Drop in the Ocean

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. -Mother Teresa

“Where are you in the world, Kelli?” “I can’t keep up with you!” “What is your job, what do you even do that you travel so much?”

I apologize for the confusion I’ve caused, I sincerely hope it hasn’t kept you up at night. (Sorry, Mom, I’ll call you later). ūüėõ

Here’s a summary of just this past week, which still resides fresh in my mind. I’m ecstatic to share how God has been working and showing His faithfulness in my life and the world, despite what the media would have us believe.

On Sunday, March 19th, we screened the documentary ‘Faithkeepers’ for the New York Republicans Metropolitan Club. Did I hear you say boujee? Yeah, you right, you right. But it was honestly incredible to see a packed room of hustle-and-bustle, always on the grind men and women deeply concerned about the persecuted Christians, Yazidis, and Muslims in the Middle East. God brought many power players to that room, and I know there will be tangible¬†work from that night to end the genocide occurring.

Monday¬†evening was elegant and inspiring as the Censored Women’s Film Festival held a dinner for their ride or die’s at the Lotte New York Palace Hotel.

The United Nations wasn’t even ready to handle the packed room for The Censored Women’s Film Festival. We screened 30 minutes of ‘Honor Diaries’, and then several short films to qualify as a mini film festival.

The rockstar panel of women who spoke after the screenings left many in the room in tears. All were informed, invigorated, and deeply empowered to be a part of this sisterhood.

As soon as the last photo was snapped of us ladies, we jumped on a tour van taking us to Washington D.C. The anticipation for the following day was nearly killing me.

For a bit of backstory on this occurrence, I actually traveled to D.C. about 2 months ago and met with various organizations and Representative’s aids in order to organize and collaborate on a screening of the ‘Faithkeepers’ film on Capitol Hill. Wednesday, March 22nd at 2:30pm in Rayburn House, I pressed play on the laptop that began to tell the story of the ethnic cleansing occurring right now¬†in the Middle East. 4 Congressman attended, 2 of which spoke on behalf of the film, and the room was full of movers and shakers in the D.C. realm.

It was incredible to be a part of that moment in history, and I look forward to how God uses this movie and movement for his glory.

My final event for the week was to screen ‘Faithkeepers’ to college student leaders prior to AIPAC attendance. I didn’t know quite what to expect Saturday morning when I walked into their meeting room at the Washington Plaza Hotel.

Approximately 20 sharply dressed young adults listened attentively as I described how I became involved with the project and the heart and purpose behind the film.

I watched ‘Faithkeepers’ for perhaps the 15th time in that room, this time as a peer and fellow concerned human rights activist. I was freshly reminded of the issue. How could we let these atrocities continue happening to Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Muslims, Baha’is and other minorities? Simply because they’re on the other side of the world? Well then, who will speak up for us if such persecution and terror were to be on our land? There would be no one left to speak up for us.

Afterwards, nearly every student came up to introduce themselves and tell me they wanted to screen the movie on their campus or church. One sweet girl told me her family lives in Chicago but moved from Syria. She began to cry as she told me how much this would mean for them to see that the West does actually care about those suffering in the Middle East.

The world paused as I gained a new perspective on what I’m doing. I’m not just setting up posters, passing out info cards, posting articles on Facebook and retweeting for a well-meaning organization. I’m doing the work now that in time will show the precious humans I’ve never met and likely never will that I DO CARE. I do see their struggle. I stand in solidarity with them. And I will continue fighting for them.

I’m reeling in amazement that I am a part of this human rights project. How did I find this life work that fits me better than I could’ve created for myself? I raise¬†awareness and inspire action for human rights with Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and other religiously represented colleagues. My desire for interfaith relationships has deepened, and my heart for the marginalized has softened.

From top left clockwise: With Raheel Raza, founder of Muslims Facing Tomorrow, journalist, author, speaker, media consultant, activist and interfaith discussion leader.
Poster hanging at the United Nations for mini film festival on Tuesday. With Linda Church, an incredible speaker and activist.
With Paula, producer of ‘Honor Diaries’ and ‘Faithkeepers’, and incredible Dana, the glue that holds our team together!
Bottom photo: Dana and I at Censored Women’s Film Festival dinner at Lotte Palace on Monday evening.

