Perfect Moments

As far as this blog goes, I have struggled to know how to share my experiences this summer. Many of them have been profound but are still being worked out in my mind, others are too personal to share, and still others feel personally significant but not worth sharing. Today I was at my IJM desk reading an article that spoke of perfect moments. The author described these moments as “experiences shared with others when time stands still.” My mind immediately flashed to the movie The Sandlot, where Benny and Smalls are running to play baseball on the 4th of July and stop to stare at the fireworks as America the Beautiful plays. They’re captivated by the moment and, as silly as it sounds, I always get chills thinking about it.

When I read this, I realized the best way to share my summer with you was through snapshots of these perfect moments. Times when phones have been unplugged and hearts have been wide open. There have been so many in the 35 days that I’ve been here, and I don’t doubt that there will be many more.

1. Day one of IJM orientation. Gary Haugen is delivering the most compelling word on God’s heart for justice from Exodus 3. He speaks of what it looks like for someone to live in the absence of fear and shows us videos of Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr. Mother Teresa is feisty and arguing with some men about her determination to bring aid to Lebanon and carefully addressing the needs of disabled orphans in Calcutta. “I have found the paradox,” she says, “that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only love.”

Martin Luther King Jr. on the day before his death – “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t really matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will…So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” I’m in a dark room full of strangers and we’re all crying. I’m overwhelmed with the opportunity I’ve been afforded to be here this summer. A perfect moment.

2. Our commissioning ceremony at the end of IJM Orientation. All headquarters staff plus 80 new interns, fellows, and employees gather in a small conference room to celebrate new beginnings. It’s a rite of passage and I can’t wait to start working. We sing, take communion together, and thank God for the opportunity to partner with him in what he wants to do through IJM. We sing together and are individually prayed over by our mentors. I pause and know that I’m standing in one of the most anointed workplaces on planet earth. A perfect moment.

3. A regular night on the town that turned nostalgic. Colin, Taylor and I head to the district of Adams-Morgan and laugh about how in the world three people from Elizabethton have somehow ended up in D.C. together. Colin and I have been best friends since 7th grade and Taylor was his college roommate. We reminisce, as always. We go to buy THE LARGEST pieces of pizza you’ve ever seen in your life and our conversation digresses into hilarious laughter as we people watch from bar stools and drip grease all over ourselves. I’m feeling as young and free and happy as I’ve ever been. A perfect moment.

4. A sunset drive over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Myself, my friend Laura, and her sister Lynne are driving back to D.C. after a day at Rehoboth Beach in Delaware. We’re salty, sandy, sunburnt, and full of coconut shrimp + crab bruschetta. The air conditioning doesn’t work in Laura’s car so we have all the windows down, our hair is wild, and we have country music blaring into the open air. The Bay Bridge is a two-mile arc over the water and the sun is setting, so I’m singing my lungs out and driving into the sky that’s on fire. A perfect moment.

5. The Hungarian Dance Barn. Colin and I meet up to explore the National Mall on Independence Day. We’re walking around checking out the Folk Life festival, which (from what I gather) is a celebration of endangered cultures and languages. We turn the corner and see a big circular wooden structure full of screaming, stomping people so we weave our way right into the middle. I spend the next twenty minutes trying to keep up as a tall, lanky, foreign man leads all of us in these crazy, loud, FUN line dances. It is sweatier than senior prom and therefore verifiably the sweatiest day of my life. Afterwards we get Lebanese food from a food truck and pineapples from hispanic ladies on the street corner and spend the next twenty minutes trying to guess the names of people walking by (we’re yelling names at people). We make a bet that whoever gets a name right first has to buy smoothies. We both lose so we both buy smoothies. So we both win? A perfect moment.

6. July 4th Fireworks. I’m on the roof of a huge house and have a 360 view of all the fireworks in the city. The sun has already set, it’s 75 degrees and breezy, and I’m surrounded by all the DC people I’ve come to love. I’m sitting cross-legged on a ledge but have the urge to stand on the corner of the roof, so I climb up and spread my arms out, laughing at the house next to us where people are screaming and dancing to “Party in the USA”. Dozens of fireworks light up the sky and fire trucks rush around trying to manage what I’m sure are plenty of firework accidents. I take it all in and consciously decide to never forget the moment. It’s perfect.

Jehova-Jireh: The Lord Who Provides

יְהוָה יִרְאֶה

The Lord who will see to it that my every need is met. 

By now, many of you who are close to me may have heard that I will be interning this summer in Washington, D.C. with International Justice Mission. Many of you may also know that this has been a dream of mine for several years.

