Writing Myself Out Of The Story // Asia 2018

Sometimes I write out of necessity, other times it’s out of a desire to get better at what I do. Most often though, it’s out of a need to come to terms with my heart – the realities of life, the fears I face, my hope for the future… all the intangibles that I often keep locked away.

If you read my last blog, “Finding My Way Again” you will remember that back in April (Yes way too much time has passed since I last wrote all of you) that I went to Thailand and volunteered with an incredible ministry, Life Impact International. They work to rescue children out of slavery and prostitution and prevent others from ever entering that world. They give these children a place to call home and hope in Jesus Christ. They are literally rescuing children and training them to take the Gospel of Jesus back into the world. It was during this trip that God opened my eyes and reminded me that even though it might appear as though I was counted out, that He wasn’t finished with me yet.

When faith meets FEAR.

To be completely honest, coming to volunteer with Life Impact scared me. My initial call with their founder went well – too well. We talked about the things I could do… how I had led multiple short-term team mission trips and also loved media/graphic design. She told me about how her team of missionaries and staff had literally been praying for me – someone with my exact gifting and talents and how they could have used me as early as “yesterday”. This news terrified me. What if I looked like the answer to their prayers and ended up being nothing more than a huge disappointment? I couldn’t bear the thought. I had disappointed more than my fair share of people in life and I wasn’t about to add to that list. Even though I had self-imposed reservations, I booked my ticket, packed my bags and went to Thailand. And I had five glorious weeks that changed my life. (You can read more about that trip in my previous blog.)

Before I returned to the states, I got the opportunity to have tea with the founder, Lana Vasquez and simply dream together about the future and what that could look like. We talked about the possibility of me becoming a more permanent member of their team, in the days to come. No date was set and nothing was written in stone, but we both dreamed big about what this could be, how it would work and when it would happen. All of that, we placed in God’s hands, trusting that as always, He would bring things about in His perfect timing.

And with that, I packed my bags again, flew out the next day and headed home. I was filled with hope for the adventure that I knew was just over the horizon. From the moment my feet left Asia, I started praying. Not praying for God’s will to be done – which would have been good on my part… but rather earnestly and sincerely begging God to bring things into alignment. I wanted this – more than I had wanted anything in a long time.

The months seemed to drag by at an unbearably slow pace and yet at the same time, they seemed to go by with such rapid speed that I couldn’t accomplish all that I needed to. That may not make much sense, but it was my reality nonetheless. Finally, it happened, roughly four months later, I was on a phone call discussing all the details with Lana. This was the moment where it was all becoming a reality. In just a few more weeks, I would officially be a member of the Life Impact International team.

When You Question Everything.

And here is the part of this story where I should be able to say that “all the pieces finally aligned” and “all my dreams came true” … and they did, but amidst the fruition of my dreams, was this overwhelming fear (I didn’t recognize it for what it was, but it was definitely fear). I spent many nights awake, beyond my normal late hours – trying to reassure myself that this was God’s plan. After all, the pieces fit so perfectly, that only God could have made this happen, right? And even though I was literally walking into a fairytale of all that I had hoped for, I still struggled. Unable to piece together what was wrong, my heart was heavy. This heaviness was tangible and because it felt so real, I persuaded myself that maybe I had missed God. What other explanation was there? This opportunity may have seemed perfect, but once again, I had messed up. And to make things worse, my worst fear was becoming a reality. If I walked away, I would be letting Lana and the others down. I would be disappointing even more people in my life. Fear was taking me out of the game before I even stepped up to the plate.

There it was. FEAR. Disruptive. Overwhelming. Unexplainable. FEAR. I was afraid of disappointing others and in that fear, I almost wrote myself out the next chapter that God had so perfectly written for my life.

Exactly Where I Am Supposed To Be.

Thankfully, God knew. He knows how crazy I can be. He knows how I overanalyze everything and undervalue myself. And yet He never gives up on me. He had people praying and thankfully my eyes were opened to the real problem. Once I could see the fear for what it was, I could deal with it. I could face it. And I did.

I have now been in Thailand for a little over seven weeks (excluding my five-day trip to the Philippines) and I’m amazed daily at how God is bringing about my heart’s desires, carefully crafting each day to challenge and stretch me and bring me more joy than I could imagine. I’m so unexplainably thankful that He didn’t give up on me and grateful for those who prayed for me, some not knowing why they were praying. I’m here, smack dab in the middle of exactly where I am supposed to be. The adventure has only just begun, but each new day brings forth the possibility of far more than I could have ever hoped for.

Moral of the story – FEAR can ruin the best of things but only if we let it. Fear has no more power in our lives than we allow it to have.

2 Timothy 1:7 The Passion Translation

For God will never give you the spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit who gives you mighty power, love, and self-control.

(I have so much more to write about including miracles – all that God has prepared for me and the incredible things I’ve gotten to take part in… but it’s too much for one blog. I promise to write more and share all that has happened. Please be patient though and I promise to include you in all the excitement.)

Jamie Lynn Sivak Signature

 

 

 

Finding My Way Again. // Asia 2018

Those of you who follow my blog have probably noticed my absence the past few months. I tried to come back to writing, I really did. To be completely honest though, this past year has been one of the hardest I’ve gone through personally. Growing up is never easy, even if you’re already supposed to be a “grown-up”. People we love can hurt us. Plans can change. We often disappoint others and fail ourselves. Lets just say a lot of that happened this past year.

