Someone Stole My Voice

My throat looks like Rudolph’s nose and swollen, my sinuses are protesting loudly like hammering tiny little fists against my skull, and swallowing feels like I am forcing a fist down. I have spent most of the past couple of days in silence and I think I’ve consumed at least a gallon of hot tea a day.

I was supposed to speak Sunday morning but this cold stole my voice and my energy, reducing me to a pile of bones and muscle dragging about the house.

I know it may sound coincidental to some, but not to me. It seems I am always fighting for my voice.

Soft spoken most of the time I often go unheard. When I speak, to my ears, it often sounds loud, slicing the air, and hanging there nervously, but to everyone else it’s just above the din and becomes lost amidst the noise.

Funny how we can perceive things so differently about ourselves than what is true.

As a child I had a song for everything. Grandpa and I would sit in the shade of the pecan trees and sing hymns together. When he was busy I would sit on the swing for hours content in writing my own spontaneous tunes. I proudly stood by him in the choir on Sunday mornings and sang my heart out. Older now and a music lover, I am deeply conscious of my pitchy, wavering voice so I tap out a rhythm instead.

At youth camp a counselor once told me God would use my voice. In middle school someone told me how ridiculous I sounded. Guess who I chose to believe?

Somewhere along the way the enemy stole my voice and the past few years I’ve been fighting to get it back. As a daughter of the King I have things to speak and they will be declared. I have songs to sing and I’m not out to win American Idol anyway.

Someone may have stolen my voice, but I’m taking it back!


I need to raise $1,100 a month for the next 12 months to continue doing what God is calling me to do. You can be instrumental in helping change the lives of university students in Ukraine. If you would like to support my work there, please click here for more information.

Some Things Never Change

Time taught us it was safer to go ahead and separate ourselves, together we would certainly find trouble. We filled our plates to overflowing and sat to enjoy home-cooked goodness with the span of two tables keeping us apart.

I gazed down the length of the tables and smiled. She stuck out her tongue. Being mature and sweet, as always, I returned the gesture and then yelled, “Mooooommm!! Becca is picking on me again.”

I’m certain Becca rolled her eyes. I was always the tattler.

To my dismay mom’s answer wasn’t what I wanted to hear this time.

“Tough! You are an adult now. You can handle it.”

So began Thanksgiving night with the Smith family. I laughed until I cried, ate until I needed to be rolled out, and then chased the kids (and found myself quite sore the next morning).

It was a night to be remembered that ended with enough camera flashes that you would have thought the paparazzi had arrived… and in a few weeks we get to do it all over again!


A Look Back

One by one over the course of an evening and morning I hugged the 51 people who had become my family. When the time came I boarded my final flight of the year and headed home after eleven months circumnavigating the globe, living in community and seeing God’s kingdom come to earth. Tears rolled down my face as I walked through the terminal to my plane, a small turbo-prop with the smallest rows I had seen in my life. For the first time in almost a year I was alone, even to my dismay assigned to the one seat row.

A year ago. Really?

A lot has happened in a year for someone who expected to come home and “settle down a bit”. I miss my World Race family immensely: the laughter, the accountability, the chaos and the challenges.

Below are the links to some of my favorite posts from last year (and looking through them now I realize just how many stories I didn’t write about…) :

Hands of the Faithful” – Talgo, a faithful prayer warrior, and how God used me to speak to her.

Cambodian Cuisine” -  The best and worst of my food fun in Cambodia.

Abundant Butterflies” – The beautiful winged creatures abound in Thailand but there is also another “butterfly” that brings destruction and pain on these streets.

The Lighter Side: Sleeping in Paradise” – An early morning surprise that bid me to arise.

My Little Joy” – A precious little boy I would take home in an instant!

I Have Fallen in Love” – The country that stole my heart.

Sometimes 2009 seems like a dream and it some ways it was… a dream realized. For everyone who supported in any way (prayer, financially, words of encouragement, kicks in the butt) THANK YOU! God used me to reach people around the world but He also used it to awaken other dreams in my own life.

Why Should I? Why Should You?

