The Office Job that Changed the World

My job is unlike any that I had ever imagined. It wasn’t on a list, given to me by a career counselor. It wasn’t searchable on Google. I didn’t find it through a job fair.

It has been one year since I started working for Adventures in Missions. Hands down, this has been the most ridiculous year – one I did not see coming, one for the record books, one with stories to tell. (Like the one about how I fell in love – more on that later).

One year down, here I sit at my desk, with a phone and my own extension, an Adventures email address, an additional monitor. My wall is littered with post-it notes and pictures and information about Central America.

I cannot give you a breakdown of my “typical” day, because there really isn’t one. There hasn’t been one in the past year.

What I have had the privilege to be a part of, however, has been beyond my expectation.

2013 blew me away.

I’ve been on staff for three World Race launches, and three training camps. I’ve seen hundreds of young adults walking out a process of abandonment, brokenness, and dependence on the Lord. I have prayed with participants.I’ve worshipped with them.

Lives have been changed.
And I’ve had a role in helping make it happen.

I have befriended many of them, have “friended” more than I can count, and stalked their blogs.
I’ve had the chance to speak to dozens of ministries and missionaries in Central America about the World Race. I have had my hand in more things than I can count or remember.

Sometimes, I forget what my job helps to accomplish. I forget the part I play, because I get caught up in the emails and the to-do lists and the details of organizing debriefs and travel days and other such things.

To be honest, there’s a lot to do. Always.

And yes, it needs to be done. But I don’t do it just to do it.
I don’t do it for money, or prestige or accolades.

The truth is – There are miraculous things happening.
I want to be a part of something bigger than myself.
God asked me to be here, to do this, so here I am. 

I wouldn’t be here without you – the people that support me.
And I cannot thank you enough for that.

The incredible moments happen when I pause, when I take a breath, when I stop for a second. When I lift my head above the clouds and ignore the daily grind, I remember the beautiful and the glorious and the holy aspects of my job.

I’ve watched as a participant experiences freedom, or encounters the Holy Spirit. I have had conversations with hosts and realized that we have the same heart, the same vision, and are made of the same stuff – Kingdom.

Recently, I had the chance to touch base with a missionary in Panama. She and her husband hosted a World Race team in November; it was the first time they’ve worked with Adventures in Missions.

Both she and the team had a great month and felt like it was a beneficial time for the ministry.

Kingdom came. Jesus showed up.
Things fell into place.
Bam, bam, bam. Awesome
.

What struck me was not that it was a good month – because a lot of them are – but what she said at the end.

I’m changing the world, on a tiny scale. God’s using me, he’s answering prayers. It’s crazy that I can be used like this.

And overwhelmingly, she was thankful that she could make a difference, in her tiny corner of the world, and that our teams could help make that happen.

I couldn’t have been more grateful for her words.

It took me a moment to realize, because that day I was lost in my to do list, but – I’m doing the same thing. And I’m overwhelmingly thankful that I can make a difference, at my desk, in my tiny part of the world. That God can use me to coordinate huge things.

It’s no trivial matter that we have 13 squads (approximately 600 participants) scattered across the globe. For me, the World Race is over; I’m not there anymore, I’m not on the field.

Yet, from my computer, from my desk, I get to be a part of the Kingdom and watch as Jesus shows up throughout the world. I work in an office, but it’s anything but boring.

This Is What You Do

I’ve been listening to a song on repeat today. It’s the only sound I hear, apart from the hum of my refrigerator and the occasional car driving past my apartment complex.

It’s always like springtime with you, making all things new.
Your light is breaking through the dark.  

Bethel, somehow, you connect with my heart in ways I never expect, but constantly am in love with. Mmmm, Jesus. How glorious is a morning with crisp fall air, blue skies, and singing birds? Can it get better than this? Is there anything better than your presence? Anything more calming, more peaceful, more life-bringing? I do not believe there is.

Your hope is rising like the dawn.
This is what you do. You make me come alive.

These words, so common, the tune, so simple. It isn’t rocket science or calculus. It isn’t complicated chord progression. It is joy, found in song. It is hope, seen in dance. It is love, shown in music.

