We Have a Story to Share!

hannah young preacherYesterday, I had the honor of presenting at the INUMC Festival of Young Preachers. The theme of the event was “Share Your Story.” I hope this message inspires you to share YOUR story! We all have a story to share. 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

A few years ago, I found myself sitting in the audience, where you are now. I remember listening to everyone who stood here, with wide eyes, and inspiration burning in my heart. They were amazing storytellers! And I wanted to be just like them… and now, here I am! It is so good to be here!

I was excited to learn that the theme of this festival is “share your story” because I believe that God has given us all a story to share… and I know that he equips us to be great storytellers.

To me, great storytellers are people who can somehow make things incredibly REAL and ENGAGING for their audience, by inviting you to take a step into their story with them, and somehow make it your own.

Really great storytellers know that the key to continuing the story, even after the last chapter is finished, is to invite people to be a part of it… they give us a role to play… a job to do… a thought to ponder… a mission to accomplish.

They use their story to change things.
To make an impact on the reader and the world.
They use their story to make more stories…
Through you, and me, and everyone we encounter.

Usually these storytellers bring life to a concept that is hard to grasp. They make even the most crazy ideas seem possible… Because they have seen the impossible happen. Their lives have been impacted by the Greatest Storymaker— GOD

Recently, I had a chance to meet with an amazing storyteller: Mike Pierce, founder of Clean Water in Africa. He came to my home to thank me for the work I have been doing to raise funds and awareness for clean water in Burkina Faso. I was truly honored that he would make a special trip to my home to spend time with me. I fully expected him to talk about the mission of Clean Water in Africa, and he did… but the story about how the mission formed was full of other stories about how God had worked miracles in his life.

One of his stories included a time when he was asked to pray out loud for the first time. He was afraid he wouldn’t have the right words. He tried to get out of it! But he could not escape the job God was calling him to do… So, he joined 3 other men in a small prayer chapel… and each of them took turns praying. When it was his turn, he found that God had given him just the right words to pray… again and again. He was astounded! It was the first time he really experienced the work of the Holy Spirit in his life. And he believed with excitement that, in his words, “this Holy Spirit stuff is real.” And even though it was many years ago, he was still moved to tears as he shared his story… And, seeing this man talk about his faith journey impacted me in ways I didn’t expect.

His story reaffirmed that God empowers ordinary people to do his great work… even when it seems impossible!

Since that day, I have been thinking about the power our stories have to help people connect with God to form their own personal story. As people who have experienced the love and power of God in our lives, our role is to tell His story – our story – with passion and excitement – to all who will listen.

Our stories make God real to those who don’t know him yet… or to those who doubt He can work in and through our lives… and for those that need encouragement to do some crazy big thing God is calling them to do.  When we honestly and openly and excitedly share how he has worked in our lives – in big and small ways – people see that He is still alive— and He still works miracles— and He still loves!

I recently saw this quote on facebook…

“When we are open and giving of our light, we create an endless reflection that outlives our human existence (Gary Friedman)”

God has given each of us a beautiful light to share with the world…

He has made us His great storytellers…

Listen to these words Jesus spoke to his followers before he went up to Heaven —

Acts 1:8
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

We know those first Christians did tell people everywhere, with the help of the Holy Spirit— and it changed the world around them in powerful ways. And I am so thankful for their bravery and perseverance because they helped share a story that impacts my life today.

I believe we have to get serious about sharing our story – God’s story – with everyone we can… because I believe there are a lot of people who are desperately searching to know that God is still at work, making stories today.. in 2015…

We all have a story that was perfectly made and formed by our Great Storymaker — and when we share that story, we invite others to be part of it… and their faith is strengthened… and lives are changed.

And, just like a tree that sends out seeds, that make more trees to make more seeds…

They share the story, too, and change even more lives…

And that’s how the Kingdom grows.

One story at a time…
one life at a time…

Until Jesus comes again to begin a new chapter…

Who will you share your story with?
How will you invite them into a relationship with our Great Storyteller God?

Jesus was the ultimate noticer!

Jesus was the ultimate noticer!

I have been thinking a lot lately about how much Jesus payed attention to the people around him.

Jesus noticed people, and he made sure to interact with people that others ignored.

Here are some stories-

John 5:5 – In the crowd, Jesus noticed one particular man who had been living with his disability for 38 years. He knew this man had been waiting here a long time.

In Matthew 19 jesus noticed his disciples were treating children like they were annoying, but Jesus made sure everyone knew they were welcome and wanted.

In Mark 5  Jesus noticed that someone in the crowd touched his robe. When he learned that it was an unclean woman that touched his robe, he responded with kindness – she was healed – and jesus showed her kindness that she probably hadn’t experienced in a really long time. Her life was changed forever!

John 9:1 says Jesus noticed the blind man, and then helped him by healing him.