Top row: With lovely Dana and Paula following a successful Censored Women’s mini Film Festival at the United Nations…needless to say we were hyped afterwards! Paula and I standing in front of ‘Faithkeepers’ poster on Capitol Hill.¬†As you can see, we’re ecstatic and relieved by the success of the event.
Bottom: Me, Linda, and Paula. Bottom right shows the panel speaking after the screening. Nina Shea, Johnnie Moore, and Paula Kweskin killed it, and I recorded it for Facebook Live. ūüėõ

It will never be easy to do this work in human rights as long as we live in a fallen, sinful world. But this week brought me to a deeper level of understanding that even if I see just one life changed, it makes it worth it.

stay lovely,
the tallgirl

 

 

How Far a Smile Will Go

I’ve taken smiles for granted.

A smile makes you feel welcome in a foreign land.
A smile excuses you for your broken Hebrew asking where the bathroom is. (“Ei-fo ha-she-ru-teem?” Just imagine a tall blonde with an American accent pronouncing each morpheme at a snail’s pace like the server wouldn’t catch it otherwise.)
A smile breaks invisible barriers in place from years of politics and misconceptions, language and cultural differences.
A smile makes you human. A smile lets your guard down, and it allows someone else to do likewise. Continue reading “How Far a Smile Will Go”

Faith to Move

The waves lapped against the side of the boat, lovingly named Sea Note. 53 American students stood transfixed by the scene all around them. A cool, sea breeze was embraced with widespread arms and content hearts after a record-setting day of heat. God himself seemed to breathe out grace and love on this eclectic group brought together on a journey through his purposeful will.

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Hazy sun over the Sea of Galilee.

Looking out across the sea, my minds’ eye created slideshows of Bible stories I’ve known since I was a teeny tot in Sunday School. Jesus calming storms, walking on water, calling his beloved disciples to fish for more than temporary sustenance but for men’s souls.

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I couldn’t help myself. ūüôā #SnapchatGameStrong

The film paused when I thought of Jesus appearing to his disciples after his resurrection (found in John 21). From the shore, his identity obscured by distance, Jesus suggested they throw their nets to the right side of the boat after a long, unsuccessful night with their nets on the left side. Being on that sailboat a few nights ago in the middle of a large sea, rocking slightly to the flux of waves, revealed to me in the most obvious sense how little that slight change could have helped. This man really thought ten feet away in those vast waters would help them catch more fish?

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Praise and Worship on the Sea.

Yet they blindly trust the stranger on the shore and throw the net to the right side. Immediately their faith was rewarded with a full net, too heavy to pull up from the large catch. The disciples on that boat had spent three consecutive years with Jesus Christ, and they recognized one of His miracles when they saw one. In enters Peter. Impulsive, passionate, intelligent Peter, who had denied knowing Christ three times just a few days prior.

I put myself in Peter’s shoes at this moment: the Savior I’ve followed and dedicated my life to for 3 years has died the most shameful death, hanging on a cross. Although I believed undoubtedly who He was, in the face of questioning, I deny any affiliation with Him. I feel guilty, alone, confused, and shocked, overwhelmed with emotion and no idea how to process it all. I would do as Peter did: return to what I know. From John 21:3 we know Peter and the disciples went back to fishing, their occupation before following Jesus. This caused me to pause and wonder what do I return to when I’m guilty, alone, confused, and shocked by what life brings me?

Often it’s the usual insecurities, surrounded by walls of competency so that no one can see the weaknesses within. It’s the search for affirmation from peers or people I respect, usually leading only to disappointment when the praise is scarce or unfulfilling.

The mental movie continued with Peter realizing the mystery man on shore was Christ. He doesn’t hesitate for a moment to jump out of the boat to swim towards his best friend.¬†All of the guilt, the heart-wrenching shame, the loneliness, and the shock are erased in the presence of Peter’s Savior. And we know He didn’t come for just one man, race, or gender, but for all humanity. And in the presence of His unceasing grace and love, we have hope for the future and peace in the present.

