Series Code: 15GYC
Program Code: 15GYC000003A
00:34 All right, welcome everyone to the noon plenary.
00:38 We would encourage everyone to take your seats
00:41 as quickly and quietly as possible.
00:45 We have an amazing treat before us.
00:49 I'm so excited about the person
00:51 that's gonna be sharing their testimony with you
00:56 in just a few movements.
00:58 Maria Kennedy is someone I have known
01:01 since I was probably 13 years older or so.
01:05 But we haven't had a lot of opportunity
01:07 to spend a lot of time together.
01:09 We would see each other about once a year
01:11 and we promise to be pen-pals.
01:14 And unfortunately,
01:16 she'd always dutifully write me these wonderful letters
01:19 and I was the world's worst pen-pal
01:21 and I would never write her back.
01:23 And then the next time I would see her,
01:24 I saw her every June, I'd be like,
01:25 "Maria I'm so sorry, this year I'll write you..."
01:29 and I always wanted to get to know her,
01:30 but I was so bad at writing letters
01:32 I never like...
01:35 She never lost her sweet spirit.
01:38 But one thing that was a totally,
01:40 what has blown my mind over the years
01:42 as I have watched Maria,
01:44 from the time that we were both,
01:46 around 13 or so,
01:48 until now is that when we knew each other back
01:52 then both us were, I was a very shy person.
01:57 But I thought she was the most soft spoken
02:00 and mild person I had ever met in all my life.
02:03 And yet, God has taken her
02:07 through the most incredible experiences
02:11 and through the most remarkable challenges
02:14 that even I...
02:15 that I have always thought how did she...
02:17 how did she do this?
02:19 How did she manage it?
02:20 How is this happened?
02:22 God can take anyone anywhere,
02:25 and Maria's life is an amazing evidence
02:28 of that same thing,
02:30 I'm very excited to hear her.
02:31 So let's prepare our hearts to hear what she has to say.
02:35 I'm gonna say a prayer
02:36 and then the girl's are gonna bless us with some music,
02:38 and then the next voice you will hear
02:40 will be that of Maria Kennedy.
02:41 Let's pray.
02:43 Father, we thank you for this morning,
02:45 we thank you, for the blessings,
02:47 we thank you for the seminars
02:48 and the things that we have learned.
02:50 Lord, we pray that as Maria comes out
02:53 that you would just put your spirit upon her
02:55 in abounded measure,
02:56 that she will be filled with your grace,
02:58 that she would be enable to speak clearly
03:00 and powerfully your word
03:02 that as we hear her testimony,
03:04 we would be tremendously moved and blessed.
03:08 We know that you can do anything
03:10 so long as clay is pliable in your hands,
03:13 as you, oh, Lord, our father,
03:16 we are the clay and you are our potter,
03:19 and we are the works of your hands.
03:22 We love you.
03:24 In Jesus' name, Amen.
03:42 In the morning sunrise I behold Your glory
03:50 All creation sings Your majesty and praise
03:57 I come before You, resting in Your presence
04:03 My Maker and Redeemer
04:07 You're the Keeper of my days
04:10 And You are faithful to supply my need
04:17 You are faithful to give me joy abundantly
04:24 You are faithful to calm the storms of life for me
04:31 You are faithful, You're all I need
04:51 In the darkness of the night my heart is peaceful
04:58 As I rest beneath the Shadow of Your Wings
05:05 For You alone can fill my deepest longings
05:12 You're the Alpha and Omega, my Jehovah and my King
05:18 And You are faithful to supply my need
05:25 You are faithful to give me joy abundantly
05:32 You are faithful to calm the storms of life for me
05:39 You are faithful, You're all I need
05:46 And You are faithful to supply my need
05:53 You are faithful to give me joy abundantly
05:59 You are faithful to calm the storms of life for me
06:06 You are faithful
06:08 You're all I need
06:15 You are faithful
06:18 You're all I need.
06:32 Good morning.
06:38 Will you please, pray with me?
06:42 Dear Father, thank you that we are here today.
06:45 And Lord, I need you.
06:48 I pray that I would speak the words
06:50 that you want me to speak
06:51 and that would about you and not about me.
06:54 Thank you. Amen.
07:03 Christmas time, eight years ago,
07:06 I was in Minneapolis, attending my first GYC.
07:10 But I was not excited to be there,
07:13 I gone along, I was 16 at that time
07:16 and I was at a very dark time in my life.
07:19 And I was really struggling with a lot of doubts
07:23 and I wasn't even sure I believed in God.
07:28 And honestly, I'd pretty much gone a long
07:32 because my friends were going
07:34 and they invited me to go with them
07:36 and I didn't want to miss out on the trip.
07:41 So I arrived and I looked around me
07:43 and absolutely everyone appeared to be
07:46 all glowing and enthusiastic,
07:48 and just like most of you are here today.
07:52 And I honestly looked at them, and I just thought to myself
07:58 that they must be a complete bunch of hypocrites.
08:01 And I attended David Gate's seminar
08:06 simply because it was somewhat interesting to me,
08:08 and I thought I would probably be the least convicting one.
08:16 Anyways, every altar call,
08:18 I just clenched my fists a little tighter
08:20 and I stayed in my seat.
08:25 I really wish I could tell you that I left that GYC
08:27 with a new commitment to Christ
08:30 and a new lease on life
08:32 but unfortunately, that wasn't the case.
08:37 God did that work in my life later on.
08:42 I have been blessed with the opportunity
08:45 to return to GYC every year since then.
08:49 But the couple years that I have been back
08:52 every time my mind automatically goes back
08:55 to that dark place I was sat at that GYC in Minneapolis.
09:00 And it's always an amazing experience,
09:03 because it absolutely highlights for me the work
09:06 that God's done in my heart in life since then.
09:10 But I'd like to go back a little further than that GYC
09:13 and share a little bit more of my story with you.