In Luke 19, Jesus NOTICED Zacchaeus. And had an encounter with him that changed Zacchaeus’ heart so much, he was a completely different person!

And in Matthew 9, when Jesus noticed the people who didn’t accept who he was, he had a deep compassion for them… And he said the harvest is plenty but the workers are few.

Jesus noticed… In fact, Jesus, was like the Ultimate Noticer!

He saw things that are practically invisible to those around him, and he made them better! He healed the hurt, and loved the lonely, and forgave those who were so afraid that they would never be forgiven.

Not only did he notice, but he also gave! He gave time and attention and a life changing experience to people who everyone else thought were unworthy. And he still calls us to do the same today!

Jesus gathered Disciples by walking along a dirty road and inviting them to become Noticers of the hungry, the sick, the lost, the forgotten and the hurt, and to help them see a tiny glimpse of the love and greatness of our God.

I believe that He still gathers disciples, today, and turns them into gifted and beautiful people who are “Noticers.” Noticers see things- the broken, the hopeless, the wounded, the tragic, the lost- just like Jesus did– But Noticers do more than just notice.

Noticers respond to what they see, with compassion and care, by doing whatever it takes to help meet needs and create more beauty, joy and peace in the world. Noticers inspire! Noticers help make other Noticers, and together they do great things to change the world.

I believe this world needs more Noticers.

So, I invite you to look around, this week… What will you notice?

And I hope that you will choose to do something about it, and follow in the footsteps of the Ultimate Noticer!

Because, when Jesus brings something to our attention, it’s Him, shouting “DO SOMETHING!” In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

So listen when he calls you to make a difference in someone’s life! Because, when you show love to others, you show love to God, too.

I HAVE A DREAM (Of A Much Better World)

I HAVE A DREAM (Of A Much Better World)

When I fall asleep at night, I often find myself suddenly in an amazing world. A world where anger and hatred are overpowered by love. A place filled with compassion and mercy, and people who truly show that they are made in the image of God. And when someone is mourning, the people around them provide comfort and sympathy. When someone is rejoicing, their neighbors rejoice with them. This is a world that lacks loneliness, depression, torment and unfair judgment. Would you believe me if I told you that this Heaven on Earth is achievable? I am convinced that if every Jesus Follower made it their mission to show God’s love to others, we would have a much better world to live in.

When most of us think about “mission,” we think about mission trips, or going somewhere to complete a task for someone else’s benefit. While week-long mission trips and projects are good, I wonder what would happen if we made every day a mission trip. When Jesus told us to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19), he called his followers to live lives of commitment, working daily to reach new people for him every day. This must have taken intentional planning of each day and a lifestyle of mission! So, when we think of mission as a project, we aren’t living the lives Jesus called us to live when he told us to “GO and MAKE disciples.”

Too often do we overlook someone who is in need of not only physical care, but also spiritual care. The reasons for this range from being too tired, too busy, too scared, etc. But most of the time, we are simply oblivious to the people that God places around us. We have forgotten that being a disciple of Jesus requires us to make more disciples by loving, caring for, helping, serving and TALKING TO people everywhere we go. I think we can do way better than we have been and I KNOW that if we do, this world will change right before our eyes in a powerful, totally cool, God-pleasing way!

For the next 30 days, I invite you to view your schools, workplaces, families, grocery stores, bus stops, neighborhoods, sports practices, and anywhere else you may go – even your churches – as a mission field, and allow God to use you to reach, love and serve on a daily basis. I invite you to take Jesus’s words seriously and really put some action and intention into GOING and MAKING disciples.

Here are some examples of how to do so. This is just a START! I want to hear how you will reach out to people every day. Let’s use #SmallStepsBigImpact to tell our stories on social media!

  • Start a Bible study in your school or neighborhood! Your friends and neighbors want to know more about who Jesus is, and they would love to talk about that in a comfortable setting. Start with the basics and make it fun! Start with a small group and watch the impact grow!
  • Lend a hand! If your neighbor is working on his car, offer to help. If your friend struggles with a school subject that you are good at, offer to tutor them. If there is a kid at school who doesn’t fit in, be their friend. When a person you know is going through hard times in their life, don’t simply say “Good luck with that.” Instead say “How can I pray with you?” or “How can I help?” and work hard to help them in their time of need. When they ask why you’re helping, tell them because Jesus told you to (or something like that)! Small efforts to lend a hand in Jesus’s name make a big impact because people will see him working through your life. That makes Jesus real to people who don’t know him!  These small tasks will make a big impression!
  • Show love to those who treat you unfairly. They will definitely notice your response! If you have a chance to talk with that person, help them to know more about you and let them know you want to know more about them. This small effort will make a big impact.
  • Be kind and patient when someone is frustrating you. Pray for that person and reach out to them to try to understand them better. Replace your everyday irritations with a smile. Your smile may be the only one people see today! This small step to resolve frustrations will have a big impact on you AND the other person.
  • Value people and treat everyone like they are important – even and especially people who are different than you. After all, isn’t every human a child of God? When someone talks to you, look at them. Put your phone away during a conversation. Give them your undivided attention and thank them for their time. Tell them that they matter to you and God!  This small gesture of kindness will make a big difference in someone’s life!
  • Be REAL! The best way to bring people to God, is to simply radiate Christ throughout your entire being. This means walking, talking, living, and loving like Him. This is no small task but it is one of the most important things you can do to make a big difference!

