Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Prayer of Thanksgiving


It's been months since I've written, partially due to busyness and partially to laziness. Tonight I grabbed my laptop to journal and pray because my heart has felt so disconnected from God lately. But I know that feelings are fleeting, emotions are not truth; God is truth. So I decided I would praise Him for all that He has given me and remind myself of TRUTH. The following is my prayer from my journal, a reminder of all the blessings in my life and that God will never leave me despite how I'm feeling. I owe everything in my life to Jesus. 

My wonderful Father in Heaven,
Lord, THANK YOU, from whom ALL blessings flow. Thank you for all the wonderful gifts in my life. Thank You first and foremost for my salvation. Thank You for redeeming my life from the pit when I rebelled from the Most High and went my own way. Thank You for using my brokenness to bring other women to You. Lord, thank You for the opportunity to lead Alpha Chi’s Bible study last year. Thank You for that season of fruitfulness. Lord, thank You for this season of dryness. I say that half heartedly- with tears in my eyes because I don’t like it. I’m fighting it, but I know that You have not abandoned me. You promise to never leave nor forsake me. You promise to be my Father, my Lord, my Shepherd, my Protector, my Redeemer, my Friend, and my Comforter.

So I will continue to Praise You. I will praise You for the blessings in my life and trust You in the confusion of seasons of change. Lord, thank You for Alpha Chi. Thank you for the amazing women that You have blessed me with. Thank You for my best friends who pointed me to You and continue to love me so well. Thank You for my family. Thank You for redeeming my relationship with my mother, father, and sister. Thank You for bringing salvation to my mother and sister. Thank You for my family members who encourage me to pursue You. Lord, thank You for Kitty and Joel. Thank You for the impact they’ve had at USC and the impact they’ve had on my life. Thank You for Cru as an organization that is reaching out to offer hope to students like me. Thank You for Midtown, my wonderful church family. Thank You for getting me plugged in and allowing me to live life in such an intimate community. Thank You for the opportunity to serve and plan College Fall Retreat. Thank You for the baptism service where I got to see redemption from the Girls Night Out event from a year ago. Thank You for Paige and Dendy’s salvation and redemption. Thank You that I never lack any good thing. Thank You that for my job with SmartphoneMedic that you miraculously provided.

Lord, thank You so much for John. Thank You for a man who loves You deeply. Thank You for a man who is passionate about sharing the gospel with college students. Thank You for a man who fights for my purity and wants to honor me and push me towards You. Thank You for a man who shows me a tremendous amount of grace and preaches the gospel to me. Thank You so much.

Jesus, thank You for the desire of my heart to do college ministry. Thank You for providing that opportunity through Cru. Thank You for my family who is increasingly more supportive and encouraging about it. Thank You for giving me a peace and confidence that You will provide for me beyond all that I can ask and imagine. Lord, thank You for my wonderful roommates. They are just incredible. Thank you for reuniting me with Julia and rekindling our friendship. Thank You for Laura and the passionate heart you’ve given her. Thank You for Catherine and her radiant joy. Thank You for our lovely yellow house that has become such a haven.Thank You for my Lifegroup that has shown me what gospel centered friendship looks like. 

Thank You for YOUR SON, JESUS. Thank You for His death on my behalf. Thank You for atonement of my sin. Thank You for sacrificing on my behalf. Thank You for adopting me as Your daughter, though I did nothing to deserve it and actually deserve to be disowned. You are a gracious God, full of love and mercy. Thank You for Your loving kindness towards men. Thank You for this new life You’ve given me. Thank You for restoring my joy. Thank You for pursuing me when I try to run the other way. Thank You for not letting me go. Thank You for comforting me and giving me wisdom in difficult situations. Thank You for being my only Hope. You are my rock, my fortress, my God. Thank You Jesus. Please help me to love You more genuinely. That is my utmost desire. Amen.

Monday, August 6, 2012

What God Taught Me in Italy & A Thank You!!!


 Thank you all so much for supporting me on my internship with Avant Ministries to Genoa, Italy! Your prayers and financial support made this life changing experience possible and I am forever grateful. I would love to sit down with each of you and share stories about Italy, the Italian people, the missionaries, and my friends from language school. If you have specific questions please don’t hesitate to email me at knmckinney91@aol.com, but in this letter I will try to hit the highlights of my six weeks in Genoa.
(The Avant Genoa Team)

Genoa is a port city on the Northern coast of Italy and less than 2% of the country’s population are evangelical Christians. I was blessed to live with a missionary family, the Paces, and participate in daily mission activities with the Genoa Avant Team. The Team includes three American couples, one woman, eight children, and an Italian couple. One of the biggest blessings was meeting these incredible people who have given so much of their lives to the Lord. It was an honor to learn from them and serve alongside them. To give you a better idea of my weekly activities, I’ll break it down day by day:

Italian Language School: Every morning for the first three weeks, my fellow intern, June, and I went to four hours of Italian class every day. I learned a lot and was able to listen and follow people’s conversations. However, forming sentences and speaking was almost impossible for me. Learning another language is harder than you think! The bright side is that at language school I made three friends, Laura, Sarah, and Andrea!

