Dream Big and Take Risks

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My best friend recently texted me this quote she heard at a work conference: “God won’t tie your soul to a dead-end dream”. That simple sentence struck me to the core. It conveys something I’ve been learning over the past few months, namely that God gave you your dreams and that it’s one of His greatest joys to see you fulfill them. But to be honest I didn’t fully believe that until a few weeks ago.

When I wrote my last blog post, I was positive that God would provide me with a job, and prayed that whatever it was, it would be His very best for me. I didn’t want to settle for some second-rate career where I’d be miserable. I was also convinced that He wanted me to work a full-time writing/social media job in the non-profit sector. Because of my personality type and being a perfectionist, when I have a task or project to do, I get fully absorbed into it. It’s like I have blinders on. That’s what happened in this job search. I was working hard, but I wasn’t asking God for guidance. After months of applications and interviews and getting absolutely nowhere, I began to get really frustrated. He closed door after door and instead of taking a hint and coming to Him for answers, I kept trying to do everything myself. I just thought I wasn’t working hard enough, and the solution lay in me trying harder.

Then I injured my foot and was forced to slow down a bit. I couldn’t walk or run or drive, and of course I had no job, so I kind of had nothing else to do but spend time with God (I know, bad Alix). Once I committed to being still and waiting on Him I felt God speak really clearly. First He told me to do a 3 day entertainment fast (no social media, Netflix, etc.). After the fast was over I pressed Him on what to do next. Why wasn’t I able to get any of these jobs I felt so qualified for? Was I looking in the wrong field? What the heck was I supposed to do??? Then I felt like He told me to start my own videography business. SAY WHAT??! Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE making videos. I’ve been doing it since I was 10 years old. I think video is one of the most effective and inspiring forms of communication. Strangely, video work had been an unexpected part of almost every job I had recently interviewed for, and the thought of getting paid to film and edit made me SO excited. But start my own business?? That is a super intimidating venture. In fact, the only reason I hadn’t tried to make a living off of videography up until this point was FEAR. I had always made up excuses like, “I’m not talented enough”, or “I don’t have nice enough equipment”, or “I don’t have time”. So I told God that if this was really Him speaking and that if He truly wanted me to do this, I was going to need a sign. A big, obvious one.

Less than 48 hours hours later, I received an email from a non-profit where I had applied for a social media position a few months earlier. The lady told me that due to budget, they weren’t going to hire for that position after all (classic Alix job search woes). However, she went on to say that she was really impressed with my video work and experience (which we had discussed in an earlier phone interview). She asked if she could hire me to make a video for the non-profit. This was my big, obvious sign that I had asked for.

So now I’m taking the leap and starting my own freelance videography business. Maybe you think I’m crazy, and maybe I am. But instead of being like Gideon in the Bible and asking God for a second super obvious sign, I’m stepping out in faith believing that this is what God has called me to do. After all, what do I have to lose if I’m wrong? I want to live my life taking risks because I have no desire for a “normal”, boring life sitting safely on the sidelines.

This past week I have been working on my business plan. It has forced me to reflect on the why of my decision to start a business. Yes, I’m starting this business in part as a direct response to God’s voice, but why did He call me to do it? When I think about that, I’m reminded of the passion I’ve had for making videos since I was a little kid. The passion I had somehow managed to sweep under the rug and forget about because it was too scary to dream about anymore. Other than sports, making videos is still the thing that brings me the most joy and makes me feel most alive. It allows me to tell stories without words, which I think I value so much because of my introverted personality.

I hope that if you’re struggling to find your calling and you feel like all the doors of opportunity are being shut in your face, you’ll take a moment to be still. Maybe you’re looking in the wrong place, trying to open doors that God didn’t create you to open. I hope you’ll go to Him for answers. He’s the one who created your dreams, and then created you to live out those dreams. We do not have a cruel God who gives us dreams and ambitions just to crush them. We have a God who takes great delight in helping us discover (and re-discover) our passions and purpose, and then helping us live them out.

 

Honoring God in the Midst of Unemployment

It has been over a month since Connor and I returned to Colorado Springs after 7 months abroad doing a Discipleship Training School with Youth With a Mission (see previous posts to read more about that). With no jobs and no apartment, we moved into my old room at my parent’s house – a challenging scenario for this independent, strong-willed introvert. In one month I’ve applied for 4 jobs, interviewed for 2 of them, and been turned down for all of them. It has been a little disheartening and at times I struggle with feelings of inadequacy, despair, frustration, and mistrust toward God. It’s in these moments of doubt that I have to take a step back and remember the goodness of God’s character, what He has done for me, and what He has promised to do in and through me.

I remind myself of the rainy day in early January while we were on outreach in Australia. We were praying about the New Year and asking God what His plan was for the year. He said that 2016 for me personally was to be a “Year of Jubilee” – a time to trust Him like never before and not to worry. If you’re not familiar with the Biblical Year of Jubilee, it began with God’s commandment to the Israelites that every 50th year be a celebratory year in which they were to let the land rest, forgive debts, and set prisoners and slaves free. During this year God promised to bless the crops and the people were to rest from their work. In short, the year was firstly to remind the Israelites that God created everything  – the land and everything in it – and gave it to them, that they were not the only owners. More importantly, it was a year to trust and focus on God instead of work and daily problems.  It was a time of restoration, peace, and liberty.