When you take the steps to do these things, not only will you impact a life, but also the entire world! Just imagine what would happen if every Christian did this? Would we live in that beautiful world that I know is possible? Would everyone’s lives be touched by God? There’s only one way to find out!

Keep in touch! Please let me know you’ve accepted this challenge and let’s use #SmallStepsBigImpact to tell our stories on social media!

I CAN’T WAIT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

-Hannah

PS: Remember, we aren’t doing this alone! We have God and each other!

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore GO and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Hey adults! Are you raising kids to be world changers?

I don’t remember the day I was born, but my Mom tells the story sometimes. She says that when the doctors placed me in her arms, she looked at me and said “Hello, my little world changer!”

Since that day, I have been surrounded by people who believe in me, who love me, and who help me dream big dreams – even ones that seem impossible! Over the years I have been taught that God helps us do great things! But even with such a supportive group of adults, I used to say “WHEN I GROW UP, I want to be a missionary that writes.” 

Did you catch that?

“WHEN I GROW UP” 

You see, I didn’t really believe my life as a missionary and writer started the minute I said “YES” to Jesus.  So, when God presented me with an opportunity to do a HUGE job, I doubted that I, a then 11 year old girl from Indiana, could make a difference.

About 6 months ago, I learned of a country called Burkina Faso, Africa. It is rated as the third most miserable place on earth. Water is scarce and death and illness are part of everyday life. When I first heard of the country, I felt like there was probably nothing I could do. I actually went to bed praying to God to tell me that the hardships the people faced weren’t real.  But when I woke up the next morning, I knew God was calling me to help by building wells and raising awareness of the mission.

When I told my mom and teachers and youth leaders about this, NONE OF THEM said it was too big. They all encouraged me. They all offered advice and support. They all believed in me. And, more importantly, they all knew that if God was calling me to ministry in Burkina Faso, God would provide everything I need to do it. Since then, I have raised enough funds to build 2 wells and am now working on a third well and a school for children at the Pondou pastors school. I have spoken at many churches and written as a guest blogger. And as a result of my goal to create awareness of the project, 8 more wells will be dug in Burkina Faso this year. 

I don’t tell you this to say – Hey look at what I did! I am telling you this because I believe kids like me can do the same thing – and even greater things! With God’s help, and with the help of supportive adults, I believe children and youth of all ages WILL really change this world!

I hope my story inspires you to reach out to a young person to support them in ministry. I hope you will help to raise a generation of world changers! I think there are a few things you can do to encourage us! I’ll give you 5.

1. Get to know us! I know my generation has been called the selfie generation but we really just want to live the best life we can!

2. Believe in us! Set the bar high! Don’t let us simply live! Help us to set goals and strive for excellence! 

3. Help us tell our story, and share your story with us! I am so blessed to have people all over Indiana who have invited me to share my story with them. I have a deep desire to learn the stories of the people and churches I encounter. 

4. Give us opportunities to serve. Not just washing the dishes (although we will help with that, too!) but opportunities to see the church in action, serving the community, and making a difference. Help to expand our horizons – help us to see beyond what is right in front of us! Take us seriously. If you are an adult who works with children, please help us see our God-given gifts and abilities and guide us to use them in ministry NOW, not when we are adults. 

5. When we make mistakes, don’t give up on us! We are so afraid we will make mistakes. We really don’t want to! But when we do, please keep loving and leading us. I believe we can learn from our mistakes if we have the time and the guidance to process the situation. 

I would like to close with a prayer. but before we pray, I want you to think of one young person you can reach out to this week to equip and encourage them to live a life devoted to Christian service.

Lord, help us to all work together to tell the world about your love. Help leaders and children and teenagers to grow in their relationship and to learn more about you together! Help kids to step up and serve. Help adults to let us! And let us learn from each other! We have lots of work to do, God! Help us! Lead us! You can do it and we will do our best to serve you. In Jesus name, Amen!Image

 

Water is Life in Burkina Faso

A few months ago, I learned of a place called Burkina Faso, Africa. Burkina Faso is rated as the third most miserable place on Earth. Water is scarce and death and illness are a part of every day life. In fact, 1 in 3 children in Burkina Faso will die before their 5th Birthday.