09:19 I was born as a second of four kids.
09:22 My mom was a very conservative Adventist
09:25 and my father I believe was pretty much an Atheist.
09:30 But he wasn't in our lives very long
09:32 as he left when I was five years old.
09:36 A couple years after that
09:38 my mom got remarried to a wonderful man
09:41 who soon won my heart too, and I very soon forgot
09:46 that he was not my biological father.
09:50 But after what was a couple of the best years of my life
09:53 he died after a long and painful battle
09:56 with brain cancer.
10:00 And I'm just going to skip ahead here to when I was 13.
10:05 I remember lying in bed late
10:07 after the lights were turned out
10:11 and just quietly crying and mouthing the words,
10:15 "I hate you God."
10:18 And I know the strength of those words
10:20 is probably a little shocking to most of you,
10:22 but I was at a place in my life where I didn't understand
10:29 why God had allowed the things that happen in my life,
10:31 and I was really struggling.
10:35 You see, after my father had left
10:39 we were incredibly poor
10:41 and my mom often struggle
10:43 just to keep food in the kitchen cabinets.
10:46 And we had seen God work in our lives
10:48 time and time again.
10:52 It was just like all of those miracle stories
10:54 that you've probably often heard,
10:58 we'd wake up in the morning and there was no food
11:01 in the kitchen cabinets for breakfast,
11:04 and I remember friends driving up,
11:06 we lived way out in the country,
11:08 it wasn't just a quick trip for them to make.
11:11 And friends drove up in time for breakfast and said that,
11:13 God had told them to bring us food
11:15 and they left us with a dozen bags of groceries,
11:20 and soap, and toothpaste, and everything we didn't have.
11:25 And it was just like that often people would walk up
11:30 and put money in our hands
11:31 and say that God had told them to give it to us.
11:34 And we already received an anonymous check in the mail
11:39 at just the right time.
11:42 So and many times my mom spent hours recounting to us
11:47 the amazing things God had done in our lives through the years.
11:52 So you can see that was absolutely ingrained in me
11:54 that, God works miracles for us
11:56 and that he always comes through.
12:00 But he hadn't healed my father, and I couldn't understand that.
12:05 What kind of God was that anyways?
12:08 A God that blesses and heals people
12:11 when he wants to but just leaves a young father to die
12:13 when his kids need him.
12:15 So you could, so here I was at 13,
12:20 determining to hate the God
12:22 that allowed so much pain and suffering
12:24 that he alone had the power to prevent.
12:31 It didn't take me long after that
12:32 to declare to myself
12:34 that may be I just didn't believe in God.
12:39 I toyed a lot with the idea of atheism
12:42 through the next few years.
12:44 But honestly, I was a little wishy-washy with it.
12:50 I've seen so much that it was hard for me
12:52 to absolutely say that God didn't exist.
12:55 But neither could I make heads or tails
12:56 out of all the things that happened in my life
13:00 and all my doubts and anger at God,
13:04 and honestly, it was just easier to just tell myself
13:06 that I didn't believe in him and try to ignore it all.
13:12 I'm sure you're probably wondering
13:14 where my family was in all of this at this point.
13:18 By that point my mom had remarried once again
13:21 to another wonderful man,
13:26 and I was honestly a quite private
13:30 and very shy person,
13:31 and I pretty much completely shut them
13:34 out of what was going on in my heart.
13:36 I honestly don't think they really had much of a clue
13:39 that I was struggling.
13:42 And it was also really important to me
13:44 to not be a bad example to my younger siblings,
13:47 and I didn't want to bring pain to my parents.
13:51 So I didn't see any reason to spout my beliefs,
13:57 or may be I should say lack of belief.
14:02 So I live the quiet life of rebel,
14:04 while on the outside I followed all the rules
14:07 and I were skirts to my ankles.
14:13 Through this time I struggled a lot with social anxiety
14:17 and even attending church was really a struggle for me.
14:21 We attended a very conservative Adventist Church
14:25 that also a wonderful church.
14:28 But anyways, everyone appeared to be,
14:30 to me to be living perfect in Victoria's Christian lives.
14:34 And honestly, I just looked at all of them
14:36 and I thought that if they knew who I actually was
14:42 and what I was struggling with
14:44 that they would never be able to accept me.
14:48 When I attended that GYC in Minneapolis,
14:52 I was really pretty much at the end of my rope,
14:56 at that point I was feeling really hopeless
14:59 and miserable and somewhat suicidal.
15:03 Nothing changed immediately after that GYC,
15:07 but a few months after that I began to realize
15:11 how low a place I was at, and I really begin to realize
15:16 that I couldn't live like that any longer.
15:20 I read such a low and hopeless feeling point
15:23 that I strongly considered ending my own life.
15:28 And I think that was in many ways
15:30 what truly brought me to that bottom-of-the-pit type place.
15:35 It wasn't like I just all of a sudden
15:38 knew that God existed,
15:39 but, what happened was now I truly realize
15:41 that in the Godless life I created for myself,
15:45 there was no joy, and no peace.
15:49 When I think of that time in my life,
15:51 there where the always, truly comes to my mind is dark.
15:55 It was truly just a dark and miserable and hopeless.
16:02 Honestly, when it came down to it,
16:03 I knew that without God in my life
16:05 there was nothing in life for me.
16:09 And one day, I came to the point
16:11 where I just said, I can't live life like this,
16:14 I'm ready to give the God thing another chance.
16:20 Recently, I was reading the Great Controversy
16:23 and I came across this quote
16:25 that I thought really spoke to all the doubts
16:28 and questions that I struggled with at this point,
16:32 I'd like to read that for you.
16:35 "While God has given ample evidence for faith,
16:37 He will never remove all excuse for unbelief.
16:40 All who look for hooks
16:41 to hang their doubts upon will find them.
16:43 And those who refuse to accept and obey God's word
16:45 until every objection has been removed,
16:47 and there is no longer an opportunity for doubt,
16:49 will never come to the light."
