Week 21-25: the God Who calls –

It has been 6 months. Half a year. 25 weeks. 176 days. 18.7.19 SVCF campus-8

It has been 25 full weeks. 25 full weeks in China. 

6 months, mountaintops and valleys.
6 months: joy and sorrow, tears and laughter, hello’s and goodbye’s.
6 months building deep relationships and earning the trust of 56 Chinese orphans.

Tomorrow I get on a plane and fly the 16 hours home and I find myself constantly in tears. Today I whispered over Shi Wenli “how will I ever leave you? how could I ever leave any of you?” and yet I’m going back to my house in my land where I grew up.

Yes, I want to take them all in my suitcase. It breaks me that I’ll be away from them.
It breaks me that they know how to do goodbyes so well. It breaks me that they know someone they loved walked away from them for various reasons. It breaks me that they don’t all have families who will never walk away from them. It breaks me that I’m leaving. 
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The way things change….

The first month I was here, I thought I couldn’t do it. I cried more days than not. I questioned every decision I thought led me here and thought “What in the world did you just do??” 2 weeks later, I was bouncing around in the back of a Shepherd’s Field van on the floor giggling and thinking “I never want to leave.” How quickly things change. 

Month 3 or 4 I had a conversation with my boss and friend in a taxi on the way back from WalMart that went along the lines of “If I wanted to extend my stay, could I?” It was a definite yes. I knew I had the means to do it if I watched my funds, and I absolutely wanted to! I cried a little bit talking about why, and she got it, she 100% got it. 

I began hemming around decisions my parents asked me “oh, yep, maybe, we’ll see” and didn’t make any plans for the Autumn. I looked at changing my flights so many times, and I talked with many friends about staying. Most of all, I prayed deeply that the God Who called me here would make it plain to me if I should stay.
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Not my will but Yours….

What followed was 2 straight months of debilitating sickness that rendered me a shadow of the person who bounced around campus singing and hugging the kids. Not all of them were life threatening, but some were pretty darn close. Breathing is important to life! 

What has become made very clear is that although I longed to live here longer term like so many of my wonderful coworkers did, that China was not life-sustaining for me. 

In fact, it has given my body and my health a serious run for its money, hahaha. 

Not even a trip to Shaanxi was feasible since I only recovered with 3 weeks left in my stay, and so much to do in that time. When I was well I thought “I can do it. I can fight it. I can stay.” and when I was sick, I knew. God would sustain me to make it, but I needed to go home.

God doesn’t call us to ruin ourselves physically to make His will work better. 

His answers come in different ways than I would want, but I know that He knows that it would take something as strong as my health failing to lead me out of China. 18.7.19 SVCF campus-23

The God Who leads us on….

When I got back from Australia with 6 weeks left, I made an “Onward Home” playlist that I have been playing occasionally to remind me of the joy of going home. I was doing pretty well until a few days ago when it all hit me, and the deeper agony of “see you later”s is crushing me. I keep texting SF friends “how did you do thiiiiissss?”, and I think the answer is you just love as hard as you always have, take a million selfies, and get on the plane knowing you gave your heart and soul to the children at Shepherd’s Field. 

It SHOULD be bittersweet. It SHOULD be hard to say goodbye, and wonderful to say hello to your family back home. It SHOULD feel like you should be reunited one day because that is how family dreams. “See you again soon” isn’t an empty promise. We mean it.
We mean it because we can’t imagine a life without them anymore. They’ve become our family, they’ve become our siblings, they’ve become impossible to live without. They’ve become children I love deeply and long to see adopted into forever families!

A few weeks ago a friend & coworker asked me how I was processing going home, and I was so thankful to talk with her about it, and I want to share the words I’ve felt deeply for weeks:

God has been faithful to call me to China and is now calling me to come Home. He has shown me that even though some people can live long term in China, I am not one of those people and that is okay. It doesn’t lessen or take away the beauty of the season of these 6 months in China or how God has used me here (thank you Katy for that). It is good that I’m able to go back in joy, knowing that God is perfect in all His ways and perfect in His timing, and my time here has perfectly come up. 18.7.19 SVCF campus-24The God Who calls us continues to call us, continues to lead us, through EVERY SEASON.

