messing up or choosing the wrong thing. This is the beauty of completely trusting in the Lord! For me personally, I gained a great deal of confidence in realizing this for my own life. I often am so afraid of choosing the right or wrong thing that I end up not wanting to make a decision at all! I am going to work on staying committed to not overcomplicating things and TRUSTING my Perfect, Sovereign Savior who lives in me! How cool is that? Needless to say our lectures last week were really good and came at a very appropriate time! But, it is getting hard to focus on lectures with OUTREACH right around the corner!!!!!
We started something new with YouthStreet this past week. They decided to not have so many staff on each team during the day and to send out staff to different parts of Mayfield/Newcastle to spread the word about YouthStreet! Part of the vision for YouthStreet was to go to the kids instead of having them come to us. So, it was time to go back to this original vision. We ended up with 4 teams of 4 going into different parts of the city. I ended up being chosen to go out and spread the word! It was definitely a neat thing, but very exhausting! I think God is going to do really amazing through this!
So outreach....! We begin outreach on September 24! Can you believe it? Me either! First we will be taking a double decker bus up to the Gold Coast in Australia with the kids from YouthStreet. This is called 5 Day Escape and will include staying on the waterfront, going to the amusement park, shopping, movies, and heaps of fun! Then my outreach team will be doing a week of work in Sydney. We will then come back to Newcastle for Base Retreat, which to my understanding, is a weekend for staff us to go to the lake and just hang out! Right after that, we will be headed to Auckland, New Zealand! We are going to be doing some outreach there involving evangelism at the Rugby World Cup! Then we are taking a 15 hour road trip to the south island, Christchurch, New Zealand! This will include a 3 hour ferry ride! I am pretty excited about road tripping through New Zealand (if you couldn’t tellJ ). In Christchurch, we will be helping with various types of earthquake relief. About the beginning/middle of November we will be headed to Fiji! As of now, we will be working with a children’s ministry and a prisoner ministry. I am so stoked about outreach!!
Please be praying for us as we still need all the little details to fall into place with outreach. Also that God would be preparing our hearts to be completely focused on doing His work during this time.
I have been so blessed to not have to worry about all of my finances, but there are a couple of people on my team who do not have all of their outreach fees yet, so please be praying for their funds to come in!

Thanks for the support and prayers! ( I seriously can’t say that enough!) Have a wonderful week!


Monday, 29 August 2011

Less than a month left in Lewis House.....

Hey there! Hard to believe it is back to school season for most of you! I realized this is the first August in about 16 years that I am not going back to school! That is pretty crazy. I also just realized that I have less than a month left of living here in Newcastle. Then outreach to New Zealand and Fiji! I can’t wait to update you all about outreach here in a couple weeks when we get some things set in stone!
This past week was really great! A friend here taught me how to play chords on the piano, and I actually picked up quickly, so that was very exciting for me! We celebrated my roommate Ali’s birthday. (Not to be confused with Alee, who I miss a lot!) We had a fun time decorating her dinner table with party hats and blow horns! That night we went out for ice cream and had a really nice time! Sunday I went to the beach with a friend, Esther. We laid out for awhile and then got into the ocean. It was my first time ever being in the Pacific Ocean! It was pretty amazing! Then we walked down to the break wall, which is like a little path with a light house and a bunch of rocks overlooking the ocean. We crawled up on one and had a great talk. While we were chatting, we saw a seal catch a fish! It was so, so cool to see a seal actually in the wild! It was a great day J
Last week our lecture topic was Evangelism. Before the week even started I couldn’t wait for it to be over. I was expecting to get drilled on how if we really loved Jesus we would want to go up to every random person we see and preach to them. However, that is not at all what our week consisted of! In fact, last week was my favorite week so far! Our speaker was awesome! His name is Rod Thorpe and he lives in the Middle East (Jordan, to be exact) and is the director of the YWAM bases there. He is a very humble man who is a great teacher.  He taught evangelism from a perspective of getting to know people and exploring faith together. Don’t always preach to that person and tell them why what they believe is wrong because that most likely will not turn anybody to Christ. It was very interesting hearing about his experiences evangelizing to the Islamic people in and around Jordan. We took some time to explore the Muslim faith. In an exercise we did, we looked at the 99 names that they have for God. Shockingly enough, only about maybe 5 of the names did not describe the God of the Bible! They use names such as Al Malik (sovereign Lord), Al Majeed (glorious), Al Muhyi (the giver of life). We couldn’t believe that they described God almost exactly as we would. So then, we looked at how we differ. Muslims pray five times a day and do things to please God. There is no personal relationship or emotion with the god they worship. We realized this is like a lot of Christians. Sometimes we think we have to win our way to God, we have to act a certain way, pray so many times a day, live the perfect life, not swear, go to church, and then we should be good. This is pretty much a Muslim way of religion! I’ve been reading through the first 5 books of the Old Testament over the past few weeks and am stunned at the law the Israelites were given to live by. I was thinking like “how did they even have any living animals with all of the sacrifices they had to make!” The book of Leviticus if filled with things to do to make sure you are kept pure and holy. The instructions God gave to them were so detailed. It is hard to imagine having to live that way. But…..now we have JESUS!!!! The Perfect Sacrifice for all our sin. He makes all the difference! We no longer have to live as slaves to sin or under the law. Jesus took care of all of that, for us! We don’t have to win our way to God. In fact, we can’t win our way to God no matter how hard we try. We NEED Jesus. He gave us everything we need. He deserves everything we have.