16:52 And that's really what I did, I look for hooks,
16:55 staying my doubts upon, and I found them.
16:59 And my guess is that there's at least
17:00 probably a few young people here today
17:02 who are in a similar situation that I was.
17:07 And I just really like to encourage you
17:11 to not wait for every doubt
17:12 you struggle with to be removed.
17:15 And to not entertain the thought
17:17 that you can just go your own way
17:20 and live your own life
17:21 until God makes himself known to you
17:24 in some miraculous way and...
17:30 and all your questions are answered.
17:32 That's a complete trap
17:34 that the devil has or was waiting for you.
17:39 Just a couple months after my dubious decision
17:42 to allow God back into my life,
17:49 my family decided that they wanted us
17:52 to have a mission experience together
17:54 before my older sister and I left home.
17:58 And, the big thing about me at that point
18:02 was that I had big goals and dreams,
18:08 and that I wanted to complete, and at that point
18:11 I was very interested in aviation
18:14 and also medical work.
18:16 And so I was finally 17
18:18 and so I could get my pilot's license,
18:20 and I wanted to I had everything mapped out
18:24 for that year.
18:26 I was planning on getting, going to get my pilot's license
18:29 and getting EMS training,
18:30 and my goal was eventually to work in Alaska
18:35 as a bush pilot.
18:36 But anyways, so I had everything mapped out
18:38 for that year and then my family says that,
18:43 we're leaving for Thailand for a mission trip.
18:48 And, so you can imagine that just to say,
18:51 "I was not happy about that" really be an understatement.
18:57 So through the next couple months
18:59 as we prepared to leave I truly I fussed and wind about it
19:02 but it was really to no avail,
19:04 and a few months later found us boarding a plane for Thailand.
19:09 But the catch to it that made it
19:11 more than just a little three week mission trip
19:16 was that we have arrived with one way tickets.
19:19 So we arrived there in Thailand
19:21 and I obviously had quite a bad attitude about it,
19:25 and I wasn't sure,
19:28 I didn't know how long I would be there for.
19:33 A couple weeks after that
19:35 we were invited to visit a small bamboo school
19:38 near the border of Thailand.
19:42 And it was a little bit of an atypical situation
19:46 with this little bamboo school.
19:47 First off there was no way to legally get there,
19:52 so we had to sneak across the river
19:55 either at dusk or dawn,
19:56 and also it was in a war zone.
19:59 And there were there is no current fighting
20:02 right in the area that we were
20:05 but there was fighting in the surrounding areas
20:09 and there was, we were always under threat of attack.
20:12 So we arrived at this little bamboo school
20:15 and kids came up, ran up and grabbed our hands
20:18 and lead us to our first bamboo hut.
20:26 I know it's really the most cliche thing
20:28 ever to say about a mission trip,
20:30 but those little kids really grabbed my heart.
20:42 When you see those kids wearing rags
20:44 and they have used huge happy smiles on their faces
20:47 and they have no reason to be happy like that,
20:51 but when you see that,
20:54 all of a sudden nothing in life
20:55 that really felt like it truly mattered to you before,
20:58 feels like it matters to us much anymore.
21:02 Three days later,
21:04 might we were leaving getting ready to leave
21:06 and they asked me if I'd be willing to stay and teach?
21:10 And I said, "Yes."
21:13 Now, I had always been very stubborn and opinionated
21:18 and the one thing I always said
21:20 was that I would never ever teach.
21:25 But ironically, here I was
21:27 and I found myself sitting in a small,
21:29 one room bamboo school room
21:31 would 40 squirmy kindergarteners every day,
21:34 and I do come up with about six hours of stuff
21:36 to teach them every day.
21:38 And so it really challenge me ridiculously,
21:40 it wasn't something that came naturally for me,
21:42 but I also found myself really finding a lot of joy in it.
21:53 We were always under the threat of attack there,
21:55 as I mentioned before.
21:57 And I remember New Year's Day in 2008,
22:03 which I guess would be about eight years ago today.
22:05 And I remember laying there on my bamboo mat late at night,
22:10 and I began to hear
22:12 what sounded like a lot of gunfire.
22:15 And so, I was laying there,
22:18 and the thing was we had been told
22:20 that after New Year's Day,
22:24 they were planning an attack,
22:25 there would likely be attack shortly after New Year's Day.
22:28 So obviously, what was going through my mind
22:30 was that we were under attack
22:33 but, I didn't really know
22:35 and there's nothing I could do about it at the time.
22:38 Even if we were, there were soldiers in the area
22:40 that I knew would alert us if we did have to evacuate.
22:42 So the only thing I could do there was lay there
22:45 and pray to God for safety and try to get some sleep.
22:49 But I woke the next morning, and anyways,
22:54 I learned that the soldiers
22:56 had been having a little New Year celebration
22:59 and it was actually fireworks that,
23:01 it never even crossed my mind that they had fireworks.
23:04 But anyway, so it was moments like that
23:07 when I really felt that eminent danger,
23:13 and also moments when there was actually
23:15 real danger.
23:16 But anyways, I begin to truly feel my need of God.
23:21 Morning and night I sat cross legged
23:24 in this bamboo hut.
23:25 We didn't have electricity so there's,
23:27 so I look at these kids through the candle light.
23:31 And I would just watch them,
23:37 I just watch these kids
23:38 that had stories way worst than my own.
23:41 Many of them had watched their own parents
23:43 be tortured and killed, and they had known pain,
23:46 and sickness, and death,
23:48 and running for all of their young lives.
23:51 And these same kids sat and worship God.
23:56 Always have image stuck in my mind
23:58 of those little ones just throwing their heads back
23:59 and closing their eyes and just seeing their little hearts out.
24:04 And the need I saw around me
24:05 really took my eyes off my own misery.