Monday: Every Monday afternoon the team has a planning meeting to prepare for the Jesus Encounters throughout the week and to pray for the people of Genoa and each other. A Jesus Encounter is the name for the Italian house churches that are happening throughout Genoa. These mini churches are held in someone’s living room or a coffee shop and include worship, prayer, fellowship, and studying God’s word. There are now seven Jesus Encounters happening in the city, with one being led by a national believer! The goal is for all seven to be led by national believers so the missionaries can focus their energy on starting new house churches so even more Italians can hear the good news of Jesus.

Tuesday:  Team Fellowship was every Tuesday night at our team leader, Tim’s house. I really enjoyed this sweet time of worship, prayer, and delicious food with the missionaries. In Italy the food really is excellent! Genoa is famous for creating pesto sauce, so pasta with Genovese’ pesto was my favorite local dish!
 (Sarah and I at the train station on the way to Monaco)

Wednesday: Jesus Encounter at my host home, the Pace’s house. Almost every Wednesday afternoon my new friend, Sarah, and I would go to the beach and then attend the Jesus Encounter where we studied the book of Ephesians. Sarah is a young Muslim woman from Turkey. She is a tour guide in Turkey, loves Americans, and wants to know more about Christianity. I got her a Turkish English New Testament to read in her own language and she began asking profound and difficult questions about my faith. Her search for truth is admirable and I have no doubt that she will find her answers in Jesus. He is after her heart, it’s only a matter of time. Please join me in praying for her salvation and protection.
                 
Thursday: The team did evangelism in the local market by handing out the gospel of John and initiating conversations with Italians. June and I also attended afternoon mentorship meetings with Dustin and Miranda, a couple on the team, as part of our internship.

 (June, Tim, Emily, Me, & Phil sharing Jesus in the market)

Friday: Jesus Encounter in Begato, which is the poorest area of Genoa. The people are extremely hardened towards God and some actually choose to worship the Devil instead. The majority of the Italian people are non-practicing Catholics, with the younger generation being mostly agnostic and atheist.

Saturday: Generally a free day. As you can see from my pictures on Facebook, I was able to travel to Monaco, Camogli, and Rome! Camogli is a small town along the northern coast. It was absolutely breathtaking and left me in awe of God’s creation! Rome was also incredible and full of so much history! My favorite place was the Colosseum where the gladiators used to fight!

Sunday- Free time for most of the day, but I attended a Jesus Encounter at night. The most interesting Jesus Encounter I attended was with the Romanians! We studied the Bible in three different languages, it was awesome! You can read about it (along with many more stories) on my blog at www.heismakingmenew.blogspot.com.

As you can see, there is so much to tell! God used my time in Italy to open my eyes to the spiritual darkness that is around the world. The Italian people might not be as physically needy as some countries, but they are desperately needy in the spiritual sense. The people have no hope and you can sense their desperation. Their hearts are very so hardened which makes it difficult to get them to listen or talk about God. Please pray for the Avant missionaries that are still living there for the next two years. They have sacrificed a tremendous amount to move overseas and love a people group that gives them nothing in return. If you are interested in financially supporting an international missionary, please let me know and I will give you more information.

Thank you so much for joining me in this incredible experience. God also used my experience to affirm that I want to go into full time ministry after I graduate. In Italy I was constantly relating the things I was learning back to college ministry in America. I am so excited to return to USC this fall to spend time with my sorority sisters and share the good news of Jesus with them!  I will also be a Student Intern with Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) this year so I’m looking forward to giving more of my time to that ministry! Thank you so much for your prayers and financial support. You are a tremendous blessing in my life! Ciao!

In Christ,
Kelsey 


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Goodbyes & A Prayer Request

Tonight I'm writing this post from the wonderful United States of America! I got into Avant Ministries on Thursday night and will be here for debriefing until Monday morning. I'm still seriously jet lagged, but it's great to be back in my own culture and country. My last week in Italy was bittersweet with goodbyes. I tried to cram in as much gelato, shopping, and beach days as possible while recovering from the stomach flu that I had the previous weekend. My body was still pretty weak from the flu, but I made it to Bocadassee (one of my favorite beach spots) with my friends Sarah and Andrea, one last time. 


(Sarah and I at Bocadassee) 
Saying goodbye to Sarah was definitely difficult. Over six short weeks she became a very close friend that I will stay in touch with for the rest of my life. I'm so grateful that God placed her in my life and allowed me to share the good news of Jesus with her. On Sunday Sarah called me and told me that she'd spent the weekend reading the Turkish/ English New Testament that I gave her. She asked me to get out my Bible and she took me to several different verses that she had questions about. Her main question concerning the trinity was, "How can God be one God, and three?" The problem is that she got so hung up on the trinity that she was unwilling to listen to anything else that I had to say. It was hard to see her so frustrated with not understanding, but it was encouraging that she genuinely wanted to know. 