…. He is calling me home. 

You take me in, You lead me out…

One of the songs I’ve loved singing while here in China is “Mountain to Valley” and part of it says “You take me in, You lead me out, what a journey walking with You, God.” 

That truth has greatly impacted my realization that God has led me here, and now is leading me home! Seasons don’t have to be permanent nor does one ending lessen my love or commitment or presence. This has been a beautiful and hard season, in a land I love so deeply, and now it is ending, but because all of God’s ways are perfect, it’s the perfect time for it to end. God knows that my prayers and advocating for these kids will go on. 18.7.19 SVCF campus-45My time here in China has cost me deeply. 

It has cost me physically. It has cost me deeply emotionally. It has cost me mentally.
It has cost me blood, sweat, tears, breath and family reunions. It has cost me more than I thought it ever could. It has cost me things I didn’t want to give up. 

And God was in it

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It has been an adventure, and it has been an honor and privilege to get to know these children, to build relationships, to earn trust and to leave knowing I left my whole heart and soul and love and life and on the line for these Chinese orphans who live so vibrantly. It seems impossible that 6 months flew by so so quickly. What an amazing season. I’m SO grateful and thankful to have lived & served here, in the good and the hard. I’m so thankful to have made it to the end without going home, that is such a gift! And I’m deeply thankful to be seeing my family again so very soon. I’m coming back!!!
I really am rather fond of the US of A, and I’ve missed my loved ones sooooo much!!
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I have seen Him. 

I have seen His face in the faces of orphans. I crossed oceans in His name and served for His glorious name, and don’t think I could ever get over all the ways He’s faithfully cared for me, provided for me, answered our deepest life-saving prayers for the kids, and shown Himself through creation and through the world’s “least of these”. 

I have SEEN Him, I have known Him more, and I have deeply trusted Him with my life.
He has been tangibly present, breath-giving, life-sustaining, ever-good, always kind. 

Oh, how His love provides for me! Oh, how His love leads me on in joy!
Oh, how His plans cannot be thwarted, and oh, how He reigns in victory!
His name, which nothing can stand against! His kingdom, which spreads to the nations!
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“Love lead me on, love lead me through, take me back Home, back Home to You. 
Love lead me on, love tried & true.” 

– JM

Continue to keep in touch on my Instagram (on the right in the sidebar), because I’m doing a special introduction project on there about these sweet and precious orphans!

Week 1-3: His Love provides for me

Hello dear friends! 


Well what a ride these first 3 weeks have been, let me tell you. It feels more like 3 years, to be honest. To give you an explanation first off, I’ve been locked out of my e-mail accounts since I got here and only just last week have I tentatively gotten access into one of them, thankfully the one that allows me to blog here!! Seriously SO thankful it was this one, because I was aching to write to you all and share what’s been going on!

Since landing in China 3 weeks and 1 day ago, it has been some of the busiest, most pressurized and hardest 3 weeks of my life, haha. I know some of you have been picking up on that and sending the sweetest messages and hopefully following along on my journey through Instagram! (check out the sweet feed on the right of this page!) There have been so many firsts, including going through my very first earthquake, just a baby 4.3 one, “suddenly, I am on a boat! this is unexpected!”; it’s been a whirlwind of events to put it mildly.

I hit the ground running and have been shooting SO MANY pictures/editing/delivering/running all over campus/memorizing 55 kids’ names and faces!/learning a whole new workplace/schedule/town and not until 6 days ago did I actually do anything normal like laundry or write an e-mail or sit down with no immediate work deadline (oh wait, that was today). For all my photographer friends: it was like shooting a wedding and delivering it in one week instead of 3 months. HAhahaha. SO CRAZY, to say the least! Holiday weeks are busy times here, especially Chinese New Year festivities! The work load is heavy but Kingdom-filled, and I’m grateful to be needed even though it’s a lot!