                                                           Happy Birthday to Ali!
                                                          Me--Ali--Nerida <3
                                                                    Beach
                                                               From the rocks

                                                                               <3

Monday, 22 August 2011

Update on Aussie life

Hello again! How are you? I hope great! I am doing pretty well myself. Another week has gone by just as quick as ever! Lectures last week were over Spiritual Warfare. Before this week started, I was really nervous, especially after Holy Spirit week. In my mind, spiritual warfare was driving out demons and such. Which in one form it is, but most of us don’t live with that on an everyday basis. Last week focused more on how Satan attacks us through our thoughts, attitudes, choices, words, etc.  We talked about the armor of God in Ephesians 6 and how with those things we are ready to stand firm against the attacks of the enemy. We talked about how to recognize the tactics of the enemy. One question we were told to ask ourselves was this “What would I do to me if I was the devil?” and then “What is he doing to me right now that is working?” Well, looking at things from this perspective I could see quite a few areas where Satan was at work in my life! Good news is that as the Body of Christ, we have authority over the enemy (Matthew 16:18-19 “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.  And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”)! This was something that I knew in my head, but I am now able to really feel as heart knowledge! Even though we do have authority, there are still ways we let Satan in to work in our lives. Some examples being: not guarding our hearts from negative emotions and attitudes, functioning in the ways of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21 “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”), not controlling our mouths and failing to recognize the power of words (Proverbs 18:21 “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.), and divided relationships. In Matthew 17, Jesus prays for future believers to be united as one, so when we become bitter towards one another and settle for unforgiveness we become divided and this gives a pretty power foothold to the enemy. It’s like before last week, I knew all of these things were bad and ways Satan uses to bring us down, but for some reason it never clicked in my head that this is all spiritual warfare! We are at war daily!  Are you prepared?......J
Last Thursday we had a fundraiser for YouthStreet! It was held in the Warehouse where YouthStreet is held. It took a lot of work but we all were able to get it looking pretty nice for the big night! So Thursday afternoon got here and our house was crazy! Everyone was getting all dressed up-it seemed like we were all getting ready to go to prom or something! It was pretty funny. The night was a lot of fun and they ended up fundraising around $30,000 for YouthStreet! Yeah God!
Sunday a group of 5 of us went to Sydney to watch the Australia Football League (AFL). It was so much fun! It took us Americans a while to get the hand of what was going on. The rules for AFL are like a mix of American football, soccer, and basketball. It was intense! We had so much fun though and it was so neat to experience rooting for the Sydney Swans! Yeah, Go Red!
So, something hit me Saturday night. Four of us girls were all snuggled on the bottom part of a bunk bed and just talking about life-what we’ve come from, our lives over the past year, what we hope to be doing after DTS, stuff we are scared about, how God is working in us…etc. It was a late night! But when I finally crawled into my bed I realized it is going to be really hard to leave these wonderful people.  I have been so looking forward to coming home (which I still am), but haven’t taken into consideration who I will be leaving behind. I pictured me walking out these doors for the last time, dry eyed and with much anticipation of just finally being home. I realize it won’t be so easy! We have grown so close in 7 weeks time. My family here in Newcastle is definitely from God and is a big part of what gets me through the really hard times. I am so thankful for them! Before I left,  I remember thinking how crazy it was to think that God had this time set apart for all of us to come together, go through this journey together, and we didn’t even know each other! Now I know them, and it amazes to me that God knew we would be so perfect together for this time in our lives. Great reminder that God knows what He is doing and His timing is always right. When He calls us to something, He will always provide exactly what we need <3