Even though I had almost no answers for her difficult questions, I left the conversation knowing that the Lord is pursuing her heart and that He is in control of the situation. However, I do want to ask for your continued prayers. Sarah told me that after reading the Bible she fell asleep and had nightmares. In her nightmares she heard a voice telling her "Go back to Islam, stop reading the Bible". I told her that I believed the voice was Satan and encouraged her to keep seeking truth. Please, please join me in praying for her protection from our Enemy. Like scripture says, Satan is truly is prowling around like a lion, seeking someone to devour. Please pray for Sarah's spiritual protection. Please pray that the Lord will give her wisdom to grasp the concept of the trinity. Ultimately please pray that she would recognize that Jesus is God and that she would put her trust in Him for her salvation. There are so many stumbling blocks for Muslims, but Jesus is after Sarah's heart and I have no doubt that over time He will win it. 


One thing that I learned in Italy is that in ministry we are truly engaged in a spiritual battle. If you're not on God's team, then your on Satan's team. There's no middle ground. It's a constant battle between good and evil, but people don't want to acknowledge any battle they can't visually see. Satan's greatest tactic is to get people thinking that he doesn't exist. As a Christian you've got to be on your guard and praying for protection for those you are witnessing to. Unfortunately in Italy there are many people who do believe in Satan and choose to worship him instead of God, but thats a whole other story for another time. 


Anyways, back to the goodbyes. After 6 weeks of living in the Paces' apartment and sharing one bathroom with all 6 of them, lets just say that we got pretty close. That family is wonderful. I'm going to miss chatting with Donna and Abby and Elizabeth. I'll miss precious Phoebe's constant questions and smiles. I could go on and on, but I'll stop before I get teary eyed again. They really are great and it was a blessing to live with a family that loves Jesus and each other so deeply. 
"Team Italy One" 
The entire team was absolutely phenomenal. If you're a Christian and you're not supporting an international missionary, please find a missionary that you can financially and prayerfully support. These men and women have sacrificed so much for the advancement of the Gospel. They've picked up their lives and moved across the world to an unknown place where they don't speak the language. The parents wonder if they are ruining their children's lives by not giving them the opportunities they'd have in America. They pour out their hearts, time, and energy to love people who rarely love them back. They're completely un-appreciated by the nationals. Most of the time they are completely ignored. Their compassion is rarely reciprocated, although it is definitely noticed. There are seasons of fruitfulness and seasons where there are no visible results but they stick it out anyways. It was an honor to get to know such wonderful men and women. I'm so grateful for their service to Christ. I just want to say thank you to every missionary for being faithful to the calling that God has put on your lives to reach the lost.  


So, I've spent the last couple days at Avant processing my six week internship experience. I definitely have a lot more to say, but I'll save that for another post. Please pray for Sarah and please get in touch with me if you want to hear more about Italy! I can't wait to be home and see all of my friends and family! 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Italy VS. America- In honor of the 4th!

I've been keeping a mental list of all the things I like/ don't like about living in Italy so in honor of the 4th of July I figured I'd share just how much I love America! Don't get me wrong, Italy is great too...but there are definitely cultural differences between the two. One thing I've learned is just, because it's different doesn't mean it's wrong, it's just different...


Things I like about Italy... 

1. The food. Oh my goodness. America, can we please tear down all of our fast food restaurants and replace them with delicious bakeries, cafes, and gelaterias?! Pleaseeee! 

2. The scenery. The Mediterranean Sea will blow your mind. Not to mention the mountains outside my window.

3. The architecture. Breathtaking. 

4. The culture, more relaxed, less focused on time

5. Everything is closed on Sunday. A real day of rest. 

6. Trains. How convenient! (convenient after you spend two days trying to buy the correct tickets) 

7. L'apertivo- a cocktail and a buffet for about 7 euro! Thats way better than happy hour in the US! 

8. Eating nutella more than once a day is completely acceptable and encouraged. Enough said. 


Things I don't like about Italy... or Why I LOVE and MISS America!

1. The bus. UGGGH. This is coming from a girl who grew up in a town with two stoplights, so I really don't like any bus system, but the Italian buses are especially bad. Everyone is crowded into the bus and it takes forever and its smelly and people are all up in my personal space. 

2. The lack of deoderant. Italians don't always smell very good. 

3. Kissing cheeks as a greeting. This one kind of surprises me because I generally don't mind being touched, but something about rubbing faces with people I just met creeps me out. Hugs and handshakes are much better. 

4. The lack of air conditioning. (I will never complain about summers in Columbia ever again, at least we have AC) 

5. There are no dryers. Stiff clothes are scratchy. 

6. Italians lack of respect for time.

7. Stores close at weird hours.  

8. Acqua Frizzante. Ewww.


9. Sketchy elevators. They generally don't hold more than 4 people. Again, lack of personal space is an issue here. .

As you can see America will always come out on top! So there you have it... the reasons why I'm excited to go back to America and the reasons why I will miss Italy a ton. Well, the main reason I will miss Italy is because of all the wonderful people that I've met here! The Avant Team and my new friends from school have been such a blessing! I can't even begin to tell you how much I am going to miss them. Only 7 days left in Italia! I can't believe it! 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Roma!!