24:09 Now, up to this point
24:11 I've been living a very mediocre Christian life,
24:15 after my...
24:17 after I told God
24:18 that I would give the God thing another chance,
24:20 honestly, I didn't change much in my life at all.
24:24 I was just, I guess I was just kind of waiting
24:28 for something to happen I'm not even sure.
24:34 All that really changed was that I no longer denied God.
24:38 But, so here I was and I began to truly feel my need of God,
24:42 partially out of fear
24:43 which I realize was not the best motivation.
24:47 But I began to actually get up
24:49 before the 5:30 worship bell in the morning
24:52 and actually read my Bible and pray.
24:56 And God was becoming much more real to me.
25:02 The other thing that happened through that time
25:04 at that little Bamboo school
25:06 was that it really reinforced my interest in medical work.
25:12 So at that point I was really interested
25:14 in shortest medical training I could get
25:17 to be able to return and work there.
25:20 So I returned for EMT training in the States.
25:23 And at first,
25:25 I was really focused on my reason for being there
25:27 and I was doing well.
25:30 But it didn't take very long for my old doubts
25:34 to start creeping back in
25:36 and I very soon started sliding back down
25:38 the slippery slope of rebellion and unbelief.
25:43 I had completely thrown myself into the EMS,
25:45 the whole EMS work scene,
25:48 which tends to be a very secular work environment.
25:51 And at least for me, it wasn't conducive at all
25:53 to a growing relationship with Christ.
25:57 And also through that time
25:59 I had quite a few horrific scenes
26:03 that I worked on,
26:05 and involving death and other things.
26:07 And so it really brought to the forefront of my mind
26:12 all my questions and towards God
26:16 about why he allowed all of this.
26:20 But the difference...
26:24 this time I was back for about ten months,
26:27 and towards the end of that time
26:28 I was really in a dark place again.
26:31 But the difference was that this time
26:33 I had this really fresh memory in my mind
26:37 of the incredible change
26:38 that God had made in my life a few months before.
26:42 And so I realized more than ever
26:46 that there was nothing in life for me without God.
26:51 In Psalms 143:3-8...
27:03 I read this the other day, and it completely,
27:06 I felt like it spoke to where I was at that point
27:09 better than I could today,
27:11 "For the enemy as persecuted my soul,
27:13 his crush my life to the ground,
27:15 he has made me do all in darkness
27:17 like those who have long been dead.
27:19 Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me,
27:21 my heart within me is distressed.
27:23 I remember the days of old, I meditate on all your works,
27:26 I muse on the work of your hands.
27:29 I spread out my hands to you,
27:30 my soul longs for you like a thirsty land.
27:35 Answer me speedily,
27:37 Oh Lord: my spirit fails do not hide your face from me,
27:39 lest I be like those who go down into the pit.
27:42 Cause me to hear your loving kindness in the morning,
27:44 for in you do I trust:
27:46 cause me to know the way in which I should walk,
27:48 for I lift up my soul to you."
27:55 Anyways, I...
27:57 at that point I recommitted my life to God.
28:01 But by this point EMS
28:03 had become a huge passion in my life
28:05 and I was really hooked on it.
28:08 I reached the end of my training
28:09 and at this point all I wanted to do
28:12 was go continue my education.
28:15 I wanted to go on to paramedic
28:16 and possibly the flight nurse and...
28:22 But I had promised when I left Thailand
28:25 10 months before that I would return.
28:29 And at that point my mom actually called me
28:33 and reminded me of the commitment
28:36 that I had made,
28:37 and I was quite unhappy to listen to her, but I did.
28:43 So I return to Thailand
28:46 as an unwilling missionary again.
28:51 By this point the Bamboo school,
28:52 where we had lived had been,
28:55 where I had lived had been attacked and evacuated
28:58 and moved to nearby.
29:01 And my family was now living there
29:03 and very involved with the work there.
29:06 In my absence, a friend who was a nurse had arrived
29:09 and had started a clinic on our front porch
29:14 and every morning the patients would pack that little clinic.
29:18 And it wasn't very long before I found myself in the positions
29:22 where I had used a little training I had.
29:25 And it wasn't too long
29:27 before I really began to love the work there.
29:30 But I became more and more aware
29:32 that there was areas nearby
29:35 where they had no medical care whatsoever.
29:38 And I really, the desire really grew in me to move somewhere
29:45 where I could work in one of those areas.
29:54 So, it wasn't very long before I moved out
29:56 to a very remote mountain village.
30:03 And through that time I really grew a lot.
30:06 I would encounter all these medical situations
30:09 I did not know how to deal with.
30:11 And so I would have to walk up to where we had phone reception
30:13 and call my friend who was a nurse and just say,
30:16 "What do I do?"
30:17 And she was amazing with it
30:19 and she would always give me good advice
30:22 and was always very patient.
30:24 Sometimes, I look back to that time and I...
30:28 I just, I can't believe
30:29 that I don't know what I was thinking.
30:31 I was only 18 and but I'm really thankful
30:36 for the experiences that I had at that point
30:39 and the way that grew me.
30:44 But everything I was experiencing
30:46 and all the medical work I was attempting to do
30:48 to bring me back to desperately wanting
30:51 to go further my education.
30:53 By this point, I really had a love for this land
30:55 and this people,
30:57 And I promised myself that I would come back
31:00 but I still really wanted to go complete my goals
31:02 in plans first.
31:05 But the one thing holding me back was money.
31:09 And the one thing that I've really learned over the years
31:12 is that God's leading is always particularly direct
31:14 when you don't have a penny to your name.
31:18 I didn't have enough even for a ticket back to the States
31:22 and God wasn't providing it
31:24 and I was completely stuck where I was.
31:26 I practically felt like a captive missionary
31:28 and I didn't think it was very fair.
31:33 The thing was that
31:34 it wasn't just a desire to go do something.
31:40 There was there was nothing wrong with me
31:42 wanting to go further my education,
31:44 it was that it was practically a God in my life.