A quick art picture with my parka on and laundry strapped to my back. (2.17.18)27993603_10215614947710043_2178580867688122792_oI landed in China expecting an immediate emotional connection of “I’m Home”, and although so many things here are the same, so many more seem different. I didn’t immediately FEEL “Home” for the first time in China, and wow, it tripped me up so badly. For the first few weeks, I vaulted from “this is so amazing here!” to “what on earth have you done, moving to another country for 6 months, you are CRAZY.” hahaha. Oh my.

According to a fellow American friend I met here who also lives in China, this….is normal. But I didn’t know it was normal. So I spent a lot of time freaking out. (surprise, surprise) China is really big (again. shocker), so if you think Shaanxi is Alabama, and Hebei is New York, (both 13.5 hours from each other) add in the different cultures, food, landscapes, (not to mention people and my China kids) then you’ll have a better perspective of how thrown off I was to arrive here when I was expecting B-City.

And not until my dear friend Martha showed up VERY unexpectedly for a visit (the very best gift ever for all time), and I physically walked China’s lands with her again, and introduced her to some of the kids here and watched her love them did it actually feel as if this could be Home too. What I came to realize through many conversations about not comparing the two places is that God did an amazing work in B-City, and will do an amazing one here too. It doesn’t lessen the beauty or the emotional connection or the way B-City will always feel like Home to me. I was called here to Shepherd’s Field for an important reason, and I know Who called me, and I will wait to see and know how He will use me here. 20180209-DSC_4470A few days ago I sat holding the hand of one of SFCV’S little China warriors who hasn’t been feeling well, and as I was praying for her healing and singing over her, I was compelled to write this down. I had just turned on “I Am Not Alone” by Kari Jobe, a song that has carried me through loneliness and loss, and as I sang along, I wrote this: “I am not alone. You will go before me, You will never leave me. The Jesus Who called me back to China and made a way for me across the seas is the same Jesus Who will walk with me every day into every room. He will continue to pour out His love through me because I go in His name. I am not alone.” 20180209-DSC_4518The SFCV staff and all the people here have been so welcoming, honest and kind. The walls in the Inn are covered with Scripture and encouragement and stories and I don’t think I’ll get it all read in 6 months, but there is so much here that is full of beauty, even in winter, even in loneliness, even in trials, even in fears, there is beauty here.

There are sparrows that remind me that God sees me, there are magpies being raucous, reminding me of Colorado and to laugh, there are strong winds that rustle the bamboo to remind me we are not alone, and there is a greenhouse that feels like instant Florida when you step inside it. There is hot water, warm rooms at night!, and comfy beds to snuggle into. Children’s laughter rings out here and you only need to step into a house to be accosted by hugs and smiles. The sweet ayi’s laughter floats up to my room every morning as they get off shift and greet the day. And best of all: Spring is coming. 20180214-DSC_4991It has been hard here, not because this is a hard place, but perhaps because I threw myself headlong into this work in China and didn’t consider fully how much the Enemy does not like me being here. My friend Edwina said “talk about confirmation that you’re where God has called you to be!” which is by far the best perspective I could ask for.

Because it’s been one thing after another, non-stop. My prayer warriors have been getting hit up, day by day. My parents overloaded with texts. From e-mails to health issues to realizing “oh hey, everyone at SF isn’t just like you and that’s good and you all have to work together at your different jobs” which everyone probably realizes at some point in this kind of work and hey, JM, you’re in it.

I’ve also just discovered there’s someone here on staff who DOES like hugs, so she will be getting ALL my stored up hugs from now on. 😉 So guess what? China is nothing like Florida. More than you even knew.20180212-DSC_4747So in the midst of these trials, I did what I’ve learned to do, I cried out for rescue to my sovereign God and yes, I’m here to tell you: He was there, and He provided for me. Every step of the way, every day, every hard thing, every trial, every tired moment, He was beside me, He was behind me, He was before me, He was there, and His love provided for me. In more beautiful, astounding, tangible, needs-met ways than there are spaces here to say. The God I trust will not fail me nor will He ever fail me. He is my Jehovah Jireh, the God Who provides, and His love for me will take care of me all the days of my life. It’s a promise that will not end, and wow, it’s a powerful one.