Now I don’t think God is telling me to take this year to park myself on the couch and watch Netflix everyday. Instead, I feel He is simply asking me to trust Him more than I ever have before – to trust Him to provide me a job that aligns with His purposes for me, an apartment, a plan and vision all in His timing. When I remember this, I can’t help but honor God by seeking and trusting His best for me. I pray constantly that God will give me the faith and courage not to settle for a job that isn’t His best for me because I’m being motivated by fear and impatience. Each time I’ve had an interview, I’ve prayed that if the job wasn’t God’s very best for me that I wouldn’t get it (even though I’ve really wanted some of them). This is a scary prayer to make, but I can’t stand the thought of missing out on God’s most exciting path for me because I sought the instant gratification that His 2nd, 3rd, or 10th best plan offered.

Asking and trusting for God’s best for me also requires that I give my best and not sit on my hands. That means striving for excellence in all that I do, including being intentional with writing resumes and cover letters. I spend days tweaking resumes and cover letters for each job I apply to because I want to be confident that if I don’t get the job, it means it wasn’t God’s best for me. This has been so liberating and helps safeguard my heart against the inevitable feelings of rejection and inadequacy that being denied a position can stir up. Giving my best also means using the downtime during unemployment wisely (something I am continually trying to improve on). On my 25th birthday this year I felt God telling me I needed to make some goals, so I wrote down “25 Goals for my 25th Year”. Now I know why He wanted me to do that, because I have a lot of time to work on accomplishing those 25 things! Lately I’ve been focusing on trail running more, less time spent looking at my phone, and not skipping meals – all goals that suffered when I was employed full-time.

I’ll continue striving to honor God in the midst of this season of unemployment by trusting that He is good and He has good things planned for me. His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts, so He knows what is ultimately best for me. I want a job soon and I believe God wants to provide me with the right one at the right time, but if not, He is still good. My faith in Him is not results-oriented. My faith in Him is rooted in the simple fact that He is God and I am not.

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T-Shirt fundraiser, round 2

Hey friends, now that we are back at home, we want to reopen sales of our Trailblazer T-shirts that we sold as a fundraiser before DTS! We remember a bunch of people over the last 7 months commented on the shirts whenever we wore them, so here’s your opportunity to grab one for yourself. Here’s the best part – this isn’t a fundraiser for us this time. We will donate the proceeds to our friend Amanda Fisher, who is about to leave for her DTS with YWAM in Kona, Hawaii!

The back of the shirt states the missionary’s call to reach “Every Tribe, Every Tongue, Every Nation,” and on the front, the shirts say “Trailblazer” on the pocket (or pocket area for the tank top), which is the name of the DTS track we completed with YWAM Newcastle. But this name also applies to every single missionary, blazing the path wherever they are physically or spiritually. I know most outreach teams from our school had a few Trailblazers students on them, but each and every one of you is a Trailblazer for allowing God to send you and for making Him known throughout the corners of the Earth.

The price is $25 per shirt/tank, plus $5 for shipping (except local CO delivery). The high quality Comfort Color brand shirts are made of thick, durable cotton. Sizes are unisex and run large, available in Small – XL. For reference, Alix (5’4″) wears a small and Connor (6′) fits a medium.

To order, email Connor at cbruson@gmail.com with your shirt type (pocket tee or tank top) and size. You can pay by sending money through PayPal (preferred) or by mailing a check. We will let you know our PayPal or mailing address when you submit the order. We pay for the T-shirts through PayPal, then we will donate the profits to Amanda’s DTS fund. Get to know Amanda on her blog and check out her fundraiser page as well!

Thanks for being a part of our DTS journey and for contributing to our friend’s as well! We hope you enjoy the shirts.

Connor Bruson Shirt 3Connor Bruson Tank 3

Outreach Report: Berlin, Germany

After spending one month working in the refugee camps in Lesvos, Greece with our team (which you can read about here), we traveled to Berlin for the last month of our outreach. We stayed at the YWAM Berlin base where we were warmly welcomed and even given a city tour by the base director. In just one afternoon, we went to the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, Holocaust Memorial, Reichstag Parliament Building, Sony Center, and many different sections of the Berlin Wall. We were in awe of how much important history the city has tucked in between its rows of rebuilt 1950’s apartment buildings, and how it continues to be a focal point in world events. Some of the most important things in modern history have happened in Berlin! Today, it is host to an unmatched mixing of Christians and Muslims as many refugees end their journey here.

Once we settled in we began praying and brainstorming about what ministries we wanted to focus on during our four weeks. By the end of our time in Berlin, we had done a large list of ministries that included opportunities like “Encounter Night”, Chai & English, game/movie night, women’s painting night, speaking at a local church, volunteering at the homeless shelter, refugee house visits, a flash mob, prayer walks, street evangelism, and more. Whew!

It’s been said, “If you build it, they will come,” but we actually had to do a lot of reaching out to refugees in order to make these ministries effective. To do this, nearly every morning we would go to LAGeSo (lah-gey-zo) where the refugees wait to receive their monthly benefits from the German government. This one-city-block area was a perfect place to meet different refugees every day, and since it is the only camp to serve the city’s 100,000+ refugees, there are extremely long lines and people waiting everywhere, which made them easy to approach and open to conversation. They are some of the most friendly, warm, and welcoming people, and it was a privilege to hear their stories. Sometimes we would pray for them; other times we would just listen to them talk about their life back home before war and what they went through to get to Germany. We would invite many of them to come to one of our ministries – mainly Encounter Night and Chai & English. One day in LAGeSo that stood out was when we met a refugee who we served tea to in the Moria camp in Greece! It was so good to see that he and his family of fourteen had made it safely. He surprised us, though, when he thanked us so much for all that we did for him, his family, and his fellow Afghanis during their journeys. This was very confirming of the path that God had put us on for outreach.