Last summer the Lord taught me a huge lesson in trusting him. It’s a lesson I’ll always be learning, but last summer was especially miraculous. Having just helped start an IJM campus chapter at Appalachian, I applied for an internship at IJM headquarters. I didn’t even make it to the first round of interviews. I also applied for an internship with Compassion International…and didn’t make it to the first round of interviews. My last and final option was a summer in Guatemala with Adventures in Missions (AIM), which I quickly clung to after being rejected from both internships. Looking back, I know I was holding on out of fear. In my arrogant mind, anything short of a wildly adventurous summer wasn’t good enough for me. So I started making payments and plans to go to Guatemala.

About a week later, I got a call from AIM that shook things up a bit. There had been a miscommunication about the payment schedule, and I had over $1,000 due by the end of the week. I didn’t have the money, and I didn’t know what to do. The lady from AIM prayed with me on the phone before we hung up and I immediately prayed with my mom and my friend Kristin as well. Then I cried a little. When asking God to show me what to do – try and come up with the money or back out – it didn’t take long to receive an answer. I knew in my heart that Guatemala was not where I needed to be – that I was only pursuing it because I didn’t know what else to do. It’s bad business to do something in Jesus’ name without consulting Jesus about it, so I withdrew from the Guatemala trip, losing the money I had already paid. I had no other plan, but I knew I was being obedient and that God would be faithful.

A week later I had a job lined up at the Boone Cracker Barrel. This was (clearly) not the glamourous, adventurous summer that I’d imagined for myself, but the Lord had provided a job and a place to live and I was ready to see what his next move was. I bought my tacky non-slip shoes and oxford uniform shirts, gearing up for a summer of chicken dumplings and sweet tea. I stopped caring about my selfish ambitions and started thanking the Lord for giving me clarity and peace about my summer plans. I was content to spend the summer living and working in Boone.

Then I got a phone call that turned my world upside down. The Office of International Education wanted to send three students to a Global Leadership Summit in Bloemfontein, South Africa that focused on human rights. Even sweeter: the trip was completely funded by the university. I had a panic attack (not really, but kind of) and applied. I was driving a carload of friends to a Needtobreathe concert in Boiling Springs a week later when the Lord told me I was going. The same quiet voice of peace that told me not to go to Guatemala affirmed that I was, in fact, going to South Africa. I told Amber, who was sitting next to me in the passenger seat, that I was going to South Africa. She looked at me with wise Amber eyes and said, “Good. Cool.”

A week later, I got the call and started making plans. During our first trip meeting, the director of the International Office told me that if I wanted to stay in South Africa longer, just to let him know when to book my return ticket. I’m sorry…WHAT? I wrote a separate blog about my trip to SA, but for this one I’ll leave it at this: it was the adventure of a lifetime. I was discouraged after being flat-out rejected by other internships and steered away from an adventure in Guatemala, but God had something else up his sleeve. That something was better than anything I couldn’t planned (or imagined) for my summer.

Needless to say, I was prepared for anything this summer. I’ve prayed since the beginning of the school year that my selfish ambition would be put aside and that I’d be ready and willing to go wherever the Lord wanted to send me. I desperately wanted to remember his faithfulness in the past, and be ready and willing for anything for the future. If I had learned anything from the previous summer, it was that I had no idea what was best for me. My mind was open to all things – to living at home and working at Dad’s restaurant, for taking summer school, interning abroad, interning or working in Boone, anything. I again applied for several internships, and was again rejected by Compassion International without making it to the first round of interviews.

But – surprise! I did make it to the first round of interviews for IJM. Interning with Samaritan’s Purse was another option that was looking promising. The internships with Samaritan’s Purse are paid with free housing, so they were the most practical and therefore quite attractive…especially after I backed my car into my apartment complex and was slapped with a hefty insurance deductible. Internships with IJM are unpaid with no housing.

Since I go to an expensive school, I harbor considerable guilt and worry that I’m making my family bleed money. With that always in the back of my mind, I’ll admit that I was almost afraid of getting the IJM internship because I had no idea how I would afford it. Things got tricky when I did, in fact, get the IJM internship and had to make a decision before I was going to hear back from Samaritan’s Purse.

You could say that I was between a rock and a hard place at this point. I had dreamed of interning with IJM and had been offered a position, but it couldn’t have come at a less financially-feasible time. I had less than no money of my own as I was (and still am) paying off an insurance deductible. When I first go the news of my acceptance, I was weirdly sad. I had worked so hard to get to this point both academically and through our IJM campus chapter, but hadn’t saved appropriately for it.