Rising unemployment, the pressures of holiday wish lists, unaffordable health insurance and let’s not forget airport security. It seems our list of issues to be upset over, stressed out about and annoyed with are never ending.

Little girl from tent city
Photo by me, Edited by Kim Daniels

In light of these and others we quickly throw thankfulness out the window, consumed instead with fear, anger, worry and stress. Why should I be thankful? Why should you?Count me as, admittedly, the number one offender of being unthankful.

Then I started remembering people I’ve met around the world, conditions millions live in daily, and the joy they have. This spring working in Haiti after the earthquake I met countless Haitian Christians who had lost their families, their homes and yet they praised God. Less than two months before the one year anniversary of one of the deadliest recorded natural disasters, Haitians struggle daily to obtain clean water, food, shelter and much needed medical assistance.

Selfishly it reminds me to be thankful the abundance that I have. However I am also thankful for the time I was able to spend with my joyful, resilient, amazing Haitian brothers and sisters this spring. I am thankful for people like my World Race teammate, Teri Gunnink, who is serving as a school principal in Haiti and is following a God given dream to serve the orphans of Haiti. I am thankful for organizations like Adventures in Missions that not only send missionaries to assist, but have a broader vision and are connecting churches in America with churches in Haiti to bring spiritual and physical support.


I’m no longer in Haiti but am fluttering by to Ukraine to volunteer with university students. I need to raise $1,150 a month for the next 12 months. If you would like to support my ministry there, please click here for more information.

Memory Lane Opens at Lunch

First grade was a long time ago for me (even longer for some of you!). Those were the days when I was a young, proud Coopers bulldog, attending school in the same building as my parents and grandparents. I still remember the noisy radiators, the mural on the cafeteria wall and the day I was tackled on the playground with a kiss that I neither asked for nor wanted.

So imagine my surprise when walking into Western Sizzlin for lunch I see my first grade teacher, Ms. Strickland. She looks the same as twenty years ago just with (in her words) “a few more wrinkles.” It was also nice to discover that two decades later she remembers me. Not to brag but back then I was adorably cute, never in trouble and always two steps ahead in my work.

I found out during our brief chat that she retired in 2008 after teaching at Coopers Elementary School for 30 years. She was always one of my favorites and it was so nice to give a hug and have a few moments.

Sitting down to resume lunch I began to name all of my teachers from my years at Coopers and took an extended trip down memory lane (dragging mom and dad with me).  I find it funny the things I remember from childhood, especially when I consider that last week is already lost to my memory.

I had a lot of tough, inspiring, always saw the best in me teachers over the years. I’m so thankful for them.

A couple of days past 29

29 by Pablo Zarate
Graphic by Pablo Zarate

It is hard to believe that Tuesday marked the beginning of the end of my twenties. Part of me bemoans this reality, ducking quickly down aisles to avoid previous classmate encounters that will inevitably produce questioning about my present state of singleness and lack of financial security. Let’s face it single and support raising is NOT what I pictured in my mind a decade ago.

Bemoaning aside, 29 is looking to possibly be the most interesting, craziest, and fulfilling ride of my life thus far for several reasons:

  • The only child in me gets to indulge in board game and card games on a weekly basis.
  • Learning Russian… and trying to pull it off with my southern accent.
  • Babushkas (grandmas) always make life interesting.
  • Random guys, usually drunk, hitting on me in a language I don’t yet speak and possibly with an albino rat perched upon a shoulder.
  • Finally getting to participate in winter activities (if the shock from the initial blast of cold air doesn’t kill me first).
  • Learning to be a leader.
  • Hot tea and cookies is an everyday event
  • Chocolate that is so much better than here in the States
  • Spending an entire year hanging out with university students and building relationships!

Yes… 29 is guaranteed to be a wild, wonderful year.

But I need your help (and honestly I selfishly want you along for the journey). You have no idea how encouraging your comments are, how essential you are to others coming to know Christ, how needed your prayers are, and then there is the simple fact that you speak the same language I do and most likely come from my culture and therefore may understand me just a bit.

I have my ticket back and am waiting on my invitation letter for my visa, but I still need to raise $1,150 a month to cover all the expenses of life for the coming year.