Happy birthday to mom and Sarah this week!!! You know how much I wish I could be there to celebrate with you both :) Love you.


                                                     Cupcake display for the fundraiser
                                                                Transformed warehouse
                                                                   Favorites :)

                                                                          Aussie football!!
                                     Ali, me, Michael, Danielle, and Daniel-we had too much fun!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Halfway done down under

It is hard to believe that I am halfway through the lecture phase of my trip! It is going so quickly! I am getting really excited for outreach to New Zealand and Fiji-we will be on our way there in less than 2 months! I will be sure to update more on this when all of our details are finalized! I’m loving this experience and just about everyone who is on this journey with me, but there is no place like home. Weeks like last week make me miss home more than ever. Last week was probably one of the most difficult for me. Our lecture topic was on the Holy Spirit. Our speaker was a base director of Island Breeze Sydney and is originally from a tribe in South Africa. It was really interesting hearing about his tribe and their way of life. He has an amazing testimony of how he came to know the Lord and completely surrender his life to Jesus. Apparently South Africa is a very spiritual place. Our speaker talked about how he would be casting demons out of people and witnessing various other miracles on a regular basis. He was very in touch with the spiritual world. Let’s just say this freaked me out. I definitely believe that there is a whole spiritual realm going on, but I guess because I’ve never seen it like he was describing it to be, it was difficult for me to believe. I felt like a skeptic pretty much all week. A lot of his teachings didn’t match up with what I believe and what I have been taught, but then again I did come here expecting something like that to happen at some point! I have been doing my best to keep an open mind to the many new things I have been experiencing. My prayer since I knew I was coming here has been for God’s Truth to prevail through anything I will be taught in my time here. I don’t care if my beliefs are wrong, I am simply in search of God’s Truth. Truth was a word I felt had no definition last week. I had no idea what to believe. I knew I didn’t quite agree with what was being taught: things about specific types of baptisms and spiritual gifts and what we have to do to utilize these gifts, etc. But I was so afraid I was wrong. Should I conform or hold tightly to what I knew to be true? This was my battle last week. It was very frustrating. I definitely let fear and confusion get the best of me for a couple of days. Now that it is behind me I am glad to have gone through that. I can honestly say I didn’t change much about what I believe, but I did learn a lot. For one thing I feel much more sound in why I believe what I believe when it comes to baptism, spiritual gifts, and the Holy Spirit. The truth about comparing everything you hear against scripture was a truth I held very tightly to last week. It is so important to take what you hear and compare it to scripture to see for yourself! Holy Spirit week was definitely a good learning experience even though it was difficult more times than not. It is times like that I am reminded of my purpose in being here…to grow greatly in my relationship with Jesus…and to make His love known to people in my life…. I do believe this purpose is being fulfilled, so I need to remember to not get caught up in things that come in the way of this.
Hope everyone has an excellent week! Please continue the prayers-they are very powerful! J

Monday, 8 August 2011

Finally feel like I'm in Australia!

