“God uses your giftings in ways you could never expect.  We are not given a blueprint for our lives, rather Biblical purposes to live out.” – Matthew Elofson

       How often in life are you given a choice?  If we truly sat and thought about the daily choices we make we could all become quickly overwhelmed.  One of the most overwhelming choices for me in my APU journey came at the end of my sophomore year when I decided to switch my major.  In that process I had a professor step into my life and guide me.  Little did I know that this professor would have an integral role in the rest of my college journey!

       This insightful, truth-seeking professor is Matt Elofson.  He has pushed me to be the best I could be, helped to shape my understanding of ministry and where God is calling me, he served as my academic advisor, I became his TA, and I was able to go on a life changing study abroad trip that he led to England, Kenya, and France.  Needless to say, he is one of the many professors that have poured into my life in countless ways, and I could not thank him enough. 

       I recently met up with Professor Elofson over lunch and was able to process through new transitions in my life with him.   In our conversation we talked a lot about giftings and how God can use them in so many different ways.  Perhaps you are like me and you have difficulty seeing the things you are good at and gifted in until someone is there, looking you in the eyes, and drawing them out of you.  Or maybe decisions are hard for you, period. 

       In my conversation with Professor Elofson he reminded me of when we went to the grocery store in Nairobi, Kenya.  He asked if I remembered the grocery aisle there, I responded with faint remembrance and he stated that it wasn’t an aisle at all.  There were maybe 4 boxes of cereal.  He mentioned that here if I have a craving for captain crunch and go to the grocery store I can find it.  But upon arriving I might find that I also want cinnamon toast crunch… It is in this moment, he says, that we become paralyzed by choice.

       Perhaps you are at a time in your life where choices are hard and it is difficult to see the Biblical purposes for your life.  I would encourage you to find a Matt Elofson in your life.  Someone that has been down the road before you and can open your eyes to the ways that God shows up through the giftings he has given you.  Then patiently wait.  God will show up in ways you could never expect.    

Blessings on the road ahead,

-Emily S 

There is something really exciting about the sunrise. Waking up early to catch that first light peeking through the window, taking in the crisp morning air. It signifies the beginning of a new day bringing with it new adventures, and new opportunities to grow. With every sunrise there’s newness that we are blessed to experience.

The beginning or the start of something new gives us the chance to explore new places, meet new people, and discover new things about ourselves.  However, for some, the start of something new brings with it feelings of anxiety and fear. Sometimes the change that comes with newness makes us uncomfortable to the point of us feeling that we are no longer ourselves.

I was very excited to see what God had in store for me at APU, but for the first few weeks that excitement was laced with feelings of uncertainty and my fear of disconnection. I quickly found that these fears were erased as I got to know my roommates. As a transfer student, I was placed in University Park 101A, where I was blessed with 3 beautiful roommates. One of these roommates, in a hopes of getting to know me better, or just to fulfill a general education requirement, took Introduction to Philosophy with me (MWF at 7:15AM, crazy right?!). Although neither of us knew it, our living together was God ordained.

Up until this point, I never used the term best friend. Of course I understood the word in theory, but there was no one in my life that held that title. My roommate of one semester became that for me. I’ve heard that the friends you make in college stick with you for life and now I believe that! God has blessed me with someone who understands me, someone who has the ability to encourage me, and someone who knows that hugs are the fastest way to my heart (even though she doesn’t care for them that much).

If you are coming in this fall assigned to random roommates, I understand the feelings of uncertainty that come with the word “random roommate”.  However, I would encourage you to approach your roommate assignment with openness and intentionality. Make time to get to know your roommates, whether that be through Donut Man runs or intentionally signing up for the same class, actively seek out moments to engage each other.

When I was assigned to UP 101A I knew that I would get along with my roommates, but I had no idea I would leave that semester finding my life twin, my best friend, and sister.

My prayer is that if you experience fear or anxiety, it is replaced with acceptance and love. May you be blessed with people who see you, your unique abilities and heart. 

Cheers,

Kierstan H.

Sundays are special in the village of Nkungi. Every Sunday we are invited to attend services at the local Christian church. Not every member of the village attends this church (Christianity only makes up fifty percent of the religion in Tanzania), but there were a great number of people we recognized from our work sites and meeting.

As many of you may have already assumed, there were a few stark differences between Tanzanian church and our American churches:

  1. Language: While many Tanzanians do speak English, the service was in their native Swahili. Since my team and I speak hardly any Swahili, we all brought our bibles and a journal so our time was fruitful despite the barrier.
  2. Worship: A typical American church usually has some type of worship band with the lyrics on a screen so the congregation can sing along. This church did worship much differently. A group of about 20 adult men and women made up the choir that sang and danced in front of the church accompanied by an electronic keyboard and a guitar. Although there weren’t any words on a screen, everyone in the congregation knew the words!
  3. Offering: This was my favorite part of the entire church experience. Every single person in the church goes up to give offering, including each member of my team. There are certain situations where members of the church cannot afford to give to the church, so they leave goods at the offering table. After church is over, these goods are auctioned off outside for other members of the church to buy. This money then goes back to the church. My team and I bought a chicken! I thought it was so beautiful that everyone gave to the church, whether it was money or the best that they had.

Certainly church is quite different in Tanzania than what I’m used to, but different is not synonymous with bad. I thoroughly enjoyed being welcomed into this church and appreciate seeing Christianity within the Tanzanian culture.