So this past weekend Sarah, Emily, and I went to one of the most famous cities in the world- Rome! It definitely exceeded my already high expectations. Rome is absolutely stunning. We got there Friday night and stayed in a cute, little Bed & Breakfast that was only a five minute walk from the train station. Then we spent the night exploring the city and I had the best glass of Chardonnay that I will probably ever have in my life! Walking through the city at night was my favorite part of the whole weekend. The monuments are all lit up and the shadows make everything look super romantic and mysterious. It's absolutely beautiful. 


Another favorite was the Trevi Fountain! Legend has it that if you throw in a coin you are guaranteed to return to Rome. I really hope its true! 





Saturday, Sarah and I toured the Vatican. Emily had already toured the Vatican twice, so she explored the city while we took on the crowds. The Vatican was incredible and super impressive, but unfortunately our tour guide had a very hard to understand British accent, so we didn't get a lot of the history that really makes the artwork cool. Oh well, at least we got to see the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Cathedral. The artwork and architecture is mind blowing. I could have stared at it for hours, it was so overwhelming. 

While the Vatican was interesting, I really didn't enjoy it very much. Now I understand why the Italians hate the Vatican and want nothing to do with religion. They want nothing to do with the Catholic church with it's cathedrals and gold when they can hardly find work to be able to feed their families. Unfortunately, they don't understand the vast difference between the Catholic, works-based religion, and Chrisitanity, a grace-based relationship with God. They don't want to hear anything about God, the Bible, and especially not the Church. Their hearts are so hardened toward God, it is very sad to see their hopelessness. 

That's why it is so important to have evangelical Christian missionaries here in Europe spreading the gospel of TRUTH. As Americans we often think that places who need missionaries the most are 3rd world countries with starving children. Yes, those countries definitely need the gospel and works of compassion, but Italy and other places in Europe are 3rd world countries in the spiritual sense. They have literally no hope. Most don't believe in God, they don't trust their political leaders, they definitely don't trust church leaders, and they don't really trust each other either. People without hope turn to their sin to fill the void and end up trapped in cycles of addiction and despair. Without hope in God people have no one to turn to but themselves, which breeds selfishness and self sufficiency. Depending on ourselves only furthers us from God, because He wants us to depend on Him alone. Obviously, you can see how this is a problem and why we need more missionaries in Europe. 



Anyways, sorry for getting off topic.... back to Rome... Sunday we visited the ruins of the ancient Colosseum and Roman Forum which is definitely the coolest thing I've ever seen. Pictures just don't do it justice. I can't believe that people in ancient Rome constructed this magnificent arena without today's technology or tools. I was so impressed. Also, Saturday night we saw the Pantheon, which was beautiful all lit up. 



Overall the weekend was an incredible one. I will never forget exploring Rome with my new friends Emily and Sarah. Emily and I got to have some good conversations about Jesus with Sarah throughout the weekend. Please continue praying for her salvation. I want her to know the hope and joy of a relationship with Jesus so badly. I've only got one week left here, but I'm so grateful for this new friendship the Lord has given me. Thank you all for your prayers! 


Friday, June 22, 2012

Grand'e il Nostro Dio!

Incontra Con Gesu or Jesus Encounter is the name for the Italian house churches that Team Italy One is starting throughout the city of Genova. I wrote about the my experience with the Romanian house church in my blog last week, if you missed it you can read it here. This week I want to share a little more about how I am seeing my new friends Sarah and Andrea encounter Jesus...


Monaco

This past weekend, me, Emily (one of the missionaries), and Sarah went to Monaco for the day. Monaco is the second smallest country in the world and one of the wealthiest as well. It's nestled on the shores of the French Riveria and the landscape is absolutely beautiful. God used our day trip for a fun time of fellowship with Sarah that opened up conversations about the gospel and who Jesus is. On the train ride to Monaco, Emily and I were reading our Bibles and Sarah wanted to read some as well, so I showed her what I had been reading in Romans 1. She asked me about Paul and why he wrote so many letters to the churches so I had the opportunity to share Paul's testimony with her. We turned to Acts 24 and I explained to her how Paul used to be called Saul and how Jesus changed his heart and he became a new person. 

Sarah, Emily, and I in Monaco

 Monaco

Then on the way home from Monaco, Sarah was sharing with us about her family. She said she's not very close to her father and mother because they disaprove of the way she lives her life. They want her to marry a good Muslim man and get a respectable job, but instead she is still unmarried and works as a tour guide. That conversation led into a discussion about what Muslims believe about sin, and how a Muslim can do good works to counter their sinfulness. We asked Sarah how she knows she will go to Heaven when she dies and she said she doesn't know. She can only try to do her best at being a "good person" and hope that Allah will have mercy on her. The conversation gave me a lot of insight into what Sarah really believes. I can tell that she doesn't truly believe in Islam, but it's all she knows, and right now she's indifferent to it. She jokes about going to hell as if its not a big deal, but then she says she will try to be good so she can go to heaven. The problem with Islam is that it doesn't deal with the reality of sin. People can never be "good enough" in the eyes of a Holy, perfect God. Please pray that Sarah will see her sinfulness and her need for salvation. Please pray that she will see how she can never be good enough. 

