Watching Airplanes

It has been such a long time since my last post ... almost a year! My senior year at Auburn went by way too fast due to the extremely good times had. Before I knew it I graduated with a Building Science degree in May '11, and was committed to work at Brasfield & Gorrie as a Field Engineer in Birmingham, AL.

I think I mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to work at a camp or be a missionary upon graduation. Well, God had different plans for my life. During my thesis project in the spring semester, all of us were job hunting and I was very lightly pursuing construction and praying to have a door opened into a different field, such as the third world mission field. Opportunities arose, but I just knew down deep that each opportunity was not for me. After a couple months of having no idea what I would do after I graduated, Brasfield & Gorrie called to set up an interview with me in their home office. I had interned with them in the summer of 2010, and it went well. I did office work and field work that summer, and knew that I wanted to work in the field with the workers and have hands on experience with the actual construction process instead of managing from a distance.

The interviews went very well, and weeks later they offered me a job. I prayed about it and talked it over with the parents and knew that was where I needed to start my career. It just made sense - my top pick of contractors to work for, great project (Birmingham Airport Modernization), position I wanted (Field Engineer), and it is the job that the past 4 years at Auburn have been training me for.

The summer started out rough. A friend of mine from my Building Science class is rooming with me and we have encouraged each other to keep pushing on. It was such a weird transition from college life to work all the time with no sight of a break. Before, all my jobs would only last several months, then I could go back to Auburn. But this job would go on and on until ... who knows? That was a scary feeling to me.

After realizing I hadn't been fully trusting in the Lord daily, I made it a priority to get up early every morning so I would have time to spend with the Lord before I had to be at work at 6 am. He has taught me so much during the summer - about how to "delight in my Father's will" Psalm 40:8 and to "endure through suffering" James 1 and having confidence in the Lord (Heb. 13:5-6).

Realizing that He is trustworthy and actually taking that leap of faith into His arms is the best thing one can do. I have been reassured many times that I am living in His will, although many days I wanted to leave the job out of frustration with certain conditions (not unusual or harmful conditions for construction) that I will leave unsaid.

It took a breaking from the Lord to get me to the point of faith I am at now. I felt like He slowly picked me apart inside out until I could do nothing but literally fall on my knees in tears asking for His comforting hand to forgive me for my hardheaded independence and help me to not only be content but be joyful and thankful for the tough job and be a shining light in the field.

He has blessed me with these summer trials so that I may grow. There is a long way to go, but I know to take it a day at a time and not worry about the future, for tomorrow has enough troubles of its own (Matt. 6:33-34)


Throwing Tables

Over the past few weeks, God has shown me American culture under new light. The extravagance, waste, segregation, and ignorance of just one event. And all the while 60% of humans on earth are starving. Wait, let me back up a little...

So, God placed it on my heart to start Mission 1.27, a local outreach team to serve those in need. Our first project, roofing a house that ARM (Alabama Rural Ministries) had on file, went pretty well. It cost more and took longer than expected, but her roof is complete and people in AUMC and some classmates from Building Science had the opportunity to serve their neighbor. So then I started to put together another project, trying to work around the football schedule, and we ended up selling parking places in the church parking lot for fundraising Mission 1.27, and the Lord blessed us with funding. The following weekend is when my socks get rocked. The plan is to have a work weekend at SIFAT (mentioned in previous entry - check it out) to work on their campus in Lineville. We would head out Friday afternoon, work Saturday till lunch, and head back to AU early enough to arrive 2 hours before the game. I did not think that there would be a huge issue with working on a home game weekend, but I was wrong.

We had a few show up, and I started thinking in worldly terms. I started thinking quantity over quality. I also started being selfish, wondering why I couldn't have a team that was really popular and everyone wanted to come to. I kept looking at Mission 1.27 as "mine" instead of the Lord's. Basically, the Lord showed me during this work weekend that it is not about me, and that I need to humble myself, and that He will use Mission 1.27 how He wants to.