I’ve always wanted to get things “right”. The voice of perfectionism speaks to me daily, often overshadowing the voice of God.

I’ve spent so many years beating myself up when things go wrong and expecting myself to always get it right. Mistakes are not an option. Bad choices aren’t allowed. Oh I talk a good game about “not being perfect” and “accepting myself” but the truth is that most days I’m striving for an unrealistic and unattainable goal that should drive most people completely bonkers…

Goals come in all shapes and sizes – mine was a size 6.

Picture the photo shopped beauty queen, size 6, with flawless skin who looks perfect in every shot. Mix that with the “Christian” who always serves, never loses their temper and can quote the Bible on command… now add to those goals the fact that I’ve graduated from not one, but TWO bible colleges and have been in full time ministry for nearly a decade – two things that can produce high expectations from people – so on top of feeling like I need to look perfect and be perfect, I also need to produce results.

I just recently stepped away from a full time position at an incredible ministry (which I believed and still believe I was supposed to do) – one that produced great results; millions of people coming to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and seeing thousands of people healed all around the world. I loved what they do – I still do for that matter. They were and still are absolutely amazing. If we’re being completely honest though, I felt like the world was watching to see if I would fall off course and settle in to my comfortable life in America or keep going forward with missions work overseas. I’m sure 98% of it was in my own head (placed there by satan) but regardless; I felt the pressure to produce. And when the last mission trip I had planned was finished, the feeling of failure began to creep in once again.

I told myself (and others) that I was taking a few months off to rest and catch up – after all, I had been in Asia for 9 weeks last summer. I had earned a little break, I thought. At least that’s what I told everyone. It was a better answer than “No I have no idea where I am going next. I have no idea what I’m doing. Did I miss God? Did I make a mistake? What am I doing with my life? What is God doing with my life?” Those were the thoughts that would bombard me anytime someone would ask, “So Jamie, when are you leaving and where are you going next?”

The first few months were hard. And each passing month got harder. I wasn’t finished with missions, but I didn’t have answers either. I didn’t know what was next. And although I’m sure God wasn’t silent, that stupid voice of perfectionism was getting louder every day. As it grew louder, my hope and joy began to fade away. And I just didn’t seem to hear anything from God.

When hope seems lost.

I reached an all time low, crying my eyes out while yelling at God that I couldn’t understand why He had brought me to this place in my life. He knew me after all. He created me. He knew how miserable I would be where I was. He was the one who called me to missions. I actually asked God if that was what he wanted? For me to be miserable… I know, I’m ashamed of myself, but I’ve forgiven myself and thankfully, so has He. I didn’t get the answers I wanted that night, but the stubbornness in me refused to quit. So I dragged myself out of bed the next day and did what I had to do. And the day after that, I did the same. I kept praying – trying to figure out what was next. I still had no answers.

Finally I sat down and told God that there were three things I had on my heart that I felt I was supposed to do this year in ministry. I was going to write them down and take steps forward, until He told me something else. At this point, I calmed down a bit and simply asked Him to show me if the things on my heart were wrong, to tell me and I would go after what He wanted. And through a series of events and the course of just a few days, I received confirmation on all three of the things I had written down! I’ll share more about some of that later. For now though, I want to focus on one of the bigger items on my list, returning to Asia.

There is an incredible ministry in Asia, Life Impact International, that I have known about (through a friend) for several years now. They work to rescue children out of slavery and prostitution and prevent others from ever entering that world. They give these children a place to call home and hope in Jesus Christ. They are literally rescuing children and training them to take the Gospel of Jesus back into the world. I knew the work they were doing was important and had always wanted to experience it first hand. And even though I am certain I don’t deserve it, God opened the door for me to take part.

I came with the intent to fill a need or several needs, if possible.

I came to serve, not to be served.

I thought these kids needed me.

What I didn’t know was just how much I needed them.

It wasn’t a part of the original plan, but I was asked to join a small team from the ministry that would go into a neighboring nation and take the 28 rescued children they had there, on a trip. I agreed. I was actually thrilled for the chance to go spend so much time with these kids.

We arrived late Monday afternoon and headed to the “Boy’s Home” where we would first encounter the rescued boys – 13 to be exact and later the rescued girls. There were 15 of them. We spent a few hours together with introductions and packing for the trip ahead. My introduction was hilarious since I had managed to lose my voice the day before. Nothing like whispering your name to a room full of kids and then having it translated… It was bad enough I couldn’t speak their language, now I couldn’t really speak mine either. We hadn’t even started and I felt like already I was failing them.

As we got on the large bus the ministry had rented, the funniest thing happened. I was practically dragged into a seat with the cutest little girl I’ve ever seen. We’ll call her “Niah”. Now at this point, I’m sick. I have a cough that makes me sound like a chain smoker, no voice and I’m hot and sweaty. Nothing about me screams “she looks like fun, I should have her sit with me”. Yet Niah wanted me by her side. She didn’t know me. She couldn’t speak to me, but she wanted me there with her for the next six-hour bus ride. This little girl slept on my lap, drooled on my shoulder and shared her blanket with me. She didn’t know me, but I was enough.