31:47 I couldn't see myself even being happy
31:49 if God didn't allow me to go complete my plans and dreams.
31:54 A few months later, as I was still struggling through this
31:58 I attended a Bible and medical missionary training
32:02 that was held by a current pastor
32:04 up north in Thailand.
32:06 And as I sat there every day
32:08 listening to God's word being read
32:10 and the Bible being studied,
32:14 God began to bring all the stuff up
32:15 in my heart and life.
32:18 And I started realizing
32:19 that there was a lot of stuff in my life
32:21 that I had not surrendered to God.
32:26 And I really felt that God tell me that now is the time.
32:31 Either I could choose to walk with him completely
32:33 or I could walk away and go do my own thing.
32:36 But at this point I knew that I couldn't do that.
32:47 So as I came to this point in my life
32:49 where I knew I had to decide,
32:50 I knew what my decision would be.
32:53 But I also knew that, I knew there was no way
32:55 I could walk away from God
32:57 and I knew where that would take me.
32:59 But honestly, I wanted to put off my decision
33:02 and do the halfway thing
33:04 until I completed all that I wanted to do.
33:09 But God was telling me that
33:10 now is the time to choose Him completely,
33:13 and I was honestly really mad about it.
33:16 There was this loop of road
33:19 that went through the rice fields.
33:22 And every day on our breaks
33:24 as I was struggling through this
33:25 I would take off and I would power walk around this loop,
33:30 and I would be so frustrated with God
33:32 and I would just spout on it,
33:33 at him the whole way around,
33:35 about how this was so unfair.
33:37 And then as it went around it again and again,
33:39 he'd be speaking to my heart
33:40 and my heart was softened a little bit more.
33:45 And it was probably about three days
33:48 that I was struggling through this
33:50 and I was at point I was completely miserable
33:53 and I was tired of fighting God with it.
33:55 And I hadn't had a moment of peace
33:57 since he brought this up in my heart.
33:59 So finally, I told him that he could have all of me
34:03 and that included my hopes, and my plans, and my dreams.
34:09 Honestly, I really think that
34:11 I thought my life was completely over,
34:14 but the piece I felt was incredible
34:16 and very worth it.
34:19 A couple months after that, I was back down on the border
34:23 and I was doing medical work again.
34:25 But for the first time my heart was completely there.
34:30 I had really accepted
34:31 that until God move me this was his plan for my life
34:36 and where he wanted me.
34:38 One evening a friend walked into the house
34:41 and asked me if we would be willing to take a baby.
34:45 And so, of course, I immediately wanted to know
34:49 what the situation was,
34:51 why the parents couldn't care for it?
34:54 And he said that they didn't have milk.
34:58 So obviously, the solution to me
35:00 seemed to be that it be much better
35:01 to keep the baby with the parents
35:03 if at all possible,
35:05 and simply help provide milk
35:07 if that was really what they needed.
35:09 So I grabbed a box of formula
35:11 and I headed off with a few villagers
35:15 to check the situation out.
35:18 And along the way
35:19 they all of a sudden informed me
35:20 that it wasn't just one baby but twins.
35:25 We arrived and I don't even know
35:28 how to describe the shock of seeing those little ones.
35:32 They had been born two months premature,
35:35 but at this point they were already at least one month old.
35:40 It was just like looking at those pictures
35:43 you see of starving kids in Africa.
35:47 Each one of, each of them was just a couple pounds
35:49 and I could pretty much completely cover them
35:50 with my hand.
35:52 Their bones poking out
35:53 all over their body and dirt all over them,
35:55 and their skin was just in horrible condition,
35:57 it was just, it was horrific.
36:01 And that I realize that they were about to die
36:04 and obviously, you know,
36:06 we had to at least get them to hospital,
36:08 but the parents very candidly told me that,
36:12 they didn't want them
36:14 and that they were giving them to me.
36:16 Now, it's easy for us to just wonder
36:19 how parents could possibly be so heartless.
36:23 But you need to understand the poverty
36:26 and the superstition and the ignorance
36:29 that they live with.
36:31 And in the current culture they have a belief
36:35 that if you have twins, one of them will die.
36:37 So honestly, I believe they were just waiting
36:39 for the inevitable to happen.
36:44 So we got to the hospital and the doctor asked me
36:47 what the mother's name was?
36:50 And in the shock of the moment
36:54 there I hadn't even thought to ask,
36:56 so I had no idea.
36:58 But the doctor said that
36:59 they had to have a mother's name on record,
37:00 so they were like, "Can we put yours down?"
37:03 And I don't know what else to say, so I said, "Yes."
37:10 In the Thai hospital system they have,
37:14 the nurses don't really do
37:15 what nurses do here in the States,
37:17 they pretty much just hand out pills
37:18 and give, I mean IV meds.
37:22 And so in order to have somebody stay in the hospital
37:26 you have to bring a caretaker for them.
37:29 So I stayed on a little cot
37:31 between their incubators for about that week.
37:36 And it was a couple days later that it really hit me
37:39 that I had two tiny and very sick little boys
37:44 that the hospital staffs were calling my sons.
37:47 And there was no way
37:48 that I could just abandon these little ones too.
37:52 Both of them were wearing these ID bracelets
37:55 that just said Maria's baby number one,
37:58 and Maria's baby number two.
38:00 And anyways, we joked around for a couple,
38:04 for a bit just naming going with the biblical hus and bus
38:07 for names but I named them Jabez and Isaac.
38:12 Jabez had a pressure sore on his back
38:14 that was about an inch in diameter
38:16 and almost went into the backbone.
38:18 And so, initially we had thought
38:20 he was in the worst condition and we weren't sure you know,
38:24 what the chances of him making it were.
38:27 But it wasn't very long till Isaac instead
38:30 who we thought was the healthiest one
38:33 got sepsis and pneumonia and started going downhill
38:38 and had to be transferred to a larger pick you
38:41 at another hospital.