 I am so grateful that the Lord has given me so many opportunities to have conversations with Sarah about the gospel. I know that He is doing work in her heart. On Wednesday she came to the Jesus Encounter again and stayed for dinner. It was really exciting because Andrea came with her as well! Andrea is the other woman in my class, she's 28 and from Brazil. She was raised Catholic but dislikes the Catholic church. At one point she was thinking about converting to Islam in order to marry a Lebanese man that she was in love with. I haven't been able to talk to her much about deeper topics, because her English isn't very good and I obviously don't speak Portuguese, but please pray for more opportunities for me to talk to her about Jesus. 


Andrea and I at Camogli 

One of my favorite moments this week was praising the Lord in Italiano at the Jesus Encounter. We sang the song "How Great is Our God" or "Grand'e il Nostro Dio" in Italian. It's really cool to be able to worship Jesus in another language (even when I'm completely butchering the pronunciation haha). I'm going to be attending two other house churches this weekend and I'm looking forward to meeting those people! I appreciate your prayers for Sarah and Andrea so much! Grazie! 


Check out "How Great is Our God" in Italiano! 



Wednesday, June 13, 2012

La Vita a Genova es Bellisimo

Life in Genova is beautiful. As you can tell from the incredible pictures, this port city is surrounded by breathtaking views. 



Camogli


Nervi

Italy is by far the most beautiful place I've ever been, but don't let the blue waters and lush mountains fool you. The people have no hope. Real Italy isn't as pretty as it appears. The elaborate Catholic churches with amazing architecture are mostly empty on Sunday mornings. Religion is everywhere, but Jesus is nowhere. Except for in Avant's six house churches across the city. Jesus is using the Genova Avant Team to shine His light into the darkness. So far I've only been able to attend two of the six churches or Incontro Con Gesu (Jesus Encounters) but I'm looking forward to experiencing all six. When I say church, I don't mean your typical American idea of church. These churches are small groups of 4-12 people who come together to study the Bible and worship Jesus in someone's living room. Some people are believers, but most are just interested in finding out what Christianity is all about. 


Last Sunday night I sat in a too small kitchen in the poorer area of town and ate pizza, studied the Bible, and had a dance party with Romanian immigrants. About twelve of us (6 missionaries, 6 Romanians) crowded into the small kitchen and shared food together. Most of the family are not believers yet, except for their 9 year old boy who just accepted Jesus into his life recently. We studied John 4 where Jesus is speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well. There were two women who were smoking and chatting amongst themselves during most of the lesson, which kind of embodies the Italian's disinterest in spiritual matters. However, there was one 17 year old boy, Ricky, who was listening and taking the passage into consideration. When asked how the passage applied to his life and how his life should change because of it, Ricky said it couldn't apply because he needed a new life. That's when Dustin (one of the missionaries) explained the gospel to him and told him how Jesus can give him a new life. Unfortunately, Ricky said he still isn't ready to give his life to Jesus because he wants to have fun. He also said his friends don't want him to give his life to Jesus because then they won't be able to have fun together anymore. Dustin shared his personal testimony with Ricky and we talked about how God is more interested in our hearts than our "good behavior". When we give Him our heart then our behavior will change, but it's our hearts that He's after. 


After our serious gospel conversation, somehow the conversation shifted to salsa dancing and next thing you know the Romanians had turned up the music and were making all of us dance in the middle of the little kitchen. It was absolutely hilarious and completely spontaneous! We were glad that they could see that Christians can still have fun! It was so encouraging to witness God moving in that room. Ricky may not have been ready to let Jesus have control of his life, but he knows that he has a need for God in his life and God is working on his heart. 


It was also incredible to sit in a trilingual Bible study. The Romanians speak Italian decently, but obviously it's easier to understand things in your own language. One man read John 4 in Romanian, then Dustin read John 4 in Italian, and then they would discuss the passage in Italian. June and I were the only English speakers, so we had a translator and studied the passage in English. The Lord used that to remind me how big He is. His love and power transcend language barriers, cultural differences, and economic statuses. His love is all encompassing and He created every person on this planet in His image. That's pretty mind blowing. I'm excited to see how the Lord continues to work in the Romanian's hearts. Please pray for Ricky and his family to see their need for Jesus and to be willing to surrender the hearts to Him. 



My new friend Andrea and I after we hiked to the place below.



 San Frouttouozo





Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Serendipity Divino in Italia

Divine Serendipity is one of the principles of Avant Ministries' Short-Cycle Church Planting and in my first four days here I've experienced it first hand. Avant explains it best, "Divine serendipity may sound like an oxymoron but what seems like coincidence to us is really God’s sovereign purpose at work. Short-Cycle Church Planting is based on the confidence that God will provide us with the opportunity and the means to connect with people." Well, in only four short days the Lord has provided me with a divine opportunity to share the gospel with a young woman who is sincerely seeking Truth. 