Every day thereafter, Niah was glued to my side. When a chair was open next to me at the breakfast table, she was right there. We learned from God’s word together and worshipped together. As we took the children to the beach, she was always the first to grab my hand and insist we walk together (although by the end of the week others had followed her lead – I didn’t have enough hands for all the kids). We couldn’t communicate with words, but her laughter and never-ending smiles said it all.

Daily we chased waves, as she tirelessly collected her seashells – valued treasure to her and yet she gave the majority away to others (myself included). I can truly say I have never seen a child with so much unending joy. Not temporal happiness that comes from getting the new toy you’ve been waiting months for or even the happiness that comes from experiencing Disney World for the first time, but real joy… a true joy that only comes from being rescued, from knowing the unending love of a Savior. The truth is, I don’t know all of Niah’s story, what she went through and how she got here today and maybe I don’t want to. I’m told her beginning was a rough one, although you would never guess it.

This amazing little girl took one look at me and that was enough. She didn’t care about my muffin top; smile lines on my face, or whether I could quote any of the Bible. She didn’t care if this was my first or 51st missions trip. She simply took me at face value, The same way Jesus does. I was perfectly imperfect and that was more than enough.

The trip came and went faster than I would have liked, but I can assure you that I’ll be back to see Niah again. I can’t help but learn from this little girl. Niah reminded me of why I started missions work in the first place. She was exactly what I needed and I suppose this “not size 6” “imperfect Christian” was exactly what she needed too.

Jamie Lynn Sivak Signature

Miracles & Memories // Stories From Abroad: CAMBODIA ’17 – Part 4

Well, I have officially been ministering in Thailand for over 3 weeks now… and have just now found time to catch you all up on what happened during the main week of ministry in Cambodia. Its definitely a late update, but you know what they say – “Better late, than never.”

And So It Begins.

The first day of ministry with Global Ventures started like you would expect, bright and early… like “6:55am breakfast meeting” early… I have never really been what you would call, “a morning person” so this particular aspect of ministry has been a struggle for me. Praise God there is was overabundance of coffee in the city of Phnom Penh. Seriously.

Even though I prefer to start my day a little later, I was just as excited as the other team members for what I knew was coming, as we headed out to minister in schools and village communities across the Takeo Province. 5 days of ministry were ahead of us and were guaranteed to provide incredible encounters with people who had never experienced the one true and living God.

As a GV team leader, I had the honor of leading an amazing group of people – who would eventually become “un Mexicano”, “Deux Québécois”, “three Americans”, and a “Soytry” (“Soytry” being the name of our translator). This all came from our teams hysterical moments where my French speaking team members (Karl and Christine) tried to teach me French… Let me tell you, it was not a pretty sight. And then my American girls (Emily, Courtney and Hannah) were perfecting, Mario’s English accent and he would help their Spanish… Then Soytry would help us all with our Khmer. Needless to say, we were a very culturally diverse team – and I would regularly have to count to make sure everyone was with me before we would leave, thus the multilingual counting – “un Mexicano”, Deux Québécois, three Americans, and a “Soytry”.

Rise Up And Walk.

My team headed out for day one and what would be an incredible day of ministry. One of my favorite encounters happened when we were sharing the Gospel in a tiny village community. As we were ministering on healing, a lady came up to us and asked to come to her home nearby and share with her husband who was sick in bed.  As we wandered into this tiny home, we found Cheam Him, a sweet man who had been practically bed-ridden. For 20 years he had suffered from intense back pain and as a result struggled with being able to walk at all. My team was able to minister to him and truly share the love and power of Jesus Christ. After prayer, Cheam was up and walking without pain by the power of God! It was absolutely incredible.

This amazing story was just one of the many encounters we would see over the next few days.

 

Pictured above, Mario (my team member) is praying for Cheam Him and then helping as he began to walk.

An Unexpected Soccer Game.

One of my favorite memories happened unexpectedly on our third day of ministry. Usually we are on a tight schedule ministering in one school after the next with limited time in between each school. This day, we happened to arrive early at our school. Since the teachers and Director hadn’t arrived yet, but the students had, I got to really interact with the students and simply “have fun”. Karl, and myself found some students who were kicking around a soccer ball. In an attempt to pass the time and just “be” with the kids, we joined in on their fun.

 

Now I’ll be completely honest, it was very clear, very quickly, that I had limited soccer experience and Karl was by far the better of the two of us, but regardless of experience, I had a ridiculous amount of fun with these kids. And the fact that I was literally running around in the afternoon heat of Cambodia, (which I have often likened to what I expect Hell to feel like) and I wasn’t passing out, counted as a major victory in my book – a few years ago, this would not have happened…lol! Needless to say, the students loved it as well and by the time we were doing the actual Gospel presentation, we had already become friends and they quickly and excitedly received the message of Jesus that we shared with them.

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Karl and I, and the boys who taught us a thing or two about how to really play soccer… 

That’s all for today, but tonight – later tonight, I will do my best to finish out my stories from Cambodia so I can begin to share with all of you, all that God has been doing in Thailand – believe me, it is worth waiting for!