I asked my parents and close friends to commit to a full week of praying for me. I had exactly one week to make a decision, and although I was leaning toward “no” I wanted to commit it to as much prayer and counsel as possible.

When you’re looking for direction, sometimes it’s hard to know when things are from the Lord and when your mind is playing tricks on you. The following Tuesday at Bible study, we watched a short video on praying bold prayers and trusting God to provide for our every need. This video was based in none other than our nation’s capitol…good ol’ D.C. The first place it showed was a place called Barrack’s Row Theatre, which is where I took Bryant to see Josh Garrels in December. Oh really? Of all places? Then the camera zoomed into a book authored by someone named “Barnett”. I’m sorry…?

I wouldn’t say that the above paragraph describes signs and wonders straight from God, but it was one of the first gentle pushes toward IJM that God used to begin softening my heart toward the idea. Over the next week, my heard and my mind (and therefore my attitude) took a 180 in regards to interning with IJM. After being encouraged by my parents, my friends, and other family who were faithful in praying for me, I accepted the IJM internship. I believe that God wants to glorify himself through this opportunity – prove to me and to those around me that he is a God who provides. I jumped in headfirst, full of faith and peace.

The response has been overwhelming. Within three days of accepting the position, I had already found a free place to stay. A young family in SW D.C. is opening their guest room for me. Their home is only seven miles away from IJM’s offices and has free parking. Seven miles translates into about a 30 minute commute, but that is pretty fantastic by D.C. standards.

Opportunities for me to work more hours have also come available, which has been a huge answer to prayer. I picked up an extra eight hours at my law office job as well as a few shifts at Dad’s restaurant. I am hoping and praying that I will be able to pay off all my debt before leaving for the summer, meaning I need to make $1,000 before June 3rd.

The response from people has also been overwhelming. While waiting tables at Harbor House (my dad’s restaurant) on Monday, a family from my church came to sit in my section. They graciously gave me a $50 check to support me in my internship and left me a $20 tip! I was floored! Thank you Whaleys! One or two others have also expressed their desire to support me financially, and I am amazed. Most of the financial burden was lifted with a free place to stay, but I am still trusting God to provide for transportation costs.

I have not asked for any money and will not be sending out support letters – which makes it all the more astounding how much the Lord has already provided over the past two weeks. I am beyond thrilled about the opportunity to follow this dream and overwhelmed that the Lord is letting me do so.

If you’ve made it this far, I hope you’ll join me in prayer.

– Pray that I will continue to trust in God to supply all my needs. (Philippians 4:19)

– Pray that I will be a diligent worker, and that God will use this summer to equip me for whatever he has planned for my future. (Psalm 18:39)

– Pray that I will learn more about Biblical justice and be better able to articulate it to those who are searching for truth and hope. (Psalm 33:5)

– Pray for favor in the work that IJM does to bring rescue to victims of violent oppression around the world.

– Pray for the students that I will be working with as they seek to educate their college campuses on issues of violent oppression.

If you’d like to learn more about my involvement with IJM, this is a good interview:

http://www.hercampus.com/school/app-state/meet-madisson-barnett-president-ijm-app-state

If you’d like to learn more about IJM at App State, check out www.ijmappstate.com

If you’d like to support me financially, click this link and choose my name from the drop-down menu – https://secure3.convio.net/ijm/site/Donation2?idb=1515869785&df_id=1261&1261.donation=form1

Adventures in the World’s most powerful city.

This past weekend my dear friend Kaity and I surprised our boyfriends with a trip to Washington D.C. to see the Christmas decorations and catch a Josh Garrels show at Barracks Row Theatre. Because we aren’t the most talented secret-keepers in the world (coughKaitycough), the boys found out we were going to D.C., but their best guess as to what we were actually doing was a hot air balloon ride…way off.

We began our 6 hour drive at 10PM. Always an adventure to arrive at your destination at 4:00AM. Kaity’s family lives 40 minutes outside of the city so we stayed there and enjoyed her parents’ exceptional hospitality for the 48ish hours we were around.

Kaity and John were much better at playing it cool, but Bryant and I felt so “urban” riding the metro into the city. I may have ridden the metro to class every day during my semester in Spain, as well as navigated my way around on public transportation in cities everywhere from Atlanta to Milan, but I still get pumped about it. Our first attempt to disembark at the Federal Triangle was unsuccessful, however, as Bryant thought he left his phone in the seat and we didn’t get out before the doors shut, leaving us waving “byeeee” through the window as they (and everyone else) laughed at us from the platform. SoOoO urban!