Fun fact: If 38 people committed to giving $29 a month for the next 12 months my budget would be covered for 2011.

Of course any support of any size is welcomed and appreciated greatly. Please consider supporting me either with a one time gift or monthly. Click here for more info.

A Place to Call Home

One of the most rewarding aspects of last year’s journey around the world was connecting with other Spirit led ministries that are daily being the hands and feet of Jesus and seeing lives changed.

This certainly describes one of my favorite ministries of the year Michaels Childrens Village (MCV) in Mbonisweni (Back Door), South Africa. I wholeheartedly agree with their vision of setting up homes for the orphans of this nation.

While I was there we labored day and night to transform the homes into cozy, inviting safe havens for the children that would be moving in. Below is a recent video update of ministry at MCV. It is so encouraging to hear and see how God continues to work in South Africa.

Thank you for helping change the lives of these and so many around the world.

Things I Would Love

1. For this post to show up via feedburner into my hotmail account

2. To be teleported to NC instead of driving

3. Sleep… a nice 8 hours with no waking to go to the bathroom, no muscle spasms and no one trying to kill me off in my dreams

Autumn Ramblings

A glimpse into the past few month since I helped with Training Camp…

H Squad at Stirred Conference Photo by Casey Wells

Stirred Conference in Gainesville, GA. A refreshing weekend of worship and being with my AIM family. I was surprised to see many people that I love dearly, including some of my H squad family and my roommate from Haiti. Most surprising of all was seeing my dear mom and dad Hillebrand who drove down from Indianapolis. Worship was led by Jonathan David and Melissa Helser and was phenomenal as always. I suggest checking them out if you have never heard them. I respect them a great deal and love their heart for God and His Kingdom coming.


 Photo by Sean Williamson


My dear friend, Vicki Welch, celebrated her birthday during the same weekend as the conference and I drove to my home in Auburn, GA to be part of the celebration. Vicki and her family will be moving to Tanzania next August as missionaries with EITanzania. We had a big sleepover, played Imagine If (which I’m horrible at) and watched Fried Green Tomatoes (though I bailed somewhere in the middle for sleep). I was reminded once more how much I love my Ekklesia community.   (I also thought if I put any photos I managed to sneak from the party that I may get jumped … you can all thank me later).



Jeff and Alycea Hylton



A Little Alpaca Love



I spent the next week with Jeff and Alycea Hylton and their wonderful family.The Hylton’s are precious and have such a heart for their home being a retreat for people. It is a home filled with peace, love and laughter and I know God is going to use them in a lot of people’s lives (and already has). They are doing some renovations to add on to their haven, please keep this process in your prayers.


The Adventures of Hillebrand and Pridge



Very concerned for our safety



One of my best friends from the World Race, Kim Hillebrand,  just finished squad leading and flew in for the week. It was a great time filled with lots of laughter, deep discussions, movie watching, prayer and entertaining the kids. Of course Chick-fil-a and Swedish Fish were also a part of the week, as well as a Target run. It is kind of hard knowing it will be at least a year before I get another Kim hug. . . but we aren’t talking about that fact.


Amazing Chicken Salad Sandwich

Leaving Gainesville, I popped into Riverside Church where I worked as an Office Admin. It was great seeing the staff, whom I miss greatly, even though I don’t miss answering the phone and scheduling appointments. Kay, Melanie and I enjoyed a great lunch and time of catching up in Athens at a place called Marti’s at Midday. My first time there, but definitely a place I’d go again. You should check it out… the chicken salad sandwich was WONDERFUL!



I also had the chance to sit down and visit with my former professor, slave driver and friend Jennifer Benson in the Communications Department at Emmanuel College. Seems I won the Comm Dept. Alumni Award this spring, but I was in Haiti and unable to attend. They were gracious enough to accept my reason for absence.


Now I am in Royston for a few days, back at my home there with Mary Beth and enjoying the Roystonian breakfast. In a few days I will be traveling to North Carolina and will be there through Thanksgiving (well that’s the plan for now, but we know how my plans function these days).