Jamie Lynn Sivak Signature

IF YOU MISSED PART 1 – EXPLORATION & CHANCE ENCOUNTERS PART 2 – MINISTRY MOVEMENTS & MIGHTY MEN, OR PART 3 – OF SKIRTS & SALVATION, BE SURE TO CHECK THEM OUT!

For more info, check out Global Ventures.

© 2017 JAMIE LYNN SIVAK ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

All Good Things Must Come To An End // Stories From Abroad: PARAGUAY ’17 – Part 4

The days that followed were everything I expected and nothing at all like I expected, if that’s even possible. I knew, having served with Peter before, that we were certain to get the Gospel in the hearts of those who truly needed it. And so we did.

The next four days led our small team into a different village each day. The villages brought new faces and more hearts unknowingly waiting for the Gospel we carried. I was so challenged by each new face and the need represented. It was inspiring to watch Peter, Pastor Sergio and Pastor Cipriano, as they worked among the Guarani. You could tell that their hearts were divinely connected, in a passionate pursuit of these people, a passion that could only come from the very heart of God.

(Here Peter is passionately proclaiming the Gospel in the tribal language Guarani and then he and Pastor Sergio lead another one of the Guarani communities in the prayer of salvation.)

Her Name Was Diana…

On my 2nd day of ministry, I found myself in a new village with more precious people. This day was different; more challenging. I can’t really give a good reason why. Perhaps, it was the heat that seemed to engulf us as the sun beat down. The refreshing breeze we had enjoyed on day one, was nowhere to be found and the trees providing shade were very few. The little shade we did have was a valuable commodity – one that we gave to the people who had gathered with us.

As the meal for everyone was prepared, myself, Emily and Joanna spent time connecting with the people and loving on the children. When along came a dirty faced, messy haired, little girl with one of the sweetest smiles you can imagine… She was all over the place, chasing other kids and just doing what kids do – she was completely rambunctious to say the least.

At first she smiled but kept a safe distance. Before long, she made her way closer and closer, and the connection began. 

She smiled and I smiled and it was all down hill from there or uphill, depending on how you look at it. We didn’t speak the same language so communication was very difficult, but as Diana literally began to climb my leg like a tree trunk, I got the hint that this little girl wanted to be held. So I held her. Off and on all afternoon, Diana was either at my side or in my arms.

What did she want? Simply to be held. To be loved. To feel special.

I love how the Gospel gives to each of us what we truly need – LOVE. Diana was a little girl who needed love. I got to be part of not only showing her love as a compassionate human being, but we got to give her the true love of Jesus Christ.

diana

(Me and Diana – sharing some smiles for the camera.)

Three Times The Gospel: English, Spanish & Guarani…

 On our fourth ministry day, we found ourselves ministering to a community near a local school. It was at this site, that I was given the honor of preaching the Gospel. The only problem, I don’t speak Guarani – and my Spanish is definitely not what it should be… God had a way around that – Praise Him! As I stood before the crowd that had gathered, I began to share the simple story of Jesus. As I shared in English, Peter would then translate my words into Spanish, from there, Pastor Cipriano would translate Peter’s words into Guarani. It seems a bit extreme, but it worked! The people were captivated in hearing the English language and even though they couldn’t understand, they wanted to know what was being said, so they stayed and they listened. Through Peter and Pastor Cipriano’s translations, the people not only heard, but also were able to receive.

Not only did we pray for people to receive salvation, but we prayed for healing as well. One of the people that came up was a woman who had suffered with a terrible headache. She had received Jesus into her heart and was completely healed of her headache! We later came to find out that this woman was the village Chief’s wife. What a powerful testimony she now has among her people!

three-translations

(Here we are sharing the Gospel in English, Spanish and Guarani.)

Each day gave our team the opportunity to make new friends – and get a few more selfies.

All Good Things Must Come To An End…

And just like every time before it, I came into this nation, blinked, and the ministry time was over. Fortunately for me, I had a little time left to spend with the Ratcliffe family.

During the little time I had left, I was so indescribably blessed to get to simply be with this amazing family. We laughed and cried. We talked, and talked, and talked some more. We shared our hearts; our hopes, our dream, the trials and challenges and together we looked forward to the journey ahead, as we all were, and are, continuing to simply walk out the plan of God.

Evi, the girls and little Joseph, took me hiking up the mini-mountain off the back of their land. We trudged through the forest and made our way to a clearing at the top. Here they shared with me of times they had come there as a family to simply be with Jesus. They sang praises that day and I got to share in another precious time with some amazing people.

joseph

(Here’s little Joseph as we were singing to Jesus. Isn’t he the cutest thing ever?!)

I even got to spend time with the Ratcliffe girls, simply having fun. They loved to play games and be read to. And I loved getting to fill the “big sister” role to such amazing little angels.

ratcliffe-girls

(Peter and Evi sure know how to make adorable children.)

After an incredible time in Paraguay, I found myself saying goodbye too soon. Hugs were given, cheeks were kissed, and promises were made that this would not be the last time I would step foot in Paraguay.