Next, I started thinking about football: the main reason why many people could not attend. Auburn University and its community spends a ton of money on football - the stadium, employees, equipment, tickets, food, beer, tailgate accessories, extra clothing, etc..... how did this all come to happen? how do you convince an entire culture to love something so much they want to FREQUENTLY spend lots of money on something as simple as SITTING and WATCHING? It baffles me. Why can't we convince that many people to YEARN to serve the Lord, to give to those nearing death because of starvation, to be productive instead of wasteful? Instead we want to lounge in our abundance.

Then I feel convicted to act on it - but how? It's at least 100,000 to 1. Just keep asking people to come make a small sacrifice of working to serve a neighbor? Then comes the crazy part - how do I NOT judge and NOT be prideful? Who am I but a sinner?

Tonight at Bible study we talked about Jesus turning the tables over in the temple when He saw the merchants selling goods within the temple walls. He became frustrated because the people were abusing His Father's house, so He ran off the leaders. But Jesus is perfect and I am not at all - so acting out of anger for me would be nearly impossible to control.

In Philippians 4:11, Paul talks about how he has learned to be content in whatever the circumstance (rich or poor, mansion or prison). This makes since - it strengthens relationships instead of burning bridges. If times are good, great. If times get tough, great. If I go around throwing tailgate tables around how could I ever minister to those people? But at the same time I can't just be lukewarm, sitting there watching a snake corner a mouse and eating him.

Satan has got us fooled! We think that going to football games is more important than serving our Lord - this may not be said out loud but actions speak WAY LOUDER. What if people gave up one home game a year, just one, and served that weekend instead? That is a lot of people going to help out a brother...

So right now I am just stuck - not sure what any of this means for me. Comments would be awesome.


Back in God's Country

I am so excited to finally be back in Auburn after the tough summer in Birmingham - and I can't think about how this is my last year! There is a a busy schedule ahead, and I am pushing myself aside and seeking after His face. These past few months have been so self seeking, and after going to 8th Street at First Baptist Opelika, God spoke through the leader there about how the MORE we look at ourselves, the LESS we look like God. That hit home hard and I prayed that God would help aim my focus at His heart.
After seeing the desires of those in the AUMC college ministry to serve their neighbor, God put it on my heart to start up a local outreach team within our ministry. It is called Mission 1.27 (after James 1:27, which says "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."). This weekend (Aug 28th) we are teaming up with the Wesley Foundation to serve some houses just outside the Auburn area. I spoke with Alabama Rural Ministries (ARM) and they set us up with a roofing and painting project. I told them our budget, and they said we could probably do half the roof. I said no, we need to do the whole roof - we'll go outside our budget if we have to. We looked in the basement of the church and found 850 SF of the same shingles that would be going on this project house - which allows us to do the whole roof and have money left to buy paint! That is just one way that God has blessed us - and I don't doubt there will be many more to come. He loves all of us and I am so excited to serve Him in every way I can!
Please pray for our freshman getting involved in our ministry or other ministries - that God would work in them. That we could all unite for His glory and serve this town with love that He has poured on us. Amen.


The Wall

After coming home to Birmingham to work at Brasfield & Gorrie for the summer, I unknowingly started blazing a trail of my own. Instead of refocusing on the Lord by soaking up the Word and spending time in prayer, I went to sleep because I came home exhausted everyday not wanting to do anything but sleep. I missed signs telling me to turn back on the path that I had been walking on as well as I could just months ago.

It started to hit me like a ton of bricks - I am going to be graduating in less than a year and will be having to support myself. Among other things, I started to really stress out about everything - and tried to push it away but couldn't. I became extremely pessimistic about the situation and am currently quite unstable with where I am.

Then one of my good friends from Minnesota called me and I know God moved him to call me because it was perfect timing. The main two things I gathered from the conversation was to "be still and know the I am God" (trust in the Lord instead of figuring it all out alone) and take time to spend with the Lord. This struggle I'm going through is impossible to carry on my own and I just need to turn to the only One who can lift me up.