38:47 And the doctors there told me that
38:48 if he made it through the day
38:50 that he would possibly have a chance.
38:54 By these points I had completely fallen in love
38:57 with both of those little boys.
38:59 And so, I paced back and forth
39:01 beside his incubator all day long
39:04 and just pleaded in pleaded with God for his little life.
39:11 And even when they were doing repeated rounds of CPR,
39:15 I still just couldn't, I couldn't give up.
39:17 I kept telling God that I knew he could still work a miracle.
39:22 And finally, they shoved a piece of paper in my face
39:25 and said, "We need you to sign for your son's body."
39:28 And at that point I just feel completely broken.
39:32 I've given my heart away to both of these little boys,
39:35 and I completely believe that God would work
39:37 and make a miracle out of both of their little lives.
39:40 And I could not understand any of it.
39:45 I went outside and it was dark
39:47 and I must have paced out there in the dark for another hour.
39:51 And the only thing I knew right then
39:53 was that there was another baby alone in a ward
39:56 on the other end of the hospital.
39:59 Honestly, right then what I really wanted to do
40:02 was run away and try to forget
40:04 about caring for anybody and anything.
40:09 But I knew that that little baby
40:11 didn't have anybody else
40:13 and I knew that no matter what I felt
40:15 I couldn't do that.
40:17 It was a really difficult few weeks.
40:20 Jabez was hanging in there
40:22 but the doctors didn't want to give me any hope for him
40:27 or at least not very much hope,
40:28 and the medical care was often extremely poor.
40:34 Honestly, through that time
40:35 I didn't talk to God for a week after Isaac died
40:38 and I didn't open my Bible.
40:41 Even though I given my life to God
40:44 and committed to working for him,
40:45 I never really dealt with all my questions and bitterness.
40:50 I pretty much just pushed it under a rug.
40:54 Isaac's death drudge back up those feelings for me
40:57 and I really felt like
41:00 God had completely blown and broken my trust again.
41:05 And here, I reached the point where God told me
41:08 that I needed to make my decision.
41:10 I could hang on to my bitterness in questions
41:13 or I could accept that the answers to my questions
41:15 lay only in the heart of God
41:17 and I could choose to trust him with that.
41:20 I had a choice to make,
41:22 I could go back to where I came from
41:24 or I could choose to trust God
41:26 even though I couldn't understand it.
41:30 And I told God that I would trust him
41:32 no matter what he allowed in my life.
41:36 And this is, I don't have time to share more in detail today
41:40 but this is a lesson that God has had to bring me back
41:42 through several more times.
41:44 And each time Satan has been right there
41:47 to whisper those doubts and questions in my ear again,
41:49 and place that bitterness right back in my heart.
41:52 And each time I've had that same decision
41:54 to make all over again.
41:58 And by God's grace,
41:59 each time he has given me the strength
42:01 to choose to trust him.
42:04 But becoming a single mom or even a mom at all
42:08 was not in the plan I had for myself.
42:12 But God did a lot of work in my life through that.
42:14 I believe in many ways
42:16 that God brought Jabez into my life
42:17 for my own salvation.
42:21 And more than anything else,
42:22 motherhood has brought into my life
42:23 a glaring need for faithfulness in all areas of my life.
42:32 By this point, God had done so much for me
42:35 and done in a credible work in my life,
42:38 but the one thing I never saw him
42:39 changing was me being single.
42:42 And honestly, I really didn't want to get married
42:46 I'd had, my whole life I'd had a really cynical outlook
42:49 on marriage.
42:50 I don't want to make it sound
42:52 like all the marriages around me were bad
42:54 because I know there was many that weren't.
42:57 But I just seen so many negative examples of marriage
43:00 or at least that's what I had focused on.
43:03 And I was convinced that pretty much inevitably
43:07 it was all downhill after the honeymoon.
43:10 So I had pretty much just said that
43:13 I would I never wanted to get married,
43:15 and I wasn't willing to trust anyone that much.
43:17 The initial romance wasn't worth it to me.
43:22 It would inevitably bring pain and heartbreak in the end.
43:27 After a couple of years of having Jabez though
43:30 my resolves started to break down just a little bit
43:33 as I did really want him to some way have a daddy.
43:38 One day I was praying and God,
43:42 I just thought that God asked me to pray
43:44 for my future husband.
43:46 And so I argued about it for a while
43:49 and, but finally it seemed like a really silly thing
43:52 to hang on to,
43:53 so I proceeded to write out this prayer
43:56 for my future husband.
43:58 I honestly can't say
44:00 that I was completely faithful with praying for him after that
44:04 but it did signal a change in my heart and life,
44:08 in my heart with that.
44:11 And it was just a few months after that,
44:14 that Jordan showed up in Thailand.
44:17 He was a paramedic
44:19 and he was there to volunteer for the summer
44:22 and we ended up doing a lot of medical work together.
44:27 And asked, we work together closely for a while.
44:31 I began to realize that this was a man I really respected
44:34 and we had an awful lot in common.
44:37 As far as I was concerned though,
44:39 I didn't really think that they would ever be a man
44:41 who would take not only a girl that was committed to a country
44:44 but also her child as his own.
44:48 So I really didn't want to think of him
44:50 as anything more than a good casual friend.
44:54 But I really didn't need to worry about Jabez.
44:57 By this point,
44:59 Jordan had really proven himself with him,
45:02 and he was honestly probably better friends with Jabez
45:04 than he was with me,
45:05 and if there was one way to my heart that was really it.
45:10 And what really clinched
45:14 was when Jabez threw up all over him
45:17 and he just laughed.
45:21 But I was still completely gone,
45:23 completely going with the good casual friend thing.
45:30 But I was completely oblivious
45:31 to what was God was doing in Jordan's heart at the time.