From there, Peter, Joy and Joseph drove me back to the airport. We talked and laughed along the way, soaking up the precious moments that remained. Then came the final farewell. Peter had dropped me off to go start the check in process, (Joy came with me and Joseph went with Peter to park the car). I was standing in line as Joseph came running up to Joy and me. “Not that one!” He said, pointing to the black ball cap I had worn off and one throughout the whole trip. “This one!” he said, handing me a bright pink Paraguay cap. He was so adorable, how could I possibly resist?! I immediately removed the black cap and replaced it with the priceless gift little Joseph had brought me. It was a little gesture from such a little guy, but he totally stole my heart… and all it took was a new hat.

Who knew? My love could totally be bought…lol! What can I say… gifts have always been my love language. 😉

pink-hat-joseph   (Joseph and my beloved pink cap.)

**Funny side story, I placed this cap in my backpack while going through security. Afterwards, I headed to the restroom and opened up my backpack to get out my cap and put it back on. And I couldn’t find it. I searched and searched and immediately started freaking out on the inside. I retraced my steps and did my best to communicate in broken Spanish that I may have left my cap at security – no luck. At this point I was crushed but there really wasn’t much more I could do. So I went to my gate, sat down and opened my backpack one more time… too my surprise, there it was! I almost cried – seriously. **

Although we avoided it as long as possible, the time came for final hugs. And with that I was headed home. So much had happened during this trip – way more than time will afford me to blog about and to be honest, a lot of it was things that God was speaking to me directly, things I’m not ready to share with everyone… yet.

I will return to Paraguay. It may not happen as quickly as I would like, but mark my words, my adventures with the Ratcliffes have only just begun!

paraguay-sunset

With that, I’ll leave you with this beautiful sunset taken before I left Paraguay.

 

IF YOU MISSED PART 1 – THE ARRIVAL, PART 2 – THE JOURNEY CONTINUES, OR PART 3 – WHERE FOOD & FORGIVENESS COLLIDE, BE SURE TO CHECK THEM OUT!

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© 2017 JAMIE LYNN SIVAK ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

When Food & Forgiveness Collide // Stories From Abroad: PARAGUAY ’17 – Part 3

Sorry for the long absence, but these past few weeks have been jam packed with working two jobs and getting ready for my next adventure in Asia. I leave in just a few short weeks, so there has been a lot to do.

Before I head out again though, there’s still a bit more to my story in Paraguay.

PICKING UP WHERE WE LEFT OFF…

The next morning we rose with the sun. We gathered in Pastor Cipriano’s living room area for a quick breakfast and then the work began. We reloaded the SUV with the supplies for our first outreach, climbed on in, and we were off. Today would be the farthest we would travel from home base. With roughly 3 hours of dirt-road travel ahead, we had plenty of time for me to interrogate everyone and find out as much as I could about the country, the culture and the ministry that was about to take place.

As we journeyed onward, Peter and Pastor Cipriano shared with me about the Indigenous of Paraguay. Many people have said that the Indigenous are a “hard people, very difficult to get close to, and almost impossible to successfully preach to”. They explained to me that some people even still refer to the Indigenous as ‘Animals’, seeing them as inferior and having little value.

Pastor Cipriano was different though. He saw these people and saw their need, the need for the Gospel. The Indigenous, a people who were overlooked and even forgotten by most, were at the forefront of his heart.

Pastor Cipriano had diligently gone in to several of the Indigenous communities as a forerunner to the Gospel, building relationships and essentially opening the doors that were once closed to foreigners, so that our team could come in and bring the good news of Jesus Christ. And today, we would do just that.

TWO PLACES AT ONCE:

As we were traveling, Peter and Pastor Cipriano mentioned how close we were to the Brazil border and that at one point, the road would actually briefly take us through Brazil. So of course, drawing from a previous experience where I stood with one foot in Nepal and one foot in India, I figured we should repeat history – this time, one foot in Paraguay and one foot in Brazil. So we did – and it was quite epic, at least I felt epic.

(Here I am standing in two places at once.)

Screen shot 2017-05-06 at 11.28.57 AM

WHERE FOOD AND FORGIVENESS COLLIDE.

Ministry this week would come through huge meals, known to locals as the Karu Guasu. Peter explained to me that the Karu Guasu was “traditionally the time when the Indigenous tribes would gather together in order to put right any disagreement between tribes or families; a time of reconciliation! Every now and again, they would share a big meal together and make things right.”

How perfect! We are taking in a message of the ultimate forgiveness and reconciliation and sharing it through a meal that throughout their history has symbolized reconciliation for their tribes.

Peter shared this in his own blog and I feel it sums things up perfectly.

“This is a coming together of the indigenous culture and the gospel to facilitate a natural and then spiritual time of reconciliation. It is totally aligned with their culture and a wide open door to proclaim the eternal reconciliation from heaven through Jesus Christ!  In my view, what Pastor Cipriano does is brilliant, ingenious and a wonderful combination of physical and spiritual ministry.’

THE FIRST COMMUNITY.

As we arrived at the first community, there were people already gathered. And while you could sense a bit of curiosity, the people seemed to be keeping a cautious distance. That didn’t stop us though. We unloaded supplies and gathered some of the woman of the community to begin preparing the meal. There were tons of veggies to chop and lots of chicken to be prepared. Once everything was ready, it was all thrown together in a large pot and placed on an open fire.