These daily jaunts into LAGeSo were vital in order to fuel our weekly ministries with as many people as possible. The Encounter Night is an evening of food, community, worship, and talks about Jesus, specifically geared towards Muslim refugees. It was run by YWAM Berlin, our team, and other outreach teams from Brisbane, London, and Kona. On average, 20-30 Muslims from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere came to Encounter Night each week and got to see how Christians worship and hear exactly who Jesus is. We got to pray for Muslims, answer many probing questions about our “religion” versus theirs, and even see physical/emotional healings and salvations! Praise God for this historic opportunity. Our main focus was to show that Jesus is a relational, loving, caring God, not a legalistic, far off ruler. I believe we mainly accomplished that by showing the refugees that we, as Christians, wanted to have a relationship with them, that we love them, and that we care about them, their families, their stories, and their struggles, just like Jesus.

The second main ministry we did was a free English class for refugees called Chai & English, which YWAM Berlin wanted our team to pioneer for them to continue when we left. At first we were skeptical that refugees, who are already required to learn German, would want to spend their extra time learning English as well. But this ministry was surely a gift from God because our first class had 18 students! Many came back each week, and we got to not only improve their English skills, but offer them community and conversation on a personal level.

We did so many things during our 4 weeks in Berlin, it’s hard to tell all the stories, but here are a few more highlights. We went to church each Sunday at Reset Berlin, a small cafe-style church led by a Californian pastor, which offered translation between German and English for our team. This church was a huge blessing to our team, and we were also able to bless it as well. A Christian refugee from Syria is in charge of the church’s refugee ministry. He organizes a game/dance/movie night every Friday for refugees that our team attended, translated our Encounter Night talks into Arabic, and set up our team’s house visits to refugee families. Not to mention he cooked our team a huge Middle Eastern dinner before we left! He was seriously such a huge blessing to us. Our team was also able to share 4 testimonies during Reset’s services, and Connor and Tommy helped the church start its renovations.

One of our favorite ministry nights was serving at the homeless shelter. We liked this night because it was much like serving in the refugee camps: although there was a language barrier, it was so good just to be able to serve these peoples’ physical needs before pouring into them emotionally and spiritually. After dinnertime, our team held worship and spoke a quick sermon before sitting down individually with the tables of people. A few of them really opened up during this time. You could see their struggle in their eyes and simple gestures like a firm handshake or hug. One woman got healed emotionally and recommitted her life to Jesus. It was an amazing night where each member of our team was able to use his/her gifts to the fullest.

We did so much more each day, but you will just have to catch up with us over coffee sometime to hear every detail! We will leave you with some pictures of our time in Berlin, mostly from our days off when we explored the city. We saw a castle, toured the city’s coffee scene, ate amazing German and Italian foods, visited the Berlin Wall museum, and took a bazillion trains, subways, trams, and busses everywhere!

Berlin was the culmination of our outreach, and it also marked the terminus of the refugees’ journey across Europe. We met their physical needs in the Greek camps, and once those were met as they settled in Berlin, the refugees were so empty emotionally and open spiritually. This is truly a historic time for the mixing of Muslims and Christians, and God is clearly using it to bring His truth and love to so many of His children that previously weren’t able to receive it. We are thankful and blessed to be included in the refugees’ journeys and in God’s will during this season. We pray that our journey through DTS and Outreach may open your heart and mind to not only receive more of what God has planned for your life, but also to be seeking and recognizing God’s will for the Syrian Refugee Opportunity (not crisis).

Thank you for following along, and an extra big thank you to everyone that supported us on this journey and made it possible! We are forever grateful.

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Our team at the Brandenburg Gate
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Brandenburg Gate
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The dream team at the Reichstag Parliament building
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Reichstag
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Our setup for our Chai & English classes 
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Teaching English to two Syrian teenagers and one Iraqi man. I look really tired and unhappy haha but I promise I wasn’t! This ministry was one of my favorites!
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One of our teammates giving a short sermon during Encounter Night
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A Syrian refugee family that had us over for dinner at their house one night. One of our best experiences was getting to know them!
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Another ministry we organized was a women’s painting/cupcake decorating night which ended up being exactly the rest that our team needed!
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Visiting remnants of the Berlin Wall all around Berlin
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One preserved section of the Wall with a “no man’s land” in between
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This portion was the first section of the Wall that was built, and the first to be torn down.
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We toured Charlottenburg Palace on our day off and it was beautiful!
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Inside of the palace. That’s the ceiling painting reflected in a mirror.
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The gardens outside of the palace
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Valentine’s Day date at an old crematorium turned coffee shop. It sounds creepy, but it’s symbolic of Berlin’s effort to move on from its troubled past.
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Found a cafe named after my initials! 
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Pretty excited about it!
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Apricot baum cakes are the BOMB.
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Outreach was amazing. I never want to forget any part of it – good or bad. God has been faithful and good through it all!

A Layover in Athens

 A few weeks ago as our team traveled from Greece to Germany, we had an 8 hour layover in Athens, so our adventurous group decided to take full advantage of that! Once we landed in Athens, the 12 of us rushed our backpacks to airport storage, took the train from the terminal to the old city center, and hurried to the Acropolis. Once there, we heard that the Acropolis was under a lot of construction and we didn’t have a lot of time to see it fully anyway, so we ended up just touring the old ruins below the Acropolis – which were amazing! We had about two hours to wander around the ancient temples and streets and it was overwhelming how much history there was to take in. Pictures don’t quite do it justice, but below is a little photo diary of our day because I want to remember these moments forever!

Waiting for our plane at the Mytilini airport as it was over an hour late. Classic Greece!
  