Power is something I’ve been hearing 24/7 since I arrived in China; I’ll tell you how. Fireworks by day, fireworks by night. Gunpowder popping and exploding constantly. A nice little worship walk, it’s so peaceful out here…..*explosions 15 feet away and I can’t hear anything for the next 10 minutes, it’s fine*. “Chinese New Year”, I’ve said hundreds of times while rolling my eyes and sometimes pulling the pillow over my head at 2am. I love fireworks at night, even after 3 weeks of it, I still look up with a little smile on my face (it’s an everlasting wonder why). 20180215-DSC_5601You realize Who is the powerful one when all you feel is weak and needy. It’s not you, it’s the One Who hung the planets in space and who created everything from nothing. And that powerful Gospel love that God gives His people and gave me a China love and a love for orphans is the same love that fills these people working here. It burns inside me, in every room, for every child. It’s a powerful, explosive, cannot-be-contained love, and I want to be pouring out more of it every day, since more and more every day I am humbled at my little human love, spent so easily and quickly. I need Jesus love. I need long-term, showing up when it’s hard and continuing to spill out when I want to hold in-love.20180215-DSC_5706

Jesus, how I need you. 

28162303_10215596576690779_6184502002032579738_o6 days ago, I wrote these words: “God loves beauty and even on the really hard days, He is still giving us good things. I was so encouraged by these verses this morning, especially that line “He will not forsake His saints.” He will not allow us to fall, He upholds us by His righteous right hand, our steps do not slip because we are kept by Him.”

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For WITH YOU is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. Oh, continue Your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart!” – Psalm 36:5-10

“I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsake or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and His children become a blessing. For the Lord loves justice; He will not forsake His saints.” – Psalm 37:25-26, 28

He has not. He will not. Though my little place in China feels like I’ve moved to the dark side of the moon some days, there is a light here, all day, every day, and it won’t go out. It won’t flicker, it won’t fail, it won’t dim and it cannot be extinguished by famine or drought, neither harmed from arrows by day or terror by night. It will always burn, a comfort for us, steadfast, never changing, never failing, never losing ground, never covered up, never put out. It is fueled by a powerful victory that can never be undone.

For it is He. He is the Light of the World, and He is calling us to be at Home in Him. Abide. Dwell. At Peace. “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.” – Psalm 46:5

Oh, how His love provides for me. 20180215-DSC_5622– JM

12 Days Until China

It was back in December when I was at the “Behold the Lamb” Andrew Peterson concert (my favorite) when I heard Andrew speaking about God being glorified in us when we are weak and using us in great ways when we rely on Him for our strength to do mighty things. I remember being moved, even to tears. I remember typing it into my phone.

That was early December. This is January 19th. It didn’t hit me until yesterday as I was hurtling down the highway what that meant in the here and now. I immediately pulled out my phone and recorded a voice memo to keep the words clear, but it didn’t feel great.

It’s all very disappointing, really. 

I might not ever be good at Wanderlusting.

Hold onto your hats. I’m starting this off with incorrect grammar. I know Wanderlusting isn’t a word.

“Wow, you’re moving to China? That’s amazing! You’re getting to see the world!” I’ve been hearing it for months, and yeah, I get shivers of joy and excitement every single time. But until I wake up actually IN CHINA, there’s been a mountain load of preparation to do, and guess what, ladies and gentlemen: IT’S BEEN HARD and NOT AT ALL PEACEFUL.

I’d watched all the travel tip videos from “Hey Nadine” on YouTube, I’d ordered things on Amazon Prime that made no sense to anyone unless you were headed into Asia (a smog mask? yes, I’ll take one of those, oh and also some lovely outlet adapters, and don’t forget 6 bottles of hand sanitizer). I made lists and re-read all my China info and started seriously studying Mandarin. I’d studied hiking pictures for months looking for the perfect hiking clothes & boots, I freaked out over the cold and bought boxes of fleece and leggings and yet more fleece. (yes, I’m a Floridian moving to a province just a hop, skip, and a jump from Inner Mongolia, also known as the sub arctic. This should go well.)