As the food cooked, Joana, Emily and I, set out to break the ice and build some relationships with the children. We made a plethora of balloon dogs, swords and hats. We learned their names and did the best we could to make them feel special.

As the cooking was almost finished, Peter, Pastor Sergio and Pastor Cipriano gathered the community to sit beneath a large tree. Pastor Cipriano would take time to share the brief history and purpose behind a Karu Guasu (mostly for the children). Then they shared the Gospel, simply proclaimed what Jesus had done for us all and what they could do to receive the free gift of salvation. And just like that, we had new brothers and sisters added to the kingdom of God.

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After the simple message of salvation was shared and we prayed with those who wanted to receive, we shared about healing and prayed for those who were sick.

One of the most incredible things that happened during all of this, was that the Chief of this village/community, gave his life to Christ! And after doing so, was completely set free from the headache he had suffered from for a long time. This may seem like a small miracle, but the potential impact is massive. The Chief, the leader of this community, acknowledged his need for a Savior. He is ultimately the leader of his people and influences each of their lives. He has essentially become a catalyst for change among his community!

The Gospel is such a powerful force for change. And I have no doubt as Peter and his local team return for future follow up, we’ll truly begin to see these lives transformed!

(Pictured below is Peter praying for the Chief.)

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After the conclusion of prayer, the meal was served. The entire community ate together, the same way that you and I, might sit down to Sunday dinner with our families. It was a beautiful sight!

As things were wrapping up, we distributed some clothing that had been donated from a church (where Peter lives) along with fishing hooks and fishing line. Why? Because the need among these communities is great. And anything that can be done to help, is worth it.

Day one was a complete success in my books. I was honored to take part in helping Peter’s team and anxious to start the next day. Only partly anxious though – I know how these trips go, you blink and they’re over. So as anxious as I was to get to the next community, I didn’t want things to go by too fast.

***BE SURE TO CHECK BACK OVER THE NEXT TWO WEEKS AS I CONTINUE TO PUT PEN TO PAPER, SO TO SPEAK, TO FINISH OUT THE STORIES OF MY ADVENTURES IN PARAGUAY. I PROMISE, YOU WON’T REGRET IT! 
IF YOU MISSED PART 1 – THE ARRIVAL, OR PART 2 – THE JOURNEY CONTINUES, BE SURE TO CHECK THEM OUT!

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© 2017 JAMIE LYNN SIVAK ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Journey Continues // Stories From Abroad: PARAGUAY ’17 – Part 2

My first night in Paraguay was spent in The Casita, a two-room guest cottage that doubled as a schoolhouse for the Ratcliffe children. I was both humbled and honored to stay in this beautiful place, especially knowing that the Ratcliffe family, which consists of Peter & Evi, along with their six kids, were staying just a short distance away in their two-bedroom home. You heard me right… eight Ratcliffes, and two bedrooms.

Grace For The Space.

My first thought upon seeing their home was how warm and inviting it was. Then I learned this amazing family managed in a two-bedroom house with one bath. My next thought – Dear Lord Jesus! How is that possible?! I couldn’t share a bathroom with my two brothers growing up and I always had my own bedroom. Currently, I live in a three-bedroom house… by myself. Okay, not completely alone – I do share my space with two huge dogs, but still. To say that I struggled with feelings of guilt is an understatement.

Pictured above (left) is the entrance to The Casita and (right) is the view from my bed – it was absolutely gorgeous and unexplainably peaceful.

What amazed me though was that they never complained. Not once. The five oldest kids (two boys and three girls, age two to seventeen) share one room and baby Naomi, sleeps along with her parents in the other. And they all make it work. How is that possible, you’re probably asking? The conclusion I have come to, is that when God calls you somewhere, He ALWAYS gives the grace needed to fulfill His work.

One of the things that I feel truly sets this family apart from others, is that they believe – each of them, that God called them to the nation of Paraguay. These kids weren’t forced to give up their lives in Oklahoma because their parents were “called”. They were “called” right alongside them. It’s undeniably evident in the sacrifices these children willingly made and continue to make daily so that the people of Paraguay can come to know Jesus.

I wish that I could give an account of their story, the epic journey of one family’s unyielding faith and God’s unending faithfulness, that brought them to Paraguay nearly three years ago. That will have to wait for another day, and for me to persuade Peter that their story truly should be written and published for all to read.

And We’re Off!

I woke early the next day and joined the Ratcliffe kids for a quick breakfast before we finished loading everything for our journey to the Indigenous. Our vehicle of choice, the 22-year-old Toyota Land Cruiser. Okay, this was the only option. This baby had seen a few miles in her life. And although she was still trekking on, she was definitely moving at a much slower pace than she probably traveled in her prime. Her AC had long since quit and the engine had a few minor issues, but she got us where we needed to go.

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Pictured above, Old Faithful – it really is time to let her rest.

Insert PRAYER REQUEST here:

In all seriousness, this family really needs a newer vehicle to enable them to continue the work they are doing. If you believe in prayer, please pray and believe with us for God to provide the vehicle needed. – Thanks!