June and I started our Italian language class on Monday morning at a language school called, A Door to Italy. By attending language class for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 3 weeks, we are hoping to learn some Italian as well as to simulate what a real missionary would experience when moving to a new country. The problem is that we joined the class a week late, so our classmates Sarah , Andrea, and Laura (names changed for privacy), are way ahead of us in Italian. It's very frustrating as you can imagine. I literally have the communication skills of an Italian two year old, so its a very humbling experience. 

The girls in my class are very friendly and I was excited to be welcomed into their group. Laura is from England, Andrea is from Brazil, and Sarah is from Turkey, but they all speak English so we can communicate well enough. I knew that God had me in that class for a reason when Sarah asked me about my bracelet that says Luke 1:38. She recognized it being from the Bible and asked what it meant. I told her it means, "I am the Lord's servant" and she wrote it down in her notebook with an exclamation mark! I was intrigued considering she's from the Middle East. Then after class she invited me to go to the beach with her and Andrea today. I was so excited I immediately began praying for an opportunity to talk about Jesus with her. 

Unfortunately, (but fortunately) Andrea didn't feel well so she decided not to come. I was actually pleased to hear this because I felt it would be easier to talk with Sarah one on one. Well, on the way to the beach Sarah initiated the conversation by sharing that she's Muslim but she still drinks alcohol even though it is against their rules. So I told her that I'm a Christian and she began asking me all kinds of questions about my life. She also commented that when she first met me she noticed how much "good energy and happiness" I have (also known as JOY). Comments like that always surprise me considering I used to struggle with depression, so I thanked her and told her I would tell her my whole story once we got to the beach. So we finally found public access to the beach (which is really a rocky shore... no sand in sight) and I begin to tell her about my family and my testimony of how Jesus brought me from depression into joy and how He changed my heart. 

She listened and asked questions and was intrigued by the story and was shocked that there are "good Americans" with morals! haha She also said she was very impressed with me and wanted to know how I'm "so good now". So I explained the gospel, God's grace, and how God changes your heart's desires. Then she asked me what my favorite book of the Bible was and I told her Ephesians, Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus... I'm a stupid American so I didn't even know that Ephesus is in Turkey, her country! Sarah then asked me if I go to church and I explained to her that I'm here with people who are starting a church, and that I had to be home at 5:30 tonight for an Italian Bible study at my host family's house. Miraculously, she wanted to come with me! Sarah is a tour guide so she's learning Italian so she can give tours to Italians who come visit Turkey. As part of her tours she has to talk about Christianity so she knows a lot and is very open minded and interested. She said wanted to come to the Bible study because to learn more Italian and more about Christianity.

So Sarah and I arrived back home and I opened Ephesians to show her one of my favorite verses, Ephesians 2:8-9,‎"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works so that no one can boast." Then the Bible study begins and guess what... DIVINE SERENDIPITY... the group is studying EPHESIANS 2:1-1o- which I had no idea about! Sarah said "What did you know this?! Such a coincidence!" and I told her I think it's God! and she agreed. Another missionary, Emily, translated the Italians' discussion of the verses into English for Sarah and I, and Sarah asked Emily very good questions about the gospel. She is truly seeking to understand what it all means and is so open-minded. She comes from a strict Muslim family, but she has stopped practicing Islam and is rebelling. She's desperate for freedom and searching for answers. My heart broke for her today and simultaneously rejoiced in the opportunity to give her new hope! She is so enthusiastic about our new friendship and it's such a blessing! I'm in awe of how the Lord so divinely orchestrated our circumstances. It is no coincidence. She needs the gospel and Jesus is pursuing her heart. Lodate il Signore! Praise the Lord! Please join me in praying for her and the other girls in my class! 

Grazie! I'll post again soon with more details on day to day life in Genova! Ciao!   


Corso d'Italia

Friday, June 1, 2012

Arriving at Avant!

As I stepped out of the terminal into the Kansas City Airport I realized that its surprisingly small and thus very similar to Columbia's airport. Then I stepped outside into the hot sun and thought maybe I had flown from Charlotte back to Columbia rather than Charlotte to Kansas City! I had low expectations for Kansas City and had no idea what to expect from Avant's Headquarters but I was pleased with both! Kansas City is much bigger than I expected. Bryan, an Avant recruiter, took the interns downtown to get fro-yo Tuesday night so we got to see some of the city. It's much bigger than I expected with high end retail stores and plenty to do, I guess the Midwest isn't so bad after all! Avant shares it's office building and guest house/ conference center with another ministry called Crossworld. The main office building is pretty impressive and includes a small chapel room for weekly services. The guest house is the building where I've been staying during training and it hosts the missionaries that come in for training throughout the year. 