Yet the power behind this easy to remember phrase, the truth in it – it’s enough to make my entire being calm. Directly, from my heart to the Father, there’s this connection, almost palpable.

I’m working from home today – I have Skype calls with people in Malaysia, the U.S, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama and El Salvador – and the comfort of my coffee table and couch seemed irresistible.

From jennamalinen.theworldrace.org

Sitting on the floor, cup of chai in my favorite mug, the windows open, this song playing, I’m at peace. I’m waiting for someone to get online, and basking in the magnificent life that the Father has given me.

It’s like I’m living for the first time.
Finally living for the first time.

I have the honor of seeing his hope around the world. Reading blogs, watching videos, speaking to participants and hosts – these things are insight into what the Lord is doing around the world. Let me tell you, something big is happening, and I am floored and thankful to be a part of it.

Being a part of the story, being a part of the Kingdom, being His kid… it is exciting. It brings me such LIFE. I get giddy thinking about the joy and hope and love that is being spread throughout this Earth because of sons and daughters. His children, who are finally living and joining what he is doing.

His compassion is new every morning. Every day is fresh. Every day, I have the chance to see through his lens. Every day, I can choose to remember and know that love casts out fear and covers a multitude of sins.

People say that love is a feeling. It’s a noun, and a verb, and a choice, ultimately. Today, as this song floats through my living room, I know that it rings true. Love is a choice. And the mere notion that God would choose to love me renders me speechless.

And his love, oh, His perfect love, it’s better than I could have imagined, could have hoped for, could have dreamed.

This love, it is sweeter than wine, bringing joy, bringing life.

Lord, this is what you do. It’s what you do! You are in the business of bringing the dead to life. Your breath restores and redeems and rejuvenates. Your love makes us come alive.

See You Later, See You Soon

I love how fun my friends are.

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Currently, one is on the floor strumming the guitar, learning The Call by Regina Spektor. The other is meticulously folding clothes as she sorts through her life and decides what will, and what won’t, travel with her to foreign lands in a few weeks.

She’s strumming, watching a youtube vide, and stopping in order to try again. She’ll get it right by the end of the night. The other is wondering how she acquired a sleeping bag liner, and to whom it might belong.

Two of my best friends are leaving the country in a matter of weeks, leaving me in Georgia to work and welcome in the fall without them. They will miss my birthday, pumpkin spice lattes, and Christmas. One leaves tomorrow to visit family, and the other will go home to Missouri this weekend, before both head to the nations.

Endings are tough, even if they are only for a season, not forever, not final.

It’s our last night as a trio.
It hasn’t sunk in yet.

As the three of us sit here, in my room, in the same space, we are in our own worlds. Playing guitar, packing, thinking. I cannot tell you what went through their minds, but I know that it was bittersweet for me.

Bitter, because the two people I have spent the most time with in Georgia these past six months will soon be gone for the upcoming six months. Sweet, because they are both heading back out into the world to bring the Kingdom, and follow where God is leading them.

Watching Kacie play guitar on the floor reminded me of our times on the World Race, when she would strum and sing and be in her own world, worshipping the Father. There are sweet memories associated with worship, Kacie, A-squad, and the World Race. In a few short weeks, she will fly to Africa, where she will be leading a squad of 40 World Racers.

I had the chance to train her squad last month when they came to Georgia for camp, and they are spectacular people. Those men and women are in for a beautiful, hard, and amazing year on the Race. To have the chance to watch this process from the staff side is truly a blessing, and to watch one of my best friends step into leadership is brilliant.

She is wise, discerning, hysterical, filled with love, dedicated, steadfast, beautiful. She’s also more compassionate & empathetic than she gives herself credit for. This woman has a lot to offer them, and impart to them in these upcoming months and I could not think of a better person to lead them on the Race. She’s also a skilled and beautiful writer, and I can’t wait to follow her blog as she goes with X-squad around the globe.

[You can follow her too! Click here!]