Only 4 Euros per person to see all of these amazing ruins. The Acropolis tickets are 12 Euros each and we heard you need several hours for that tour to see everything.
  

    
    

That view of the Acropolis never got old. I took about 100 pictures of it!
    

Me being a cool mom with two of my adopted daughters😉
  
I alternated taking pictures with my DSLR, iphone 6, and polaroid…so yeah, I’m officially a nerdy tourist!
  
  
Another view of the Acropolis!
 

   
  

    

Such a stark contrast between ancient Athens and modern Athens…
  
So thankful for this awesome team of mine that I’ve gotten to travel the world with and share the Good News! World changers.
  
Athens and the Acropolis from the air! Goodbye, Greece! We will never forget you!
 

Outreach Report: Lesvos, Greece

We are down to our final week here in Greece! We have been blessed with better and more widely available internet, so we have been able to do lots of mini-updates on social media. We will try to fill in the gaps and create an entire perspective of our time here in this post. 

We arrived on the island as volunteers on January 15, with 4 weeks planned to work as many shifts in the various refugee camps as possible. Our team was eager to see firsthand the crisis so widely publicized and talked about back home and abroad. After 52 hours of travel, we drove 1.5 hours across the island from the airport to arrive at our home for the next month: the medieval port city of Molyvos (also called Mithymna). Our accommodations at Belvedere Aeolis Hotel have been such a huge blessing to us. The hotel is hosting numerous volunteer groups at half price when it would normally be closed for the winter offseason. The same goes for many local businesses – restaurants, coffee shops, car rentals, specialty shops, and more – that have kept their doors open this winter and welcomed the flood of volunteers. It has been rewarding for our team to know that our money is going straight to local family businesses! But enough about Molyvos – we will post some pictures at the end, but you want to know about the refugee camps, the real reason we’re here. 

Our refugee camp experience started at Moria – a stage 3 camp near the capital of Mytilini, an hour drive away from us. The camps are categorized into “stages” based on what they are designed to do. Stage 1 is the beachfront where refugees are first taken off their boats and step foot in the EU. Stage 2 camps are transitional camps that provide some immediate needs like food, dry clothes, and possibly a night of shelter, but focus on getting the refugees on busses to stage 3 camps.  

This map shows the flow of the refugees’ journeys through the camps on Lesvos Island.
 In stage 3 camps like Moria, refugees are registered into the system and housed until they can get transportation off the island to Athens via the ferry from Mytilini. In Moria, our team worked in the family unit under the volunteer organizations i58 and EuroRelief. The family unit consists of 3 housing blocks, 8 rooms each, each room able to hold 25 comfortably. We regularly had to stuff them full of 40-50 people when the camp becomes backed up because of good weather for crossings or ferry strikes. Our duties varied depending on the shift, but generally consisted of cleaning out the rooms in the morning, admitting families back into the compound each afternoon, serving dinner, handing out clothes, making baby bottles and food, tidying, organizing and optimizing the volunteer areas, and all the while staffing the busy tea tent just outside the family compound. Cold refugees love their hot sweet tea! So that’s the basics of what we did during our 10 eight hour shifts in Moria, and there are a few stories that stood out to us from our time there. 

While it was just us two staffing the tea tent, for 2 nights in a row an Afghan man would come and try to teach us Farsi. He spoke no English and we spoke no Farsi, so it was slow going, but it was fun trying to figure out what each other was communicating. Eventually we learned that he was a policeman in Afghanistan, and he fled with his family after the Taliban attacked them and a rocket nearly missed his face. This story was all too common. Actually, nearly all the refugees in Moria are Afghanis, fleeing from the Taliban. We were surprised to see so many of them versus Syrians for which the crisis is named. 

Another story that we won’t forget is admitting a jam-packed line of refugees into the family unit one afternoon during a ferry strike. The camp was beyond capacity, so we had to be extra selective in giving our warm bedrooms to the most at-risk people only: small children and their parents. This does not include extended family or even older brothers/sisters. Through thick language barriers we had to deny some people entrance and split up some families. It was very difficult, but for each able bodied man we referred to another area of the camp, a small child got a warm room for the night. Our time in Moria taught us organization and communication within our team, to other volunteers, and to refugees. It also taught us how to stay patient and firm in our responsibilities under stress. Our team often received comments of how different we seemed than the non-Christian volunteers for our constant smiles and grace in situations. 

After 10 shifts at Moria at all times of the day and night, driving 2.5 hours each time, our team was pretty fatigued. We requested some shifts at a camp that was only 30 minutes away, and received our next 6 shifts there. Sikaminea is a stage 2 transportation camp one kilometer away from the beachfront at Skala, which is situated at the closest sea crossing from the Turkish shore (10km). So far, our shifts at Sikaminea have been very quiet – a stark contrast from the hustle and bustle of Moria. But it has been a welcome respite for our team to experience a different area of the island and of the refugees’ journey. God has spoken for our team to rest and wait on Him during this slow period and recharge ourselves for what is still yet to come in the next 6 days in Greece and then 4 weeks in Berlin. We are God’s hands and feet – available, ready, and waiting at Sikaminea for refugees to arrive, but it is almost a good thing that few are risking the cold, stormy, winter waters currently. 

While our time in Greece was mostly spent working in the camps, we did get to have a lot of fun as well! We enjoyed several runs around and through the town of Molyvos, went on a few walks in Medieval towns and hikes on the coast and in the mountains, and ate a lot of delicious food! We have truly cherished our time on this magical island. It is one of the most beautiful places we have ever been and we would recommend it to anyone for a visit! The diverse landscape, friendly people, delicious food, and rich history have made a big impact on us, and we will never forget any of it! We hope you enjoy the pictures below and hopefully they give you a little taste of Greece that will inspire you to book a plane ticket to come here! 