45:35 At the end of that summer Jordan left,
45:37 return to the States for nursing school,
45:39 and at that point neither of us had any clue
45:40 of any interest on the other's part.
45:44 But a couple months after that
45:46 Jordan called and talked to my parents
45:48 and asked for their blessing on a relationship with me.
45:54 It was really beautiful to see God work in our lives
45:57 as we fell in love.
45:59 And that next year Jordan brought me up
46:01 on a rainy bike ride to a mountain overlook
46:03 that was really special to both of us
46:05 and asked me to marry him.
46:07 And of course, I said, "Yes."
46:11 Just the couple of months before our wedding
46:15 we both fell in love again though.
46:18 But this time it was to another premature
46:20 and abandoned baby boy.
46:23 We both complete, we both agreed that
46:27 we didn't think it was a good idea for us
46:28 to adopt again at least anytime in the near future
46:31 because of the complicated situation
46:33 with Jabez's adoption.
46:36 But once again God really demonstrated
46:39 that our plans for our lives are not always his plans.
46:42 So one month before our wedding
46:44 I brought our little Jessie Asher home.
46:49 It was almost every love story
46:52 ends with either the proposal or the wedding
46:55 and that's a little bit of a pet peeve of mine,
46:58 so I really don't want to end there today.
47:02 I was talking to Jordan a few months ago
47:04 and asking him
47:06 if there's anything specific he wanted me to share
47:08 about our love story,
47:11 and he just asked me to tell you all
47:13 that marriage is awesome.
47:15 I'm not saying that to lift us or our marriage up,
47:19 we're both unfortunately, very real people
47:22 and we have struggles
47:24 and things that we need to talk through,
47:27 and ask forgiveness for.
47:29 But I'm saying this
47:30 because I believe that there is a lot of young people out there
47:33 who need encouragement in this area.
47:37 And I just want to tell any other sceptic out there,
47:40 I know I haven't been married for a long
47:42 and may be I don't have a right to say this yet,
47:45 but at this point there is no doubt in my mind
47:47 that amazing marriage is possible
47:49 by the grace of God.
47:52 And we don't have a perfect marriage
47:55 but by the grace of God we do have a victorious one.
48:02 Right now,
48:04 I'm not doing anything close to what my dreams were.
48:08 I'm actually pretty much living the exact life
48:11 that I vowed I never would.
48:14 And Jordan and I aren't even doing any of the things
48:17 we dreamed of doing together before our marriage.
48:22 We both felt that we would serve God best
48:24 by continuing to do medical missionary work together.
48:29 But God is also lead us away from that
48:31 for the time being right now.
48:33 But the one thing that
48:35 God has brought me back to time and time again
48:37 is that the way he plans our lives is perfect.
48:41 And he completely,
48:43 he plans my life in a way that I never could.
48:47 Right now, as you've probably picked up,
48:50 a large part of my life is being a mom
48:52 to our now three little boys.
48:56 And despite the fact that I love my life,
49:01 through the last several years
49:03 I really struggled with the idea
49:05 that I'm just a mom now.
49:08 I've been so thankful
49:09 for the way that God has brought me,
49:12 but honestly sometimes
49:14 it's been very tempting for me
49:15 to feel like I've stepped out of real mission work,
49:18 like, I'm less of a missionary by just being a wife and mom.
49:22 But through this struggle,
49:24 God has really been growing in me a passion
49:26 for the mission of motherhood
49:27 and the mission work that is needed
49:29 right in my very own home.
49:32 And he's really been giving me the awareness
49:35 that I've been given the privilege of helping
49:39 to form the character for a future generation.
49:43 Now, I know this is GYC
49:44 and it probably seems very out of place for me
49:48 to say anything to other moms out there.
49:50 But I know there's a few here, and I also know
49:54 that there's a whole lot of future young moms here,
49:57 so may be keep this in mind.
49:59 But anyways,
50:02 this quote is from Adventists home
50:03 and it's one that has really encouraged me
50:05 and I would just like to put this in here,
50:07 if you don't mind.
50:10 "If married men go into the work,
50:11 leaving their wives to care for the children at home,
50:13 the wife and mother is doing fully as great
50:15 and important a work as the husband and father.
50:17 Although one is in the missionary field,
50:19 the other is a home missionary,
50:21 whose cares and anxieties and burdens
50:23 frequently far exceed those of the husband and father.
50:27 Her work is a solemn and important one.
50:30 The husband in the open missionary field
50:31 may receive the honours of men,
50:33 while the home toiler may receive no earthly credit
50:36 for her labour.
50:37 But if she works for the best interest of her family,
50:40 seeking to fashion their characters
50:41 after the divine Model,
50:44 the recording angel writes her name
50:46 as one of the greatest missionaries in the world.
50:48 God does not see things
50:50 as man's finite vision views them."
50:52 And I'm not saying this to just be up here saying that,
50:56 oh, mother's work is just as great as men's
50:59 or greater, that's not my point at all.
51:02 But I would just really like to encourage
51:06 any other mother out there that might be here at this GYC
51:09 and just be hearing all these message, messages
51:11 and may possibly struggling with feeling
51:15 like they wish they could be out there
51:18 to a greater extent as well working for God.
51:22 And also, that's from Adventist home Chapter 38,
51:26 and I really encourage you to go read the whole chapter,
51:28 there's some incredible encouragement in there.
51:32 So I just wanted to throw that random little tit-bit in there,
51:35 specifically for any mom
51:36 who's struggling with her place in life.
51:38 But I also want to speak to the rest of you
51:42 who may be feel
51:43 like you're in a unimportant stage of life right now.
51:50 I'm just talking to you from where I am today
51:52 and I believe many of you can relate.
51:55 The thing is that so many of us
51:58 have these big great things we want to do in our lifetime,
52:03 and then we're not quite sure
52:05 why God hasn't allowed all that greatness
52:07 to manifest itself yet.
52:10 How many of you are either in school
52:12 or working or still living at home?