Sam is running around, making piles of clothes on her bed, and on mine. She attempted to ditch a nineties style jean jacket, which I insisted on trying on first. I joke and tell her that it’s the one thing she should bring with her to the Philippines. A ridiculous notion. All three of us know A) it will be too hot and sweaty and B) she would not wear it. But I will!

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The same day that Kacie (plus her fellow squad leaders, and approximately 180 Racers) launches from Georgia, Sam will fly to Guatemala. She and a team of young adults are going to be at our base in Antigua for training before heading to the Philippines for six months, where they will work with Wipe Every Tear. It’s an organization, founded by Kenny Sacht, that focuses on:

“rescuing and bringing new life, transformation, and hope to precious girls trafficked in the sex trade.”

Kenny came to visit the office several months ago, and shared about the girls in the Philippines. In the months that followed, Sam heard the Lord telling her to go. She has been working in Admissions here at Adventures, but the Lord has been tugging at her heart, and so, go she shall. Maybe it’ll be for six months, maybe it will be longer; she is open to what the Lord has for her in this, and is taking the first step.

[If you want to see more about Kenny’s org click here]

Sam is a fighter. She’s a prayer warrior. She’s a feeler who petitions the Lord on the behalf of others. Jesus knew just what he was doing when I moved down her and into her bedroom back in January. We were automatically friends and have lived life together every day (when we’re both in town) these past few months.

The three of us just work well together.
We have laughed, cried, sang, danced, worked out, eaten, cooked, baked, built forts, prayed together, swam, run.
The list goes on.

So here I sit, on my bed, knowing that tomorrow morning when Sam & I go to Kacie’s for coffee, it will be the last time for many months. Earlier today we laughed uncontrollably until all three of us cried. We went and got fro-yo from Racetrac, made dinner, and now here we are, in my room.

A goodbye means that later there will be a reunion. One filled with joy and laughter and stories and coffee. It will be oh so sweet to come together again and tell tales of how the Lord is moving around the world. Of how girls are rescued and Racers are transformed by the love of our Father. Of how the three of us learned and saw and tasted that He is good.

It’s our last night, but only for a little while. I have no doubt that I’ll see these two beautiful, crazy women again. God is good, and these friendships have been a blessing I could not have dreamed up. I think I’ll soak in this time, this evening, these moments.

I have learned so much from them in these past months. They have taught me about life and God and friendship and devotion. About hearing the Lord’s voice, discernment and looking for blessings daily.

Today, I say cheers to new seasons, friendships that stand the test of time and space, and following the Lord when He calls. 

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Climbing This Mountain

As if there’s this mountain
that I’ll never be able to climb,
that I’m unable to scale,
that I can’t go around.

It dwarfs me, is impossibly bigger than me, and stares me down in a way that makes me cower. It petrifies and terrifies me and makes me wonder if it’s possible to simply stay on the side I’m on. I already know the answer – I can’t stay here, and I have to find a way to get through, around, or over this monstrosity.

The question is how?
 Isn’t that always the question?

How do I navigate this mess? How do I follow you, Lord, when everything has been turned on its head? How do I get past it? How do I forgive? How do I love when it’s the last thing that I want to do? How do I keep this from affecting my belief in who I am and who I know you to be? How do I honor when my flesh wants to lash out?

HOW?
No, but seriously, how?

I don’t have all the answers. Heck, I don’t have any of them.

Which is why I’m sitting on my bed late at night typing. Because I’m hoping that in my wretchedness, the Lord will show up. Because I can’t do this another day without him. Because I haven’t been able to deal with it and I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m at my wit’s end; I’m desperate.

I’ve been short, terse, rude, and overall straight up ignoring specific people these past few days. I’ve run out of things to say and keep hearing that age-old adage of, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” So I’m silent, fuming and wondering what else I could possibly do.

Prayer. That’s my best weapon and my biggest comfort. I pray for strength, for wisdom, for revelation, for hope, for mercy, for grace, for love, for forgiveness. I ask for understanding. I have a conversation with the Father going, back and forth. He’s the one that I need to talk with, he’s the one whose opinion matters most, he’s the one who can move this mountain.