Arriving at Avant for my internship orientation, I had no idea what to expect. I got to meet June, the other Italy intern, and he's awesome. Our personalities fit very well together and I'm excited to have him as a friend to go on this adventure with. There are also three other interns; Larae is going to Uruguay, Jedidiah is going to the Middle East, and Amy is interning here at headquarters. At Chapel yesterday morning all the interns introduced themselves and shared their testimonies, so I really enjoyed hearing about what the Lord has done in their lives. Yesterday and today (Thursday) we had prayer in the mornings and several seminars throughout the day with a lunch break in between. The seminars included; Avant's History, Crossing Borders & Culture Shock, Telling Your Story, Staying Spiritually Strong, and Staying Safe. A different staff member taught each seminar and I was blown away by all the fascinating stories they had from the mission field. Almost everyone who has worked at Avant has served as a missionary in a foreign country and they have incredible stories of God's provision and faithfulness in the face of adversity. It's been really cool to hear what life is like in different parts of the world. 


So far I have been incredibly humbled by my time here at Avant. My heart and mind are overwhelmed. I am learning so much and am being exposed to people who are so much wiser and more cultured than I am. They know more about the Bible, more about God's character, and more about the world than I can ever imagine. The Lord is already using this experience to stir my heart for missions and reaffirm my call to ministry. It makes me wonder where He might call me in the future. It might be college ministry in the states or it might be overseas ministry in Italy. He could even just use this experience to stir my heart to pray fervently for the people of Italy even after I've left. Whatever it might be, I'm excited to get to Italy and start learning more! My time at Avant has definitely reaffirmed that God wants me to do go into vocational ministry, whatever it might be, thats where my passion is! 


Tomorrow June and I will fly out of Kansas City at 3:30pm and arrive in Genoa, at about 3pm the next day! I CAN'T WAIT to get there, FINALLY!!! (Can it really be as gorgeous as the pictures??!) 





  • Please be praying for safe travels and no complications. 
  • I also ask that you pray for this trip to help me fall in love with Jesus all over again, I deeply desire to serve Him wholeheartedly, but I could use some rejuvenation. 
  • Please also pray that the Lord would break my selfishness...that I would be focused on serving Him, the missionaries, and the Italian people, not what this experience can do for me, but what I can do for them.
  •  Please pray for divine interactions with people, that the Lord would begin to put people in my path for me to share the gospel with this summer. Thanks!!! 



Sunday, May 20, 2012

Anticipation, Provision, & Gratitude

In 10 short days (May 29th) I will be headed to Kansas City, Missouri to meet the staff of Avant Ministries and the other intern that will be joining me in Genoa. His name is June (yes, June is a guy and he seems pretty cool) and we'll fly out from Kansas City to Charlotte to Frankfurt to Genoa for a total of 13 hours of flying, not including layovers. I've been talking to Dustin, one of the missionaries that lives there already and he told me I'll be living with a single woman who just joined the Italy Team last month, so that's exciting. 


Honestly, I have no idea what to expect. I know it will be overwhelming and awesome and hard and crazy and good. It still doesn't seem like its actually happening. More than anything I'm just curious. I'm curious what the Lord is going to teach me and how He is going to use me. I'm curious how my heart will be changed by the people of Genoa and how this trip will impact my relationship with Jesus. I'm curious how I will react to the differences and to being away from America for six weeks. It will be an interesting learning experience for sure. 


I am so incredibly in awe of God's faithfulness and provision for me for this internship. He put the desire on my heart, opened the doors to make it possible, and has provided financially to make it a reality. If the Lord has used you to support me financially or through prayer, I just want to tell you how thankful I am. There aren't words to adequately describe how beautiful your generosity is. I love that God chooses to use my brothers and sisters in Christ (some whom I've never even met) to provide for His plans for me. I've seen some of my friends and family give so generously and sacrificially that it could only point back to their deep love for Jesus. It reminds me of John 13:35 when Jesus says, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another". Thanks for loving Jesus, loving His kingdom, and loving me through your support. I would genuinely love to be praying for you and your family, so please leave a comment or email knmckinney91@aol.com to let me know if you have a prayer request. 


Here are ways you can continue to pray for me as I'm preparing to leave: 
*That I wouldn't worry about my family at home but that I would enjoy being in Genoa
*That the Lord would teach me about His character 
*That I wouldn't feel apathetic towards God or people 
*That I wouldn't be anxious about anything 
*That I would remember the joy of my salvation
*For my relationships with the other team members and the other intern, June
*For our ministry, that it would be fruitful and multiply 


Thanks for partnering with me in this. It's my joy to be able to serve the Lord with all of you wonderful people. For more info on the Team that I'll be joining you can check out their website at teamitalyone.org

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Summer Internship with Avant Ministries!

         
  I'm so excited to announce that I will be spending six weeks this summer interning in beautiful Genoa, Italy with Avant Ministries from May 29th to July 17th! The mission of Avant Ministries is “to glorify God by helping others enjoy His presence through planting and developing new churches in the unreached areas of the world.” I will be working alongside the missionaries there to plant a church to bring the hope of Jesus to the city of Genoa!