The first place we took the boys was to the White House to check out the National Christmas Tree. Our freshman year, Bryant and I (plus three other friends) were driving to Richmond, VA in the pouring snow to watch App play football. When we realized we were only two hours away from D.C., we decided the football game didn’t matter and drove the extra two hours to see our nation’s capital dressed in its Christmas outfit with snow only adding to the fun. This is another story for another time, but that responsible decision included riding the wrong metro line for seventeen stops, walking all over the city at night in the FREEZING cold, parking my car in a ridiculously sketchy location, and finally getting lost and coming incredibly close to running out of gas in the ghetto when we tried to head back to Richmond. Needless to say, it was a great adventure, and going back to the Christmas tree brought back fun memories for Bryant and I.

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Bryant and John are the best of friends, as are Kaity and I, so it was really the perfect group to enjoy this weekend with. Later that night, we went to dinner with Jaclyn, a sweet friend from IJM Headquarters that Kaity interned under this past summer. Then we headed to Barracks Row for an incredible documentary and show that was a collaboration between Josh Garrels and Mason Jar Music. Check out the link below for a two-minute trailer of the documentary. It was amazing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbPmXpvYdGM

Afterwards, all the people featured in the film came out to perform. The documentary + the gorgeous music + the company + the quaintness of Barracks Row theater made this an all-around amazing experience.

groupw:joshG

Monday morning we had the opportunity to visit IJM Headquarters and attend their daily corporate prayer. It was amazing and encouraging to witness a room full of people crying out to God on behalf of the oppressed, then going back to their offices and working directly with these issues. Gary Haugen, who is one of my heroes, led the time of prayer. It was crazy to be in a small setting with him because I’ll see him in a few short weeks at Passion 2013…speaking on a stage to 50,000+ students.

Be Strong.

I have a friend named Johanri. She lives in South Africa, and a few weeks ago she sent me a message that simply said 2 Chronicles 15:7. We hadn’t talked in a month or so, and she had no idea what was going on in my personal life. Therefore, she had no idea how much I needed to hear these words – “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”

She had no idea that, as is my custom, I’d over-committed myself and was feeling helpless. She had no idea that my Mamaw had just passed away and that I deeply desired to stay at home with my family. That was practically begging God to let me give up; to let me drop my responsibilities and lay the blame on my circumstances. She had no idea that as I’d been seeking God’s direction, I kept feeling that I needed to keep going – to keep leading, to keep working, to keep believing that my work was not in vain. But I didn’t want to. I was doing it out of obedience and because I’ve been raised with importance on the idea of never, never giving up.

The Lord used Johanri, my sweet friend from across the world, to send me the exact encouragement I needed in His perfect timing. The verse was from 2 Chronicles 15, but in an effort to understand the verse in context, I read chapters 14, 15, and 16. I was struck as I realized the relevance of the words in my life.

King Asa was ruling over the land of Judah when he was feeling oppressed on every side. The prophet Azariah came to Asa and said, “The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” and later, the verse listed above – “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” – 2 Chronicles 15:7

When Asa heard these words, he took courage, removed the idols rom his land, and repaired the altar of the Lord. Then he and his people “entered into a covenant to seek the Lord…with all their heart and soul.” (v.15) They rejoiced because of this oath and sought God eagerly, and he gave them rest on every side.

So, I thought, that’s what I’m going to do. As I oversee the Beat Hunger canned food drive and the IJM leadership team that’s planning Stand 4 Freedom, I’m going to take courage. I’m going to remove anything that’s about ME from the equation (pride, selfishness, personal gain), and recommit my efforts to the Lord. They are His anyway; I’m a fool if I don’t acknowledge that and return them to Him.

The hard work didn’t stop, but rest came on every side. As well as the favor of the Lord, which was unmerited…that’s GRACE.

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The photos above are just a few from Stand 4 Freedom – a 27 hours standing vigil put on by International Justice Mission: App State. Hundreds of students were made aware of modern-day slavery for the first time, hundreds more came to take a stand, and still hundreds more signed advocacy cards to let our government know that slavery is something we care about.

In the post prior to this one, you can see the video we created for the Beat Hunger canned food drive. As of today, we’ve raised over 6,700 pounds of food and over $400 in cash to donate to the Watauga Hunger and Health Coalition.

It’s always funny (?) to look back on things I worked so hard for, only to realize that they finally come together when I get totally helpless and surrender them to the Lord.

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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9