Well it is really warming up here! Thank goodness! It has been beautiful outside. This past week has been a pretty great one! Our lecture topic last week was relationships. Our speaker was Steve Aherne, the National Director or YWAM Australia. He did a great job and was really funny. We all learned a lot and are now pretty much experts on relationships……just kidding of course, but we did learn a lot. One of the phrases he kept on repeating over and over was “the battle is won or lost in the heart”. Our heart condition or “attitude” is going to predict a lot about our future and our relationships. Actions are results of attitudes-this can either build us up or tear us down and will either make or break our relationship with God and with others.
The weekend was here before I knew it! Friday night a group of us took a trip to Macka’s (aussie slang for McDonalds). A homeless man came up and asked if we had any spare change or anything and one of the guys gave him some change and he left…….to go dig through the trash bin for food. I have seen several people standing alongside the road with signs asking for food and had people ask me for money before….but never have I ever witnessed a human being searching through trash to find dinner. I had the privilege of buying this man dinner. To see the absolute joy that lit up his face upon my asking made me feel like such a blessing to him. I think truly knowing you’re a blessing to somebody is probably one of the greatest feelings there is. When I took his meal out to him I found out his name is Shane. The homeless man searching for food has a name! Imagine that. I got to talk to him for a few minutes and then had the privilege to pray for him. If you ever get the chance to be a blessing in such a necessary way, I highly recommend doing so J
Saturday was of course YouthStreet! This week our dance team joined with surf team and we got to go to the beach! It was really beautiful there! The water was really cold, but some people went surfing anyways. It was really cool to watch! YouthStreet Live was really great as well. It will never get old to see teens with arms around each other worshipping God! We had some time for small groups with them too and it is so great to see them in the journey with the Lord and hear about the questions they have.
After YouthStreet a group of us went to Chloe’s house for the weekend!! Chloe is a girl on my DTS who lives in a town called Gloucester which is about an hour and a half away from Newcastle. Let’s just say it was amazing to get away for a couple of days and shower without flip flops!! I don’t even know where to begin about how cool of an experience this was. It felt like a luxury weekend! Her house is located in the country of Australia so she is surrounded by all types of hills and mountains and wildlife! Since she is so far in the country they get their water supply by collecting rain water! I thought it was so cool to get to drink rain water! It was dark when we got there Saturday night, but Sunday morning we woke up to an amazing view of the mountains and pancakes for breakfast! Apparently Australians like to eat pancakes with lemon juice and brown sugar…it’s weird I know, but I tried it and I highly recommend you do too because it was so so good!! Sitting at the breakfast table I realized there were two wild parrots just hanging out on her back deck! It was SO cool!!! Then we enjoyed the afternoon with a picnic in the park. It was so cool to see the koala bear crossing signs along the gravel roads! Then today we took a walk to the river, which also was beautiful and relaxing! Then on our way home it finally happened!!!!!! We saw two kangaroos!!!!!!! We had to pull the car over and get out to take pictures! They were so cute!
                                                                        Beach for YouthStreet            
                                                                    With my roomate Ali :)
                                                                    Wild parrots at Chloe's!
                                                                 View from Chloe's back deck
                                            Picnic in the park: Ali, Danielle, Nerida, me, and Chloe

                                                                     Chloe, Danielle, and I
Kangaroos!

Ali and I again!


This little get away was a perfect way to end the week! Please keep up all of the prayers! Hope you enjoy the pictures.
Have a great week everyone and remember-if you get the chance to be a blessing-just do it! You won’t regret it J

Monday, 1 August 2011

One month down!!!