**And if God speaks to your heart about financially helping with the purchase of their next vehicle, please send me an email to jamielynnsivak@gmail.com and I can send you more information about getting a donation to them directly.**

Back To The Story…

Our first stop was to pick up some of our team, Pastor Sergio and his 25-year-old daughter, Joana. After a “quick” three-hour lunch, (what can I say, Pastors know how to talk…lol) we made our way to purchase the needed supplies for the first three of our outreaches.

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Here we are waiting to check out with our four shopping carts full of supplies. Left to Right: Pastor Sergio, Joanna, Emily and me. Peter was taking our picture.

Then we were on the road again. We traveled for hours. I lost track of time, but can say that we easily drove for 4-5 hours. The sun had long since gone down as the paved roads ended and we began winding through the seemingly endless dirt roads. After some time, we finally arrived at what would be our base camp for the next three nights, the home of our main contact and the heart behind the outreaches, Pastor Cipriano.

Here we were in the middle of the jungle in the black of night. Okay, this may not actually be classified as “jungle” terrain, but that’s what if felt like… Pastor Cipriano led me, Emily, (Peter’s oldest daughter) and Joana, to the room we would share for the next few nights. When they opened the door, the bugs that had congregated at the entrance to welcome us, overwhelmed me. Let’s be honest – I cringed a little. Not so much at the accommodations, but all the creepy-crawly things that wanted to join me. I was thankful though for electricity and running water. Things could be worse after all, I could be in a tent with the bugs and have no electricity or water.

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Above is my room/bed at Pastor Cipriano’s.

After a series of introductions and a late meal, I gave in to the exhaustion from all of our travel and found my way to my bed. It was hot and humid, but I was still in American mode and determined that no mosquitoes would feast on me that night. So I doused myself in deet and wrapped myself in a bed sheet – head to toe. After about two minutes, I was dripping in sweat and my missionary mode kicked in. “Forget this!” I thought, as I threw back the sheet and decided to trust God to not allow my body to become a buffet for the mosquitoes. It was late and tomorrow would be a busy day. With that, I closed my eyes and drifted off into a deep sleep… I had no idea what tomorrow would bring, but whatever it was, I was going to be ready.

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Here I am with Pastor Cipriano. As usual, I tower above the locals…
***BE SURE TO CHECK BACK OVER THE NEXT FEW WEEKS AS I CONTINUE TO PUT PEN TO PAPER, SO TO SPEAK, TO SHARE ABOUT THE DAYS THAT FOLLOWED. I PROMISE, YOU WON’T REGRET IT! 
If you missed Part 1 – The Arrival, be sure to check it out!
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© 2017 JAMIE LYNN SIVAK ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Arrival // Stories From Abroad: PARAGUAY ’17 – Part 1

It’s been a while since my last post and a lot has happened. In the time I was away, I did a few small things like traveling southward a wee bit. My travels took me all the way to Paraguay where I had the amazing opportunity to partner with some of the greatest missionaries in the world. No, I don’t know all missionaries in the world and therefore my opinion might be a bit unjustified, but trust me on this one.

Where Faith and “Crazy” Collide:

On February 15th, my dear friends, Peter and Evi sent me a message. This is what it said:

“Hi Jamie! Blessings!! Evi and I have you on our heart! We wanted to invite you to come visit us next month… does that sound crazy?”

Of course it sounds crazy I thought! You want me there next month!? Sometimes I’m very practical and other times I throw caution to the wind and go for it. On February 16th, after a little bit of prayer and a lot of reckless abandon, I sent the following message:

“Okay so…. drum roll please…. I’m gonna come to Paraguay!!”

I know. As I’m writing this, I wish my reply had been slightly more epic or poetic or something, but that’s all I’ve got. And with that, I set my heart and faith on getting to Paraguay and I had just 1 month to see God make it happen.

My goal: raise $4,200.00.

$2,200 – airfare, visa, travel, insurance, housing and food

$2,000 – expenses for outreaches to five indigenous communities

Exceeded Expectations:

Now, I have seen money come in over the years and I have learned that no matter where I start at, God is ALWAYS faithful to bring in whatever is needed to accomplish His plan. And this time would be no different.

After two weeks, I contacted my church. They had received some donations on my behalf over the past few months and were holding those until I needed them. I had no idea how much money they had for me. The initial discussion indicated around $2,000. I was overjoyed as this would cover almost all of my expenses and then we would just need to see about $2,000 more come in for the outreaches.

Then the check was delivered. I opened it expecting $2,000 and was blown away to see the check was not for $2,000, but for $3,700!! Almost the full amount needed for the trip and outreaches! I can’t begin to describe my joy at seeing God’s faithfulness! I totally expected it, but I definitely had a few nights spent telling God that I didn’t know how, but I knew He would. And He did! What’s even more powerful is that the donations received at my church were monthly to a certain degree and the check was made out for donations from September – January. I didn’t even know I was going to Paraguay until February and the money that was needed was already within my reach. God had met my need before I knew about it.

Now I still needed roughly $400 and before I knew it that money was in my hands. In the course of five days, I received donations to cover the entire trip and outreaches and then the money kept coming. I received $800 above and beyond the cost of everything!! I’m so thankful that I serve a God who not only provides, but exceeds my expectations EVERY TIME! (The extra funds will go towards my summer trip to Asia – which is a huge help in paying that off!)