Prayers are needed :)


SIFAT weekend retreat

Friday afternoon (4/23) I could have been found gladly leaving Auburn with my windows rolled down headed up to Lineville, AL to SIFAT (Servants in Faith and Technology). SIFAT is a mission organization that focuses on teaching others appropriate technologies so that they can use them to solve problems in their home country. They also have retreats, camps, and conferences on their campus to educate fellow Americans about the need to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering immensely everyday. I volunteered to work the weekend, and had no idea what to expect. I had been to SIFAT before with my church, AUMC, but we just rented out the campus and did our own thing. This weekend there was a Bug Conference (scientists and a variety of others learned about the advantages of eating certain bugs), a St. Mary's group, an Alex City group, and a small group from Auburn. Most of my time was spent with the St. Mary's group - a church out of Birmingham that my family is involved in.

On Friday night, I met some of the staff (Mary, Laura, Nate, and Jarred) and Lauren (who was volunteering this weekend as well). When the kids were told to bring everything they needed for the weekend, they brought all kinds of clothes and toiletries, but when we put them through "customs," we left them with rain gear, a sleeping bag, flashlight, water bottle, and Bible. They stayed in one of the "global villages" (SIFAT simulated different areas of their campus to be like certain 3rd world countries) and had to cook their food over an open fire. We had a worship service and a devotion that night (Nate taught on commitment and sacrifice. In the story of Abraham sacrificing his only son WHOM HE LOVED he demonstrated to God his commitment and willingness to sacrifice. God waited until the very last minute to tell him not to kill his son Isaac).

I woke up Saturday morning thinking about how much I want to work here. I have always loved working at camps and serving on mission trips, and SIFAT is both! I have also noticed how going to seminary would help me teach devotions like Nate did and that would be a tool that could not only give me credibility but allow God to use my extended knowledge to reach others better. I need to be coming to volunteer here as much as I can and also need to be soaking up His Word as much as I can in order to prepare for whatever calling He gives me.

It rained almost all day, but that didn't stop the awesome things God had planned for us to happen. I started off working with the Alex City group - they spent the morning doing team challenges (and struggled working together). They were late elementary school to early junior high age. The girls thought that I was Taylor Lautner and kept taking pictures of me and asking for my autograph - pretty funny. I then went to teach the St. Mary's group how to make a brick out of clay, water, and straw. For lunch, we had a "Hunger Banquet" - which is where we lined up everyone and handed them all a different color chip. There was a total of 23 in the group, and 3 drew red chips (got to eat all they wanted), about 8 drew blue chips (got to eat 1/2 a tortilla), and the rest drew white chips (didn't get any food). It was a way to demonstrate how the world does not distribute its food among everyone well at all. There is enough food for everyone, but some just eat too much and are wasteful. Mary coined the quote of the week, telling the 3 red chip kids to "eat until you get full... then go back and eat some more."

That afternoon it kept raining, but we had the kids come out and work on the campus - clearing brush and constructing a makeshift bridge. They had a great attitude about the suffering they were enduring, and it was an inspiration to me. After we worked I started to prepare for the slum simulation - where I was to act like a beggar. SIFAT has made a village that looks exactly like what a slum would look like in a 3rd world country. So as far as role playing in the slums, Nate was military, Laura the storekeeper, Mary a homeowner, Jarred a landlord/job giver, and Lauren and I were beggars. When the groups came in (St. Mary's and Auburn), they were taken back at how real it was. They had not eaten dinner and had to find a job to buy a shelter and food... and it was raining. I would hobble over to people and plead for a food - and it was interesting to see each one's reaction. Some would just say "I don't speak Spanish" and walk away. The simulation lasted two hours, and I tried to be as persistent as I could - constantly asking for food, banging on walls with my cane, annoying some to the point they lost their job... At the end I felt like I was really a beggar.

Sunday morning I shared a devotion on how we are called to suffer - how Christ suffered for us and we are called to suffer for others. We can't just go on living our comfortable life - maybe feeling a little bit guilty - while others are dying of starvation and sickness. Read 1 Peter 4:12-19 to them and related it to this weekend. People of the world will think on is crazy for giving up a perfectly "good" life and sacrificing it for the Lord, but we live for eternal reasons. The last thing I shared with them was the song with the line "break my heart for what breaks Yours."