So I have officially been gone for a month! I'll say it again...time is flying by! Which is bittersweet. Last week our lecture topic was "Character of God". After two tough lecture weeks of Truth being shoved at us...this week was refreshing to say the least! It gave us time to kind of soak up God's "AWEsomeness" and just be amazed at how BIG He is, but yet how His love for us is so unfathomable! Our speakers were very interactive with us. We put on a lot of skits, wrote songs/poems, and did different small group activities on some of God's attributes. I even got to put some of my cheerleading skills to use by stunting for a chant my group made up-too much fun! Learning about the character of God is so interesting because it seems like the more you learn about Him...the more questions you have about Him! It is so cool to think that God is outside anything we can even fathom. Isaiah 55:8-9 reads “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” I love those verses because it paints such a cool picture in my mind of how Big God is and how much power He has. Awesome! And as many questions about God that I have…it drives me nuts to know they won’t be answered during my life on this earth! If you know me very well, you know that I like to have things figured out! But one of my favorite quotes is "If God was small enough to be understood, He would not be big enough to be worshipped" -Evelyn Underhill. That is some great truth to think on!

Every DTS does something called a Faith Project. This is a way to fundraise for the needs here at our base. What my DTS is raising money for is carpet for a house that is being completely redone. This house is going to be used for married couples who are here with YWAM. If you can imagine being a newly married couple and living in a dorm style house with 50 or so other people it does not sound desirable! So this house is going to be made into 3 small flats for different couples to live in. Our DTS has been asked to fundraise $1,100 for the carpets in this house. If you would be interested in donating to this please e-mail me at nicole_rae21@hotmail.com .
Thank you again for all of the prayers and support…I really can’t say that enough! I am beyond blessed to have such a wonderful support system. J
Take care,
Nicki

Monday, 25 July 2011

Week 3 with YWAM

Hello again! Last week got off to a bit of a rocky start for me. Being in Australia I have been experiencing a lot of new and different ways of doing things. Some of these things had just really taken a toll on me and were building up frustration in me. The differences in the way some things are carried out was really distracting to me and I don’t know how else to put it but that I was just feeling far from the Lord and questioning whether or not my relationship with Him was genuine or if I was just making Him out to be the God I wanted Him to be. I talked a lot of this over with one of my leaders and she helped me to realize that the ways people go about doing things are different and that it is ok. God doesn’t just look for one special way or the best way to come before Him. Whether we are silently praying by ourselves or screaming your prayer while spinning in circles, I think God just wants us to come to Him. I realized I needed to be secure in my relationship with the Lord and not feel condemned that it wasn’t the same as some others.  
Our lecture topic was on “Fatherheart of God” which pretty much talked about how we relate to God as our father. And how when we relate to God as a Father, it opens up a whole new level of trust because we know He has our best interest in mind at all times. He will be our Comforter and Protector. Not to mention that He has an unimaginable unconditional love for His children! This definitely brought about several areas of my life that I have not fully been trusting God with. After 3 days of lectures we all finally figured out why they nicknamed that week “Openness and Brokenness”.  We all had a chance to go up before everyone in our class and share what we were/are struggling with. By the end of the afternoon I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room! It was the craziest thing. Bottom line: we all come from junk and our God is really BIG and Amazing! My heart broke for so many of my friends here. Being so open and vulnerable really brought us all so much closer. It is so wonderful to see how the Lord has worked and is working in all of their lives. As for me, I found much healing in that day. It was good.
On a side note, it rained for 4 days straight last week! And not just a light rain-it poured! Saturday was YouthStreet! One of the girls on our dance team comes from a family of native Australians and taught us what they call “aboriginal dancing”. It was really cool, but super hilarious. Part of it was dancing like animals native to Australia-picture dancing like a kangaroo or emu…it was quite comical! Then yesterday (Sunday) my friends Filippa, Marika, Danielle, and I took a trip to Sydney! It was a 2 and a half hour train ride and we left the station at about 6:45am. Once we got to Sydney we first went to Hillsong Church!! It was such a great experience. There were so many people there. It was really neat. Then we spent the day touring in Sydney which consisted of the Opera House, Sydney Harbor Bridge, and Botanic Gardens. We had such a great day! I was exhausted by the end of it that is for sure!



Thank you all once again for the prayers, support, and encouragement! God is Good.