Since coming to college, God has set my heart on fire for Him. I know that God has called me to vocational ministry after college and this internship is another opportunity to prepare me for serving the Lord in the future. Two years ago I went on a trip called “Greek Summit” where I was equipped with ministry tools to reach my sorority and I was able to go back to school and lead a Bible study for my sisters. Last summer I interned with Marian Jordan and Redeemed Girl Ministries and wrote a handbook to teach sorority girls how to start bible studies in their chapters.  All of these experiences have been vital in preparation for my future serving in ministry.  It's awesome, because God put church planting on my heart last semester, but I had know idea what He would do with it and now I have the opportunity to experience it first hand in another country! 

I am so excited about this opportunity to intern with Avant and experience life abroad. First and foremost, please pray for me as I follow God’s calling for me to be equipped and led by Him in all that He puts before me this summer.  Secondly, would you or your family consider sponsoring me financially? No amount is too little. I need to raise $5000 by May 15th to cover my travel, food, and housing in Italy while I serve with Avant.

Thank you for prayerfully considering partnering with me this summer as I take the grace and love of Jesus to the people of Genoa. If you choose to financially support me, you may donate online, just visit www.avantministries.org/giving-options.html, just write my name in the donation details. I will be using this blog to update my friends and family about the trip throughout the summer, so sign up for email updates if you're interested. Please call me at 803-528-1367 if you have any questions. I really appreciate your support! 




Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Redeemed Girl Institute Flashback!


I’m sitting on the sundeck of the Alpha Chi house soaking up some springtime rays and can’t help but wish I could be back on the beaches of Destin. Last summer as a part of my internship with Redeemed Girl Ministries I had the chance to attend the first ever Redeemed Girl Institute in Destin, Florida! It was by far the best week of my summer. I made new friends with college aged women from all over the country that share a common love for Jesus. We spent the week diving deep into Scripture with teaching from wise women like Marian Jordan, Leigh Kohler, and Millie Welsh. I’ve got my notebook out, just looking over some notes from the week and I’m in awe at everything that I learned. I think I’m going to take the next week to look over a page of notes each day.   

Each day had three teaching sessions. Two in the morning, beach time in the afternoon, and one at night with a worship session lead by the beautiful, Jourdan Johnson.
The teaching lessons all started with the theme “A Redeemed Girl”….
  • Is an Oak of Righteousness (Isaiah 61)
  • Knows Her Redeemer (We looked at old testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled about the coming Messiah…. So cool!)
  • Renews Her Mind
  • Is a Christ Like Friend (characteristics of a godly friend)
  • Knows Her New Identity (Who you are is determined by WHOSE you are)
  • Sits at Jesus’ Feet (spending time with God)
  • Honors Her Father and Mother
  • Is Filled with the Spirit
  • Hopes in God
  • Takes Up Her Sword (resisting temptation)
  • PRAYS
  • Changes Her Wardrobe (be clothed in righteousness)
  • Waits for God’s Best
  • Walks by Faith
  • Leaves a Legacy (how to have an eternal mindset)
  • Shares the Gospel  


Last year I was a condo leader, so I was responsible for leading small group time with the other 10 girls in my condo and it was such a blessing. We were all so diverse in our interests and where we came from but Jesus brought us together. I became especially close to one girl, Hannah, which reminds me I need to give her a call to catch up! I got to watch God do some serious healing in her heart over that week and I watched her find joy and peace in the presence of the Lord. It was a great experience to say the least. I’m not sure what my summer plans are yet but I’m definitely going to make sure that RGI is included in them! I can’t wait to go back and meet new friends and hug some old ones! 

If you’re reading this and want more details on the Redeemed Girl Institute or have  any questions about my experience please just ask! Check out redeemedgirl.org/institute or the RGI Facebook page for more pics! 




You can also check out my blog that I wrote about what I learned while I was at the Redeemed Girl Institute: The Most Important Question You'll Ever Answer



Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Reminiscing with Girl's Night Out Pictures!


Good news! I finally got the pictures of the Girl's Night Out event from last semester! You can read about the amazing things God did that night on another post, here.




As you can see above, the room was packed out with about 550 college women wanting to know more about God! We're going to have to find a bigger venue for next years event!


 Marian came and spoke about her first book, Sex and the City Uncovered, which uncovers the lie that satisfaction can be found in sex, relationships, and materialism. Marian then shared the truth that only a relationship with Jesus Christ can satisfy the deepest needs of our heart. Praise the Lord, 105 women indicated that they began a relationship with Jesus that night!



The night started off with a hilarious game- the most awkward date stories! The winner received a gift certificate to get her nails done. Hopefully it made her awkward date experience worth it.








Afterwards, Marian signed books and took pictures with all of these lovely ladies! 



Many hugs were given and many prayers were prayed!



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I just love this picture! Rebecca, on the right, was my sweet roommate and fellow intern when I was in Texas working for Redeemed Girl Ministries last summer. The girl on the left is my amazing friend Blake! Blake shared her testimony of God's loving redemption in her life. So many girls' hearts were affected by hearing Blake's story and I'm so grateful for her! Marian Jordan, is the founder of RGM, you can check out the website at redeemedgirlministries.org! I'm so thankful for the amazing things God did last semester, especially through the Girl's Night Out event!

I also want to give a shout out to our wonderful photographer, Ella Salley! She's so talented. Thanks for the great pictures, Ella!!