Insert mini-sermon here:

GOD IS ALWAYS FAITHFUL. It may come down to the wire from time to time and it may look absolutely impossible, but that I believe, is where God does some of His best work. If you’re standing in faith and holding out for God to work a miracle in your life, keep standing. He’s working, and in His way, He’s going to do something that exceeds your expectations and gives Him all the glory.

Long, Okay “Short” Awaited Arrival:

After 4 weeks of planning, (what can I say, sometimes spontaneous trips are the best) 3 flights and roughly 20 hours of travel, I finally set foot in Asuncion, Paraguay on March 17th. I was greeted by the familiar British accent of my dear friend, Peter Ratcliffe and his precious little 7 year-old auburn-haired angel, Rebecca. I hadn’t  seen the Ratcliffes in nearly 3+ years and in this moment it felt as though no time had passed at all. I love how true friendships can withstand time and distance. I was overjoyed to see these two, but couldn’t wait to get to their house where I could wrap my arms around Peter’s beloved wife and my dear friend, Evi, as well as their other children. This reunion was long overdue!

After loading all of my luggage and suitcases full of gifts for the Ratcliffes, we were off on the two-hour drive from Asuncion (the capital) to Sapucai and the Casa de Ratcliffe or what I would soon discover was named the “Cottage of My Dreams”.

As we traveled with windows rolled down, (because the a/c doesn’t work) Peter and Rebecca brought me up to speed on the overview of what they were doing in Paraguay and what I could expect in the outreaches we had planned for the next week. Before I knew it, we pulled up to this quaint little casa set in a tropical paradise. Luscious fruit trees surrounded us and the smell of gorgeous flowers welcomed me in. And this paradise could never truly belong to the Ratcliffes if there weren’t at least a few animals roaming around. Chickens, hamsters and parrots were easily spotted along with “Simba” the kitten, “Smokey” the puppy and two beautiful horses who found their place among the Ratcliffe family.

Finally, I stepped out of the car and flung myself into the arms of each of the remaining Ratcliffes; Emily, Joy, Daniel and then my precious Evi! I can’t really describe the feeling – but it was sort of like finding something you value but didn’t even realize was missing. Then came little Joseph. He was born in Paraguay and so I hadn’t had the privilege of meeting him yet. And boy was it a privilege. He is by far the cutest thing I have ever seen, but more about him later. Then I met little baby Naomi the most recent addition to the family.

And with that, I found myself surrounded by people I truly cherished and while I really had no idea what was in store for the next 10 days, I knew in my heart I was exactly where I needed to be.

Pictured above:

First picture is me with the Ratcliffe ladies (all except baby Naomi). Left to right is Emily, Evi, me, Rebecca and Joy.

Second picture is Rebecca and Joy introducing me to their hamsters.

***Be sure to check back over the next few weeks as I put pen to paper, so to speak, to share about the days that followed my arrival to Paraguay. I promise, you won’t regret it!

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© 2017 JAMIE LYNN SIVAK ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

PhotoBlog: Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

March 2, 1904

The day that Dr. Seuss was born.

In honor of one of my all time favorite authors and the fact that today would have been his 113th birthday, I decided to find a creative way to say “Happy Birthday!” I hope you enjoy the results.

Dr. Seuss, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!

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“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

– Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

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This one isn’t as crisp as I would like, but sometimes the best moments aren’t perfect.

I love that he looks like he’s actually curious about the story.

Of course the SLEEP BOOK will make you a little sleepy.

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Dr. Seuss, Oh The Thinks You Can Think!

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Can we read them all?

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This ones my favorite.

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When a good book is coming to an end and you just can’t handle it.

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“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

– Dr. Seuss

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I hope you enjoyed celebrating Dr. Seuss as much as we did!

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PhotoBlog: The Camera, The Catlin and The Wardrobe

If you know anything about me, you know that I love photography. I don’t like to call myself a photographer though because that implies that I actually know what I’m doing. Let’s be honest here – I don’t. I shoot for fun and sometime I capture a moment that I find inspiring or simply beautiful. Every once in a while, I get crazy and try and make some photo magic happen. Recently I wrote a blog about one of my favorite book series, The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. After the writing was complete I decided I needed to do a photo shoot to come up with a feature photo to use on the blog. 

So I did what all good artists do, (at least thats what I tell myself) I pulled inspiration from real life and convinced my 8 year old niece that she should be a part of this magical adventure into the Wardrobe. She happily agreed – on one condition. She got to take some pictures of me. Seemed like a fair trade.

A little bit of hair and make-up and we were off to capture the spirit of Narnia. Okay, maybe just the Wardrobe portion. Narnia will have to wait for another day.

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You have to have the perfect shoes.

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And that smile. She can be such a little monster but that smile has a way of making up for it.

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And then there are those freckles.

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Add a little bit of sparkle.

 

And lots of laughter.

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A little dash of excitement.

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One hardcore “wookie shirt” as she called it…

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And eventually you find yourself stepping out of Narnia.

All of it happened so quickly. There’s a certain magic in these moments though. The kind of magic that will live on, beyond the days of youth and innocence, beyond Narnia.

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© 2017 JAMIE LYNN SIVAK ALL RIGHTS RESERVED