A song keeps running through my head as I sit here. “I’m gonna climb this mountain with my hands wide open.” 
I hum the tune over and over and over again.

Seems impossible. 
I don’t really think I can climb this at all, let alone with my hands open.

From jennamalinen.theworldrace.org

Jesus, what do you have for me in this? What lessons do I need to learn? Jesus, I don’t think I can do this. But I know that I know that I know that you have a plan and that means more to me than my feelings right now. The truth of the matter is that you are sovereign. The reality is that you work things for your glory.

Even when I don’t understand. Especially when I don’t understand.

So if this mountain is one that I need to climb with my hands open, I’m ready to start the trek. I trust you, even if I can only see a few feet in front of me at a time. You’ve brought me through hard things before, and I trust that you will again.

I look up, and can’t see the top. There’s a mass of clouds obscuring my view, but like with any mountain, I know that there has to be a summit. I know that there has to be an end to the stone that goes straight up as far as my eyes can see. That there will subsequently be a way down.

I’m hoping that the view from the top is breathtaking and that you’ll lead me there.
I’m hoping that when I get there I can breathe deeply.

Maybe it will take a week. Maybe it’ll take a year. Maybe it’ll take ten.
However long it takes.
I’m ready.

It’s going to be a process. It’ll be day by day, step by step, moment by moment. His timing is so much better than mine, and his plan is so much greater. I’m stuck here, staring, but it’s time to get a move on.

Finding God in a Library

I wandered through the stacks today. There’s something profoundly different between a public library full of fiction, (of sci-fi stories, murder mysteries and graphic novels) and Memorial Library here in Madison, which holds 78.5 miles of shelving and books in over 300 languages.

From jennamalinen.theworldrace.org

Staring at title upon title in language upon language that I do not understand, I have but one thought. I wish I could read RussianOr Hebrew. Or Greek. Anything else. I wish I knew what these said.

My fingers graze spines of books so old, they were written before my grandfather was born. Some of them, before my grandfather’s grandfather. I love the smell of this place. It reminds me of my grandparents’ basement, of pavement after a rainstorm – it’s that musty smell that I somehow am completely in love with. I honestly don’t know when that happened.

Walking through these halls, filled with these tomes, I feel small. It’s like staring into the sky at night and seeing the stars – there are too many to count, too many to even see. I start to wonder how many books are in here, and how many have never been read.

It reminds me of a museum, actually. As a history major, this of course thrills me. It makes me want to discover, search, explore. I want to spend hours here; I know it would entertain me for my entire life. Or so it seems.

What’s it like to spend an entire lifetime researching something, to proudly get your findings published, and see them getting dusty on a shelf? Your heart, your passion, your energy, for decades – sitting there. Ignored. Just another in a sea of books about things that no one seems to care about any longer.

I get overwhelmed by the sheer volume. By the amount of information stored in these pages. My mind could never store all of this, I couldn’t even read all of this. If I read for every moment of every day for my entire life…would I even get through a floor of this 8-story monstrosity? I really really doubt it.

The small feeling gives me a calm. It doesn’t frighten me like I thought it would, doesn’t make me feel insignificant or purposeless. It fills me with a peace; I sit down on the floor and stare at the books, still unable to decipher what they say.

I realize that my God is huge. And so, so creative. My God? He knows exactly how many books are in this building, and how many pages. He knows the titles, the subjects, the punctuation errors of every written work stored here. He knows the men and women who devoted their lives to writing. He knows the stories within the books, and of the books. Why they’re so tattered and worn. Who has read them, smudged them, underlined and doodled in them. He knows it all. Every single person that has walked these halls, my God loves. Every single author, every college student that checked the book out and never bothered to read it, he knows intimately.

God is so far beyond me.
I will praise him for that. For being so much more than I ever could’ve dreamed up. So much bigger than I could ever have imagined. He deserves my praise for that, he deserves everything I am, everything I have. What could I do to show that I am willing to give it all to him? If here in the stacks is where I find him, and can hear him? Then, it’s actually pretty simple…

I’ll go back tomorrow.