As the¬†Sea Note returned to shore, it blasted old worship songs through the speakers. “He’s got the whole world in His hands, He’s got the whole world in His hands, He’s got the whole world in His hands, He’s got the WHOLE WORLD in His hands!” brought me right back to my childhood, dancing with my brother to¬†100 Kid’s Bible Worship¬†Songs¬†on cassette¬†for a boisterous¬†audience of mom and dad. And it reminded me to trust.

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Beautiful sight to see these two flags waving together, united.

We spend so much of our lives worrying, but if we would just have faith small enough to move our net from the left to the right side of the boat, to step out of our comfort zones, to trust God’s plan over our own, we’d be much more content and able to more clearly see His will playing out in our lives.

stay lovely,
the tall girl

How To Justify a Backpacking Adventure

Being home in Iowa before jet-setting off has been wonderful to reconnect with people. So many questions have been raised though about the nature of my trip: why am I doing it now, how can I afford it, what about a job? I won’t name any names as to who’s asked these questions, but we’ll give the main culprit the alias of ‘mom and dad’.

I’m not going to lie, there are moments where I seriously question my sanity for wanting to rough it for over 3 months with one backpack of belongings around foreign countries of which I don’t speak the language. I’ll be stinky and bruised and in bad need of a pedicure by the end of it.

But once I calm down from the mini wave of anxiety I realize, why not now?

Health

As I was packing for my upcoming journey, rationalizing it in my mind, I had a flashback to three summers ago hobbling around Phoenix, AZ and San Jos√©, Costa Rica (CCU basketball mission trip) in a big ol’ boot on my left leg after bunion surgery. If I was injured, I wouldn’t be able to do this trip.

God has blessed me with physical strength (for the most part, though I definitely feel the years of sports in my knees and hips…gosh, I’m getting old!) and the mental capacity to figure things out in new places.

I don’t know what my health will be like at any point in the future, I only know I’m able now.¬†And tomorrow is promised to no one.

Money

I’m a college graduate. I’m not rich. But I’m a college graduate. So I’m thrifty and a major saver! I started making travel plans halfway through my Sophomore year, and I’ve been saving my little paychecks from Centennial Institute, babysitting, and graduation money like nobodies business.

I have the Goldilocks mindset about my money for this trip: I don’t have too little that I’ll be calling home two weeks in that I blew it all and need them to buy my return flight; I don’t have so much that I’ll be staying in 5-star hotels and resorts and going on behind-the-scene tours at the major sites.

I have¬†just enough for transportation costs within the various countries I’m going too, food, and sightseeing costs. Thought I missed the part about lodging? I didn’t. I’ll be staying with Workaway families, couchsurfing, friends or connections I have over there, and maybe cheap youth hostels when I feel like splurging.

Job

I love explaining this one, probably because it’s kept me up at night the most! It’s the most common question I receive: What about a job? Well, what about it? Any job that God has lined up for me in his will is going to be there when I’m back in November.

On top of that, the experiences and skills I’m going to have because of these months abroad will set me up for exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. Most college graduates go straight into their career, and all happiness to them. My resum√© will be set apart because I did something unique, out of the ordinary, and risky.

Fear

There’s a healthy enough amount of it that I’m not going to jump into someone’s van offering me a free ride from the airport.

The concept I’ve been pondering is that God is still God and still in charge in Cedar Rapids, Iowa as He is in Athens, Rome, or Paris. “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1

As confident as I am that this is what God has for me right now, prayers are still so appreciated as I venture out! And if you’re considering any traveling coming up, just do it. Life is short, spend money on experiences not things, and for good measure I’ll leave you with the classic “Carpe diem”¬†or in the millenial’s words, YOLO (you only live once). So get going, people. There’s a big, wide world just waiting to be explored by you.

stay lovely, and have a grand adventure today,
the tall girl