 

We love wandering these old streets! Especially with that stray dog we named Nikki who follows our team everywhere!
  
  
Some of the town of Mithymna.
  
Working at the tea tent at the Moria refugee camp. A warm drink puts a smile on any face!
  
A local restaurant where Connor and I had dinner one night. we had the best dolmas, fried local cheese, bread, lamb stew and cheese stuffed chicken! We can’t get enough of Greek food!
  
Waffles for brunch with our team! Connor loved this nutella and whipped cream waffle!
  
We love hiking up the hills for views like this!
  
When we have a house, I want a door like this! And it’s my favorite color! I took wayyyy too many photos of Greek doors.
  
We went hiking on a day off and stumbled upon Gollum’s pool, NBD.
  
  
Exploring in the fishing town of Skala.
  
We love going inside all of the Greek chapels! So pretty!
  
Connor on one of our hikes. We felt like we were in Middle Earth!
  

More of Mithymna, as seen from the port. Love the castle on the hill!
  
Ottoman rule in the area means lots of old Arabic carvings to try to read.
  
Some of our teammates!
    
Album cover material.
  
Those Greek doors though!
  

  

The best way to see a city is to run through it!
  
When you run with Alix you better be prepared to stop and pet any animal you pass by. This sheep dog was particularly cute!
 

Outreach Report:Windale, Australia

Hey everyone, thanks for bearing with us during our lapse of posting since the beginning of our outreach phase 3 weeks ago. It took us a while to get into the different schedule and find time to write a blog post between doing so much each day for outreach. We are currently in the old city of Mithymna, Lesvos Island, Greece, but this blog post will be about our first two weeks of outreach in Windale, Australia.

Windale is a low socioeconomic suburb of Newcastle (the lowest in AU, actually), where government housing, drugs, alcoholism, and abuse is extremely prevalent. We were graciously given a house to stay in a neighboring suburb, so we based out of there and bussed our team of 12 into Windale each day. On a side note, Connor got an international driver’s license for outreach and was the driver for our bus. It was quite a learning experience driving a manual bus on the left side of the road! 

Our ministry in Windale consisted of a variety of outlets, mostly to the youth, but also in local churches. Many groups from YWAM Newcastle go into Windale each Saturday during ‘community connect,’ so the area is somewhat aware of our organization’s presence. In all of those times, however, the groups hardly ever saw any youth. We couldn’t believe that, because from day 1 we were surrounded by a core group of 20-30 children from the neighborhoods. We saw at least some of the same familiar faces every day, and we were able to build some lasting relationships with a few of them. We saw two salvations among them, and planted strong seeds for a third. Our youth ministry consisted of inviting them to play games at the local park daily, which was all leading up to Summer Blast – a big party in the park with water slides, sports games, face painting, sumo suits, free sausage BBQ, music, and more. A few local church leaders organized the event, and our team was the majority of the volunteers. 

Other types of ministry included sharing testimonies (a story of how God has done something in our lives) and short sermons at the local ‘Brekkie Church.’ This church, held in the community center by volunteers, is dedicated to serving locals’ physical needs by offering a donation-based breakfast to anyone who comes to listen to the service. We both got the chance to share our testimonies here – our very first times of speaking about God in front of a crowd. 

The other local church we visited is called Vivid Life – they are the ones who provide the funding and volunteers for Brekkie Church and Summer Blast. Vivid Life runs its service out of a school auditorium, much like our church back in Colorado (New Life Downtown), and they believe in using their funds to pour into Windale instead of a physical building for themselves. Our team members shared testimonies here and helped reinvigorate their resolve of helping Windale by the fruitful stories we were able to share. Although small, this church is doing big things in the area for God!

Lastly, our time in Windale was marked by some amazing divine encounters (situations only made possible by following God’s voice). We even got the opportunity to write about one of our encounters for YWAM Newcastle’s blog, which you can read here.

Our last day in Windale and in Australia was Alix’s birthday! Our whole team got the day off, so we all went to the beach to celebrate. It was a perfect day, filled with swimming, sunshine, coffee, pizza, and milkshakes (all picked by Alix). Although half the day was also spent packing and cleaning, it will definitely be a 25th birthday to remember! We awoke the next morning at 3a.m. to begin our 52 hours of travel to Lesvos (2 drives, 5 flights), which by the grace of God had no complications at all.

That’s the short version of our time in Windale! When we first heard that our time in Greece was being cut short and replaced by 2 weeks in Windale, we were honestly pretty bummed. But God completely blew us away by our experience there. We grew so much as a team and in our relationships with God, which strengthened us to perform more effectively in the hardcore situations at refugee camps here in Greece. We have only had 2 shifts at the refugee camps here so far, so we will post another update once we have more even stories to tell! In the meantime, we are posting a good amount of smaller updates on Facebook and Instagram (wifi in the refugee camps is even better and more prevalent than Aussie wifi, haha!). 

So, a huge “Thank you!” to each and every supporter who helped us get through our lecture phase and onto this outreach. God has clearly told us that we have been chosen “for a time such as this,” and we are honored by every donation in support of us and our mission. Bless you all! 

Our team helping with Windale’s weekly youth game night
  
When praying about what to do for ministry, God told me “Do not forget the little girls” , so we bought nail polish, coloring books, and temporary tattoos to bless them with. They loved it!!
  