Most of these deaths are caused by water born illnesses from water that is diseased and dirty. People in Burkina Faso have to walk many miles just to get water that could kill them. When I first learned about Burkina Faso, I instantly felt a responsibility to help the children of Burkina Faso, like I was their older sister. I went to bed that night praying, “Please God, tell me there isn’t really a place like this.”

When I woke up the next day, I knew God was calling me to build a well.

In a truly poor country like Burkina Faso, there are no simple solutions to the poverty the people face, but providing clean drinking water can drastically change their lives. Clean drinking water prevents illnesses and helps them grow food to feed their families. Can you imagine giving dirty water to your child to drink? Or bathing your newborn baby in a tub of filthy brown water? Water is something we take for granted here in the United States, but WATER IS LIFE in Burkina Faso!

Over the last 6 months, I have been raking leaves, shoveling snow, and sharing my story to raise funds to build a well. In January, I reached my first goal of $2000 to fund that well, which will be dug next month by a work team from Indiana! I am now working on a second well and I hope to be able to help dig a well myself next Spring when I visit Burkina Faso.

Digging a well isn’t my only goal. My second goal is to be a light of inspiration to others. Since I started this project 6 months ago, I have inspired others to fund wells. In fact, there will be 7 wells dug in Burkina Faso because people were inspired by my story. 7 Wells will provide clean drinking water for 7000 people. 

I have received letters from people all over the Country thanking me for the work I have been doing, and telling me that I have inspired them to help others. Some want to help people in Burkina Faso. Others are helping people in different places. I have a really hard time grasping that me – a 12 year old from Indiana – can have that much influence… But it’s NOT all about me! It is about the way GOD is using me to help His people. That’s what we are all called to do! It’s funny how the world takes notice when we serve like that. It is inspiring! And it shows people who God really is.

I know that sometimes, the troubles in this world seem too big for us to do anything about. But I believe that TOGETHER, with God’s help, we can make a difference one day at a time, one village at a time, one life at a time. Not only in Burkina Faso, but all over the world!

Will you join me?

Who is your role model?

“Who is your role model?”

I’ve been thinking about that, actually. Some of my friends idolize actors and singers for probably the wrong reasons. Like, they have a very crazy life or they have fame or maybe they’re really beautiful. I don’t look up to people that do crazy things because they aren’t who I want to be. I want to be someone that changes the world. I want to make the world a better place and help it look more like the world God wants it to be. I honestly feel bad for the people who have the platform to make a difference but wind up confusing people more. It’s such a terrible waste.

I am not blind to what the world is like. I am not blind to how I am supposed to be. I get that the world is not the way God intended it to be. I want to be a role model to other people by trying to live like God wants me to and hope that it helps someone else.

These are some of my role models right now. I know some of them are not alive!

Amelia Earhart – I imagine her as a woman who didn’t take no for an answer- in a good way. She had a dream and she worked hard to do what she loved to do. She was determined and courageous and she didn’t let the culture around her impact her dreams to fly. She broke the stereotypes around her. It wasn’t all about her flying a plane. It was also about helping others. She felt the flight proved that men and women were equal in “jobs requiring intelligence, coordination, speed, coolness and willpower.” I want to spend my life making a difference like that.

Mother Teresa – I have known since I was 9 years old that I want to be a missionary some day. Mother Teresa was a missionary. She helped people around her and was completely selfless and brave. She reached millions of people with love and continues to change people today through the continuation of her stories. God leads you to do things you never think you can do. I believe Mother Teresa lived with that knowledge. You don’t think you’re saving someone’s life – you know Jesus saves their life – but you need to help them see who Jesus is through you.

Esther – Esther showed the world who she really was and showed the world that she believed in God. She didn’t let fear of consequences stop her from trying to save people. She believed God’s will for her and He used her to accomplish great things. She didn’t let fear control her. That’s how I want to live. Fear is like an anchor that only brings you down, and when you let go of that fear, it is like lifting that anchor, letting you sail away and leaving your fear behind. In other cases, fear is common sense.

Gracie Schram – Gracie is a teenager that has dreams to change the world. She is funny, kind and really cool and she is totally in love with Jesus. She also doesn’t obsess about cute guys and dating. She is a role model to me because she does the things I want to do. I want to sing and write songs that can help people learn more about God.

My Mom – My mom tells everyone she can about God. Because of her, thousands of kids know Jesus. She tells people and then they tell people. It’s kind of like a giant game of Telephone but everyone knows the right version of the first message. She just talks about God in ways that everyone understands. Sometimes there are times when a kid can feel quite useless. She helps them know how much they are loved and how valuable they are. That’s what I want to do. She always tells kids they can change the world right now. That is important for kids to know.

Most people want to change the world. They just don’t know how to do that. You change the world by reaching others with God’s love.

We have to serenade people with the song that God loves them… over and over again!