I ordered boxes of shoes and jeans and a several parkas amid a peaceful time I like to call PARKAGATE where I actually FaceTimed a best friend AT MIDNIGHT to influence my choices and talk me out of my chaos and show her some problematic pockets right after I tripped on Parka #4 on my floor. I was literally swimming in parkas. “There are so many parkas in here, it could be the Parks and Rec department!” 

What I didn’t take into full account when I started all this is that traveling out of the country for 2-3 weeks is NOT the same as moving to another country for 6 months.

You’d THINK that would have been clear …………………………………… it wasn’t, Janet

There hit a moment when I texted a friend who is going to SFCV and arriving the same day as I am this nice calm message: “I’ve realized all those YouTubers that say how easy it is to move to another country are FULL OF LIES.” I was like: “I’m going to be one of those wanderlust bloggers who zips away with no cares!”


Take the opposite of that, add in a lot of emotional crying, 2am wake ups to worry, piles of fleece and uncertainty, huge stress, endless “I AM CRAZY.” moments and you get me.

China, the World that is not like mine.

I love China. From the minute I sobbed out some goodbyes and cried for 2 hours flying back to some semblance of North America, I mourned ever leaving. Going back is one of the most thrilling and peaceful things I can think of. She’s like a home I haven’t known long. Which is odd, because she is nothing like mine.

I wrote out a list (all in Caps Lock at the time, because I feel things very passionately) that I thought might help people understand why a completely organized and independent  American woman might feel a bit thrown off if she’s also the poster child against change:

List of Things I’m Changing:

1. Changing Churches 2. Changing Jobs 3. Changing Bosses 4. Changing Countries
5. Changing Languages 6. Changing Currency 7. Changing Holidays 8. Changing phones and texting 9. Changing Freedom & Rules 10. Changing Cultures 11. Changing Clothes and Climates 12. Changing time zones 13. Changing transportation 14. Changing availability to be present 15. Changing lives 16. Changing all familiar for the unknown.

It’s enough to make one dizzy. Or you know, an emotional wreck. It’s been stress and chaos, anxiety and tears and days so full I get excited about a 15 minute break to stare at the blue sky. It hasn’t been peaceful and it hasn’t been easy. There’s just been SO much to get done and not a lot of time to do it. As I speak, I stare at a bed full of things I need to have packed in 11 days, and it feels overwhelming, and I don’t know how I’ll do it all.

Wanderlust, make room for weakness.

Wow, even that header looks like disappointment.

The most common question I get when talking about China is “Why?”. To be fair, it’s a valid question. Why would I leave my perfect, calm, privileged, American, well-ordered yet impulsive life with my own company and dream job, surrounded by great friends and all my family and a wonderful church to a country I can’t speak the language and only know a few people in?

The answer is: because God is calling me, and I’d give up all of this to follow that call. 

Yet this has NOT been an easy transition for me. I assumed this 2nd trip to China would be identical in stress and preparation (with more packing) to the first trip. It is not. 

My first trip to China was just a few short weeks, and although there were tearful goodbyes, and yes, I left my parents with “See You in Heaven” letters plus my formal written will and funeral plans (just in case my plane was shot down), I knew I’d be probably be back home soon. But this time, I’m leaving everything and everyone for 6 months. You don’t have to tell me that a lot can happen in 6 months (or 6 days). I’ve probably even thought of it already during my 2am wake up calls from 1-800-Insomnia-You-Are-The-Worst. 

It’s surprised me how much this hasn’t been easy for me and how much I haven’t measured up to my own traveler stereotype of “travel the world, buy the ticket and go!”.

It’s surprised me how much I didn’t like that I wasn’t immediately good at packing up my entire life and moving it to another country for half a year. (insert eye roll) I didn’t like how much I felt like I wasn’t being enough, doing enough, and how I was failing all the strong women who had gone before me. I remember crying one night out of sheer stress and saying “All I want is to pack everything into one go-bag like Liz Bacon or The Archibald Project and just BE THERE!”

I didn’t like that I didn’t project the perfect image, and I didn’t like that I knew it. 
I didn’t like that my weakness was on display instead of my own strength.