Connor and I and our team put up Summer Blast posters all over the city
    
The sumo suits at Summer Blast were the highlight of the day for most kids
 
   

  

God is doing big things in Windale!
  
Our team at Brekky Church-preparing to help with worship and give testimonies.
  
These people made my 25th birthday one I will never forget!

Before we left Australia we were treated to this awesome lightning show! Made us think of home!

Living Word

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you had a wonderful holiday filled with joy and peace. We had a lot of fun celebrating Christmas here in Australia – but more on that at the end of this post! This was our last week of lectures (we can’t believe we’ve completed 12 weeks of lecture phase!) and the topic was the Living Word of God, a.k.a. the Bible. This week we learned that the Bible isn’t written to us as individuals, but for us. Everything we know about God comes from the Bible, and we are extremely privileged to have it so readily available in the West. Since learning the Word reveals more of the Father to us, we need to devote time and discipline to studying the Bible. A simple, effective  way to study the Bible is to first pray and ask God to reveal truth to you and speak to you through the Word. Remember this isn’t a textbook but a letter written for you from God, and if you leave Him out of the process it becomes boring and dead, kind of like math class. The next step is of course to read, but to read not by chapters but by logical breaks in the story. The Bible didn’t originally have verse and chapter markers. Those were added much later for organization and reference purposes. To understand the Bible better, stop reading at the natural break in a story or letter, not the end of the chapter.Third, observe until reading becomes seeing or understanding. Next, interpret the text accurately, meaning don’t come to the text seeking to prove your own idea and then interpret it based on your own opinions. Remember the context in which it was written and who it was written to. Finally, apply what you learned. This is the most crucial step and is the goal of the Bible. Knowledge and revelation are useless without application.

Alix

This week I enjoyed learning more about how to be more effective and disciplined in my quiet times reading the Word. I enjoy reading the Bible and have found it is one of the primary ways God speaks to me, but I still lack discipline in reading it every day. I also learned that reading the Bible deductively (reading with an idea and seeking supporting evidence for it) can be dangerous. A better way to read is inductively, in which you make conclusions based on patterns you see in the scripture, allowing the Bible to speak for itself. Most importantly, I realized how rich every single verse in the Bible is in revealing God’s character. Each book was put into it on purpose (even Leviticus…ugh) to bring us into greater intimacy with the Father, so don’t skim over any part because it seems less exciting. God wants to tell you something about Himself in that book!

Connor

Something I have taken for granted about the Bible is that the base of everything we know about the God who we follow, praise, worship, and devote our lives to comes from this book. We know God’s character because of how He is described in the Bible. We know that Jesus is God’s son because scripture proves it. We know that we have the Holy Spirit because the Bible tells us so. Because of all of these facts, we can carry our our lives as Christians and live like Jesus did – bringing love and healing the sick. I also loved learning that the Bible is NOT a rule book. Being a Christian isn’t about following a bunch of rules. You do not reach God through acts; only through love. Jesus died on the cross so we all can have life; nothing we do can bring us closer to God than the love Jesus showed us all. All He wants us to do is love Him back, and through that love, we see transformation and revelation within ourselves as we become more like Jesus. Then, we see our lives starting to resemble the Bible’s teachings more and more, without trying to just live by its rules. Finally, I appreciated this week’s teachings because now that lecture phase is over and we are heading out to be tested on outreach, I won’t have staff and lecturers to constantly guiding me toward God. I will have to rely on the Bible every day during outreach and the rest of life for information, strength, revelation, confirmation, and so much more. It is the Living Word and I can always get so much applicable knowledge out of it – it just depends on how much time and effort I put in!

Christmas in Australia

Our lecture phase ended with the best celebration we could think of – Jesus’ birth! This Christmas away from home was bittersweet without the family, traditions, snow, and activities that we are used to, but we now have the great memory of an Aussie Christmas. On Christmas Day, the whole base woke up to stockings and secret santa presents. We received a bunch of chocolate and coffee (they know us!). Christmas dinner was amazing compared to the usual fare – we had chicken, turkey, and ham with grilled winter veggies, and a few (slightly strange) Aussie desserts. After we stuffed our faces, there was a hilarious talent show for the rest of the night where students put on comical skits, sang, played instruments, and “danced.” We wished we could showcase our talents of soccer and mountain biking, but the stage was pretty small. The day after Christmas in Australia is called Boxing Day, which has been described to us as basically Black Friday (but not as insane). Our school went to Anna Bay, a mile long, clean, white sand beach, and we spent the day running barefoot, tidepool hopping, dune hiking, and barbecuing. All in all, a very memorable and very Aussie Christmas!

Now that lectures are behind us and Christmas activities are over, our minds are presently in outreach mode. Our team will be preparing on Monday and Tuesday, then we leave for our first destination on Wednesday! We won’t be going far, just a few miles south to a different suburb for 2 weeks, but the mindset and daily activities will be vastly different. We will continue to update whenever possible depending on our schedule and internet availability. Thanks again for following along, and make the new year 2016 a memorable one!

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Merry Christmas from the Brusons!

 

This is my friend Abigail. She received this strangely life-like cat from China on Christmas Day. The best part is she has no idea who sent it to her. Awesome!

Anna Bay on Boxing Day

 

Alix hiking the sand dunes to get to the beach!