I think that this weekend was such an eye opener for them and to me. When I acted like the beggar, I pretended to be sick and hungry - and actually started to feel sick and hungry. Yesterday I was diagnosed with mono... pretty crazy.

- Grace and peace from Jesus Christ our Savior -


Operation Stache Bash

Wow! This weekend was absolutely amazing. I am privileged to be a member of the Auburn Rowing team and all season we have been training for our big championship race: SIRA @ Oak Ridge, TN. I am in the Men's Varsity Heavy 4 boat and we have come a long way from where we were a year ago. I have been a member of the team since I was a Freshman here at Auburn (Fall 2007) and have really fallen in love with the sport...

But recently I have felt a calling to not row my Senior year and focus on local outreach with my church (AUMC). Our college ministry is growing and I feel called to head up some sort of rural outreach ministry that college students at AUMC can regularly be involved in. There is a lot of work that needs to be done on houses where their owners can not afford to fix them on their own. By offering help to them and explaining that we are doing this work because we are extending the love of Christ showed to us would be an awesome way to spread the Gospel to others. I believe that by committing all the time I would normally put towards rowing practice to this new ministry, there would be a huge growth within the church.

So Friday morning, I back up the truck to the huge boat trailer and haul our huge chunks of carbon fiber to Oak Ridge, TN - excited about what I thought would be my last race to ever row in. We had the privilege of staying at the Brink's lakehouse (which saved the team a large sum of money by not booking hotel rooms) and bonded as a team as we jumped off the top of their 25 ft high dock into cold Tennessee River water.

On Saturday, we eat breakfast at 5:30am and head out to the race site. There are lots of crews at this regatta and boats going all over the place, tents lined up along the course with parents and rowers, announcers with British accents at the starting blocks, and coaches running around trying to make sure all their boats are on time for each event. My boat, the heavy four, launches around noon and after a boat prayer at the start, come in first place. We try not to get too confident, because that race just qualifies us for the A/B final qualifying race. We launch at 4:00pm for this race and come in first again, qualifying us for A finals (which is a huge deal - this puts us at the top 6 out of all the heavy fours at this regatta [about 30]). My dad and sister were there the whole day taking pictures and motivating us to row hard - I love my family! We go back to sleep that night exhausted after an amazing cookout and marshmallow roasting.

Sunday, 5:30am we eat another amazing breakfast and head out to the race site for the big day: finals... If we do not do well in this race all that work was for nothing. We launch at 11:00am and do all we can to stay calm and collected, praying for strength, endurance, and connection. We line up at the starting blocks, sitting ready... attention... ROW! And we're off, starting out a little slower than the other boats. We are in 4th and creep up to third 1000 meters into the race. We are a boat length behind 2nd place and start to pick up our pace for the sprint, and all of a sudden the horn blows as we cross the 2000 meter mark and we placed 2nd to Murray State. We row to the awards dock and they drape the shiny silver medal on our sweaty necks and we row home.

After this unexpected and amazing feat (not to be boastful), we plan to go to Dad Vail Regatta in Pennsylvania. All the while I am thinking: "why is this happening if I am not supposed to row and start this ministry?"

So as we spend the next few weeks training for this last race, I will be spending a lot of time in prayer to figure out what He wants me to do. Please pray for me to hear His calling to its fullness.

Grace and peace from He who loves us most,

W. Van


The Beginning

Well I have been noticing all the blogs some of my friends have started making, and decided that it is a great way to share what God is doing in one's life. So I figured I would make one of my own to share with whoever is interested in what He is showing me. It may take awhile for me to figure this thing out, but I am excited to learn about it and journal here.

The main reason I want to start this blog is to publicly journal what God is calling me to do. I am currently a Junior in the Building Science program at Auburn University and am feeling a very strong tug to be a missionary. I think it will be interesting to see what God speaks to me along the way as far as where He wants me to go in the future.