Yesterday? Barreling down the highway? I thought of that time Andrew Peterson talked about God’s greatness in our weakness, and I thought about how my weakness HAD been on display (private or public!) but how I’d missed the opportunity to praise Him for making me weak and openly relying on Him for my power instead of being so dang frustrated that I wasn’t God Almighty.

The High Road means nothing if Jesus Isn’t on it.

Our American culture tells us to be strong all the dang time, so I guess I’m not surprised that we’ve equated public bravery with greater worth than a humble “I’m not the One who should be glorified right now.” Honestly even typing up this article feels a little bitter and a little like loss, a little like you’ll know more about me when you see that perfect picture of me standing on a Chinese street and think “Wow, she’s really in China.”.

Thank God that Jesus is in the business of calling us to serve and build His kingdom instead of our own. 

Even though I’d tried so hard to be the perfect traveler with no cares or worries, I’d simply pack it all into one bag, zip away to travel and never be sick!  Oh, and hike the Great Wall like you’ve been working out and have angels’ wings lifting up the soles of your brand new tennis shoes that fit you perfectly (these don’t exist. I’ve looked)! Even though I’d tried so hard to be so strong when emotionally and mentally I was just DONE, God had a bigger purpose in allowing me to realize my weakness, and I’m so glad He did.

Why would we choose frustration and that impossible Wanderlust image and loneliness when we could have Jesus and all His comfort that He will be who we cannot be? That He will teach us and guide us in all the ways that we fail? And that He will USE our proclaimed weakness to make us strong in Him, and bring him glory?

The choice is easy when you remember that when He calls us to lay it down, He doesn’t need us to pick any of it back up again. His burden is light upon us, and His care for us runs deeper and longer and wider; He will not leave us or forsake us when we are weak.

We can rest and sleep and walk an uncertain road for the next half a year and all the rest of our years knowing that our Sovereign God is working it all out for our good, and we don’t need to look good while doing it, we just need to point to the King worth praising.

The part where I wrap it all up because it’s 2am.

There are two things that drove this all home to me in the past 48 hours:

The first is this paragraph from my “Hope When It Hurts” devotional by Wetherell & Walton: “There is only one God of all comfort, and He does not sleep in your house or park next to you outside your church. He is Jesus. We cannot find true and lasting comfort in anyone but Him, and when He is all we have left to turn to, we discover He should have been the first one we turned to. By removing the earthly comfort of those around us, the Lord moves us in one of two directions: toward a deeper intimacy with our Savior, or toward the unveiling of an unrepentant heart – one which ultimately desires comfort more than Christ. So if you feel alone in your suffering, thank God that He loves you enough to allow this time in your life to draw you nearer to Him.” 

and the second is this from Melanie Shankle’s newest book “Church of the Small Things”: “God has a script written for each and every one of us, no matter who we are or what we’ve done or how ill-equipped for the adventure we feel. 

We are all climbing our own versions of Mount Everest and have no idea if our oxygen will last or if an avalanche will come, but God does. We can never underestimate the grace and the strength He will give us for whatever He is calling us to do and whatever challenges we’ll face. What He has planned for us is higher and deeper than anything we could ever hope to achieve on our own. 

It’s too much. It’s too much for us to do in our own strength because we will mess it up, but He knows that and uses us anyway. It’s never about creating or doing or being something that’s perfect. It’s not about having all the right answers. It’s about being His. It’s knowing that He who has called us is faithful. 

I’ve always loved this verse: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17). Notice how clear it is that we’re NOT the ones who are supposed to hold everything together? God is holding it all. He is before it all. He uses the sinners and the weak and the ordinary things that this world views as broken and hopeless. But in Him all those things come together and enable us to do things we never dreamed possible.” 

Do things we never dreamed possible, indeed.

“But He (God) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

This week I found my rest in the reminder that the Sovereign God Who is calling me back to China doesn’t need my own strength, instead He delights in me resting in His.

And so I gratefully lay down my wanderlust hat, tie on my non-angelic shoes, strap on my 25lb gear backpack, and walk humbly and gratefully onto my China bound plane in just 12 days. He doesn’t call me to look like Instagram, He calls me to look like Jesus.

China, I’m coming, and I can’t wait to love on you.