 

Holy Spirit

This week we had a lecturer from South Africa speaking on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is awesome, and so are South Africans! In the Old Testament, when someone received the Holy Spirit it was only to do a job (example-to be a prophet, perform miracles, etc.). Not everyone received it in the Old Testament, which makes me grateful I didn’t live in those times (combined with a lotttttt of other reasons). After Jesus died, rose again, and ascended to Heaven, he sent his Holy Spirit to us. It’s critical to remember that the Holy Spirit is a person. A person who is freely given to us as believers. The Holy Spirit enables us to do a lot of things, but basically he allows us to be Jesus to other people. He gives us gifts – gifts which are freely given to anyone who is available, whether they are good or bad. The primary gifts of the Spirit include wisdom, knowledge, prophecy, faith, healing, miracles, discernment of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues (1 Cor 12:8-10). These are separate from the fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are only attained through spending time with God and listening to Him. These fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).

Another critical thing we learned this week is that you cannot be saved without the Holy Spirit working within you. A person cannot believe Jesus is Lord and confess it without the Holy Spirit. So, every believer does have the Spirit within them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have the fullness or immersion of the Holy Spirit. There is more. You receive immersion in the Spirit by those who already have it laying hands on you and praying for you. We learn about this from Acts 8:12-17.

Alix

I came into this week being absolutely terrified and skeptical. I’ve seen videos of charismatic churches where people are passing out and speaking in tongues, and it makes me cringe. But after learning about what the Holy Spirit does for us and what we can do through him, I get really excited about him. This week I learned more about the gifts I already have, namely wisdom and discernment, but was also able to practice the ones that don’t come as natural to me. Since being on DTS, I’ve really struggled with comparing my gifts with other believers’ gifts. Wisdom and discernment can sometimes feel more intellectual and less spiritual to me (which is a lie), so I find myself comparing to people with gifts such as healing, which is a very in-your-face Holy Spirit party gift. Every single day I have to remind myself that my gifts are God-given and essential to the world, and that they are just as valuable as ones like healing and miracles.

Connor

For me, the Holy Spirit is like an untapped spring of God-given gifts. If I’ve had him within me since I became a believer years ago, I haven’t made us of him until now. Our lecturer has taught me how to be more in tune with the Spirit; to ask and hear from him. When I’ve been asked to intercede (pray on behalf of others) or ask God about decisions, I’ve had such a hard time determining if my thoughts were my own or the Spirit speaking God’s thoughts into me. This week was very confirming that many visions, thoughts, and words of knowledge that I’ve given and received are from the Holy Spirit. For example, we practised giving each other prophetic words in groups of 2. I asked the Holy Spirit to give me a word or a vision for my partner, and I immediately envisioned what looked like a butterfly. As I looked closer, it was actually a dragonfly. I told my partner what I saw, and asked whether or not it had any significance to her. She told me her next tattoo was going to be a butterfly, but she had changed her decision to get a dragonfly instead. Pretty weird, huh? This vision didn’t have a super deep meaning behind it or anything, but prophecies are meant to encourage, comfort, or strengthen. In this case, it strengthened her decision to get the dragonfly tattoo.

After this ‘warm up round,’ we were told that we would ask the Holy Spirit if he wants us to give up a possession to someone else during the last day of this week’s lectures. In my quiet time, I timidly asked God what I should give up, and who I should give it to. I received 2 people’s names, but no items. I asked Alix what she heard, and she got 2 items but no names! God loves to work through holy matrimony.

I asked again later, and immediately got a strong feeling to give someone in particular my running shoes as well. I really love my running shoes, and I need them on outreach as well. I wrestled with God until midnight, not wanting to give up this item I so idolized. But how silly is it to wrestle with God, right? He always wins – so the next morning, I gave my shoes away to my classmate Jonathan. Immediately after I gave them, another classmate Gordie called my name and handed me an item out of his backpack. I could hardly breathe when I realized it was his MacBook Pro! God had put it on his mind to give me his laptop a few weeks ago, and he confirmed it again before this giving day. Gordie didn’t know that both Alix and my laptops are totally broken at home, but God did! One day later, all of Gordie’s outreach fees came in within 30 minutes. But there’s even more to this crazy morning of giving. Jonathan was also told to give away a pair of shoes, but he wasn’t sure. He jokingly told God he would give his away if he received a pair, so after I gave him my shoes, he gave me his! It’s unbelievable how the Holy Spirit weaves everyone’s stories seamlessly, but the main point is that you have to be open to hearing him AND following what he tells you to do.

Outreach prep and fundraising update

The full amount of our outreach fees are due next Tuesday, the 22nd! Thanks to all of our family, friends, readers, and supporters, we have already raised enough to pay for our flights, but we still need $2500 by this deadline to cover the rest of the outreach costs. A donation of any amount helps us get closer to our goal, so we are doing a special fundraiser on December 20th: Donate $20 on the 20th, and we will send a handwritten letter from Australia on some awesome donut stationary. Donuts for donations! (While supplies last). If you know anyone who you think might want to support a team going to help the Syrian refugees in Europe, please share our fundraising link with them. https://www.youcaring.com/connor-and-alix-bruson-391046

Our outreach team has been hard at work this week praying, interceding, and planning for the best ways to join in on God’s plan for the people we will encounter. Since our team still needs some funds before we leave, much of this week has focused on fundraising. We put on an extremely successful donut fundraiser (the edible kind), we are selling milkshakes tonight, planning a ‘day at the spa’ for students just before outreach, and we are making a fundraising video so supporters can hear from our voices firsthand what we will be doing, and what their money is supporting. Connor contacted a local bike shop who was willing to give him some basic tools to take on outreach. He wants to tune up peoples’ bikes whenever he can as a way of practically serving people and as a gateway into sharing the Gospel.