52:18 How many of you consider yourself
52:19 to be in a simple place of life right now at this moment?
52:26 This quote is for you,
52:28 it's one I heard several months ago,
52:29 and it's really stuck with me.
52:31 "If God doesn't rule your mundane
52:33 then he doesn't rule you
52:35 because that's where you live."
52:39 May be you're still living in your parents' house
52:41 and it doesn't feel like there's anything big
52:42 or great happening in your life.
52:46 And often,
52:48 the simple life you live in your home
52:50 is the hardest one
52:52 to live patiently and faithfully.
52:54 I think often we either consciously or unconsciously
52:59 feel that our homes are just a waiting place,
53:03 waiting to go to something big, waiting for real life to start.
53:08 And our family members tend to have a knack
53:12 for getting under our skin like nobody else can.
53:18 But I really, I love the song Hidden Valley,
53:20 so I don't know if anybody else is familiar with that song.
53:23 But the chorus goes,
53:24 Hidden valleys produce a life song
53:26 Hidden valleys will make a heart strong
53:29 Desperation can cause you to sing
53:31 Hidden Valley turn shepherds to kings.
53:35 I want to challenge you
53:37 to not wait till something big is happening in your life
53:39 to live faithfully.
53:41 God will truly bless you
53:43 as you develop faithfulness in these small places.
53:48 You know, when I was thinking and praying
53:51 about what I was supposed to share with you today,
53:55 I found myself just for a little while
53:58 really wishing that my story had been different.
54:01 I was wishing that I could get up here
54:03 and inspire you with a story of my faithful living.
54:08 How God had placed this huge part in my heart
54:10 for the mission field and how I gave up everything
54:12 and went, and how God had done this amazing work in my life.
54:16 I felt like if that was my story then I could--
54:21 then I could get up here
54:23 and inspire you with the great commission.
54:25 I thought of all the missionaries I know
54:27 who have arrived in the mission field
54:29 all glowing on fire to do God's work,
54:31 and I felt, I thought of all of them
54:34 and how much better equipped
54:35 I thought each of them would be to be up here
54:37 and share with you their story.
54:40 But that's not my story.
54:43 God took me a different route
54:45 and he's slowly and gently changed
54:47 a struggling rebellious girl's heart
54:49 and he has turned it towards him
54:52 and a desire for sharing his gospel.
54:55 And I can't get up here
54:56 and tell you all about my goodness,
54:58 and my obedience, and my faithfulness,
55:00 faithful mission service.
55:04 But what I can tell you today is that I'm a normal person,
55:08 I am not some missionary super hero.
55:11 And I can tell you about the work
55:13 that God's done in my life,
55:17 in a very imperfect girl's heart.
55:20 I just want to say that God still working on me.
55:23 I've not reach some level of perfection
55:25 the to be able to be up here and share with you at GYC.
55:29 You have no idea of the struggle that I faced
55:32 with the reality of GYC looming up
55:34 and that I would need to share my story with you,
55:37 and I just felt so insignificant,
55:39 and imperfect, and unworthy.
55:43 But God is still working in me and he's not finished yet.
55:45 And I believe that,
55:47 I have a greater story to tell you all
55:50 because of my imperfections and failings.
55:53 And because I also have a greater story
55:55 of God's faithfulness to me
55:56 and all that he has done in my life.
56:03 The three big passions God has on my heart right now
56:06 is contentedness in the simple place I'm at,
56:10 and faithfulness in my daily living,
56:12 and, but most of all
56:14 a constant surrender of my plans and dreams
56:16 in exchange for the plans and dreams that God has for me.
56:21 And let me tell you
56:23 that's a pretty incredible exchange,
56:26 and that's a challenge I really want to end this with.
56:29 When I was praying and asking God
56:30 about what I was supposed to share,
56:32 I really felt
56:34 that although my heart is largely in the mission field
56:36 I was not supposed to challenge you
56:38 to a commitment to foreign mission work.
56:43 When Jesus comes back, he's not going to ask us
56:46 if we went to Thailand or China or India.
56:50 You know, God's going to ask us,
56:51 "Did you do work that I called you to do?
56:53 Were you a faithful servant?"
56:56 And I want to be able to say, "Yes, Lord,
56:58 I was faithful and all that you asked of me."
57:02 God doesn't need you to necessarily commit today
57:04 to go to a mission field.
57:07 God wants you to commit today
57:09 to following his leading wherever he sends you.
57:13 And that might mean that he sends you
57:14 to Papa New Guinea,
57:16 it might mean that you're in school,
57:18 it might mean that you're the CEO of a large company
57:21 or it might mean
57:22 that you're simply raising your little kids.
57:25 But I want to challenge you today
57:27 to give up your ideas
57:28 of how you think you will best serve God,
57:31 to give your hopes, your plans, your dreams to God.
57:37 As you've heard from my story,
57:40 the issuance of surrender and trust
57:43 has really been a theme through my life.
57:46 And I look back on the moment when I finally chose
57:49 to completely give all my plans to God
57:51 as being a pivotal point in my life.
57:55 My favourite text ever is John 10:10,
57:58 "I am come that they may have life
58:00 and that they may have it abundantly."
58:04 God came to this earth not just to give you life,
58:06 but to give you abundant life.
58:09 How can you not choose to trust a God
58:12 that wants to give you an abundant life?
58:16 Today, I want to challenge you
58:17 to make that choice to trust him.
58:22 And I want to challenge you specifically too
58:24 if you haven't already to make some time soon
58:29 to sit down and think through the plans and dreams
58:32 you have for yourself, and to give those to God.
58:38 You can trust him with them.
58:41 I can't tell you that your life will always be easy
58:45 or that it won't ever be painful.
58:48 But I can promise you that you will always look back
58:52 and be able to say that it was completely worth it
58:55 and that life with Jesus has been sweet.
59:08 Thank you.