Some other happenings this week include a little Australian town’s big Christmas event that a team from our base went to. Some fellow students put on a skit, one of our leaders spoke, and the rest of us were just there to interact with the local crowd. We both ended up finding an older gentleman sitting alone at the back of the crowd. We talked the entire time and learned he was a coal miner his entire life, and, even more shockingly, has fostered over 50 children. Who would have thought! Going to this sort of an event with the mindset to form relationships and listen to people as a way of evangelism (aka ‘encouraging love‘) provides an experience that we’ve never had before. If you’ve read this far, we commend you! The only other awesome part about this week is we are going to watch Star Wars VII! May the Holy Spirit be with you. We hope you all have a blessedly awesome weekend.

Donate $20 to our outreach fund on December 20th and we will send you a letter from Australia on this sweet donut stationary!
Our outreach team!
Awesome fireworks show at the Christmas festival!
Every week the School of Music in Missions here at YWAN Newcastle plays a show. They’re an incredibly talented band by the name of Arbor Lungs. Check out their Facebook page to hear their stuff!

Prophetic Evangelism

Week 10 has come to a close, and it was a wild one! The lecture topic was Prophetic Evangelism, and we had a hilarious speaker who made this scary-sounding subject sound doable and fun. Prophetic Evangelism is a really intimidating phrase but essentially it means encouraging love. It is loving God regardless of the outcome and loving your neighbor regardless of the outcome. We get the privilege of loving people extravagantly, and we should take advantage of that each day. We learned that evangelism can take many different forms. It can be smiling or opening a door for someone, or paying for a stranger’s coffee, or asking someone with a cast if you can pray for healing for them. Evangelism isn’t yelling at people and telling them they’re going to go to hell. It isn’t an activity you engage in sometimes – it’s a lifestyle. Any believer can do it if you’re willing to get out of your comfort zone and love people like Jesus loves them every single day.

This week we also learned first-hand the power of prayer. I’ve always heard that phrase – “power of prayer” – but I never really knew how true it was. If we believe in Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives within us, and that means He can do miracles through us. This week we saw classmates get healed of food allergies that cause anaphylaxis, of joint pain, of arthritis, of headaches, and of back pain. All of those miracles happened just by prayer right in front of our eyes. Every single day this week was just crazy! 

Alix

I was sick all of this week and spent much of it in bed, but luckily I was able to attend most of the lectures and learned a lot of exciting things! My biggest take-away was that evangelism can be really fun and creative if you are even just a little bit bold and willing to get out of your comfort zone. For the first time in my life, I (with 2 of my friends) prayed for a stranger on the street after talking with her for about an hour and finding out she had severe back pain. When my friends saw her later that night at a Christmas event, she rushed up to tell them she had no pain in her back anymore. She then proceeded to run and jump around the event praising Jesus for healing her. So cool. 

I’m not as intimidated by evangelism anymore because there is no one way to do it. Whatever skills God gave you, you can use those to evangelize. I’m a good listener. I’m my father’s child and I usually prefer listening to talking. I love listening to peoples’ stories and people love to be listened to, so that’s what I’m going to focus on from now on – being open to listening to peoples’ stories even if they are strangers. Especially if they are strangers. It’s amazing to me how bad most people are at listening! If all evangelism is to you is just talking at people about Jesus, it’s not going to work. People open up when they feel you are hearing them and that you care about what they are saying. Such an easy way to show God’s love!

Connor

Our speaker really embodied just a normal guy living an extreme life because he is led by the Holy Spirit. He is not afraid of taking risks for Jesus, and has hours upon hours of amazing stories to tell because of it. In fact, he even has two documentaries about some of his journies. Every chance that came up in conversation or during lectures, he prayed. Whether it was for the person he was telling a story about, or for someone in the room with a hurting back, or for a random stranger he met the other day. Our speaker showed just how easy it is to say yes and take risks to follow the Holy Spirit. I feel much more equipped for ‘evangelism’ during outreach, because it is merely encouraging love.

This week,  I also am more and more confident that my deadly peanut allergy will be healed! After seeing a deadly apple allergy healed instantly (she ate an apple on the spot!), I know that Jesus has the power to heal my life-long allergy. I have received prayer for it multiple times, but after this week, I am confidently praying it through until I feel complete healing. Please partner with me and pray for my peanut allergy to be healed!

Outreach Update

We are still trying to fundraise $2700 USD to pay for our outreach costs to Greece and Germany! Our outreach unfortunately is the most expensive one, more than we orignally thought before coming to DTS, but we are confident in God’s power of provision and in His calling on our time here. This Christmas, would you pray about supporting our outreach fund? A gift of any amount will bless us immensely and get us closer to our goal. We have seen God bless and multiply so many donors and donations already. Here is the link to donate if you feel led to partner with us financially: https://www.youcaring.com/connor-and-alix-bruson-391046

We want to wish all of our supporters a very Merry Christmas, and publicly thank you all for partnering financially and through prayer! Thank you for believing in God’s call on this season of our lives. We would love to pray for you this holiday season. Please comment, email, or Facebook either one of us any prayer requests!! If there’s one thing we learned this week: PRAYER WORKS!

Another update about our outreach is that, due to the high airfare prices around the holidays, we will be spending 2 weeks in a nearby community before we fly out to Greece. Our base has committed a few teams to this lower-income area over the past year, and we are being sent to continue watering the seeds that have been planted. We will host a second Summer Blast block party, which was a huge success last month. After this week’s topic, we are especially excited to be able to show this community more and more encouraging love! 

For more outreach updates, keep checking our blog weekly, or request an invitation to our outreach team’s Facebook group. God bless you and thanks for reading!

   

This week we had a Christmas party with our housemates! Games were played, Christmas music was listened to, and lots of sugar was consumed (which is obvious in the next two pictures)!