That’s all for now, I’ll see you real soon!

-Lucy F

Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to work we go!

There is a great shortage of teachers, not only in the village of Nkungi, but in the entire country of Tanzania. At Nkungi Primary School specifically, the ratio of teachers to students is 1:50. In order to attract teachers, homes will be built to offer as an incentive. If a teacher comes out to the village to work at the school, they will receive free housing. It’s a pretty sweet deal, but the houses need to be built first. That’s where my team and I come in to help!

Honestly, I don’t know anything about building a house. I would assume you would buy bricks from Home Depot and stack them together, but apparently that wasn’t available to us. The primary school paired us up with a Fundi (phoon-dee), which is a master in their trade. Our Fundi was a brick Fundi. He taught us how to mix the cement, dirt, and water together and then how to pound that wet cement into a brick mold. It’s a long process that requires a decent amount of strength to carry out. Thankfully, we had enough people and muscle power on our team to make this process go by a little quicker.

Each bag of cement makes about 30 bricks. In one workday we mixed about four bags of cement… and the process will continue! We’re going to need a lot of bricks to make a house.

I’ll see you real soon!

-Lucy F

The Children’s Feeding Center

If you’ve been keeping up with my posts about APU’s mission team to Tanzania, we are in Singida!

Here in Singida we spent some time helping out at the children’s feeding center. The way this center started is to help the overwhelming amount of children who were living on the street. The center has worked with the government to come to an agreement that the center will help the children by giving them a meal and clean water everyday and in return, the government pays for the children’s books and school uniform.  Extra schooling is also provided at the center. The children’s relatives are more likely to take the kids in because food and school is already provided for. The children must attend school in order to receive these benefits. If the kids don’t attend school that day, they have to talk to Sister Sarah (the nun who is in charge of the center) and explain why they didn’t go. This type of accountability has made the center a great place for the children to thrive.
 

Helping out at the center was amazing. My team and I were able to help prepare the meal that they eat everyday, distribute the meals, and play with the kids afterwards out on the playground. I was so overwhelmed by the endless amount of love each one of these kids have. Their ability to love without any restriction was astounding. Also it was so surprising to me that the language barrier was not even a problem. I can show a little girl that I love her by holding her hand or smiling at her. Other team members showed their love by running around with some of the kids or turning into a human jungle gym. No way is better than the other because each child needs a different kind of love.

I will carry these beautiful faces in my heart forever. 

See you real soon!

-Lucy F

Fun Fact: APU held a food packaging event during the fall 2013 semester as a part of Global Vision Week. Those food packages are the EXACT meals that feed these children everyday! 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. — Proverbs 3:5-6

As senior year graduations are concluding and housing assignments are being received, I know the thought of being an APU student is becoming more of a reality than ever before. I want to take the time to encourage you all as this moment creeps closer but also celebrate the new season of life you are embarking on.

My senior year of college is sneaking up on me everyday and it has led me into a season of reminiscing about the blessings God has provided to me during my time at APU. When I look at myself now, I am constantly reminded about how foundational my freshman year was when I was surrounded by a bunch of Smith guys that soon became my brothers and when God truly intervened in my life to make my path straight. I entered into Azusa Pacific as a football walk-on and with a girlfriend of 3 years who was still back home; two things I truly defined myself in. First semester was a difficult transition for me as I attempted to balance being a Cougar athlete while traveling home to retain a relationship and trying to pass all 15 units of my classes. God really took a backseat in my heart during this time and I really lost sight of how important He is to me.

During this season, I decided to step off the football team along with my girlfriend and I breaking up; two things I defined myself in completely stripped away. When I was at my lowest, I vividly remember God telling me, “These were part of a past season in time, now I want you to walk along the new path I have set straight for you.” Our motto for Smith Hall that year was “Never Walk Alone”. Even though I was going through struggles and hardships, God was always reminding me that I was never alone as He was looking over me and as I was surrounded by a living area of supportive brothers.

I have the honor and privilege to say I will be serving as a Smith Resident Advisor for the same hall I lived on. I am excited to live life with many of you in the freshman dorms next year and to encourage you all in wherever God is leading during these transitions. I hope my story and the verse above give you encouragement as you begin to prepare for school this summer. Always know you will never be alone in whichever living area you find yourself in next year.

Blessings to you and the future season ahead of you!|

- Mike L

Off to Nkungi

 

After spending time in Singida at the children’s feeding center, my team headed about two hours North West to the rural village of Nkungi. I’m using past tense because in the village there is absolutely no wifi or a way for me to post this blog. This is where I had my first real culture shock.

I was in a remote village in the middle of Tanzania, Africa, thousands of miles away from home. You can’t even locate it on a map. There were no paved roads and carts pulled by ox transported people and things. Some houses were made out of mud bricks and some made out of cement. Only a few had electricity and even fewer had running water. Chickens and children roamed freely along the dirt paths. This is where I would be living for the next three weeks.

Isn’t that wild? There are still places that remain hardly touched the rest of this world. I cannot believe my own eyes were able to witness it.

When we first arrived, we visited different locations throughout the village and assessed the needs of the community. This helped determine which projects we would begin on first.

Stay tuned and I’ll see you real soon!

-Lucy F

We made it! In my previous posts, I have blogged about my preparations for my summer missions trip to Tanzania… and it’s finally here! It’s been quite the journey, but we are finally in Singida, Tanzania! Here’s a play by play of how it all went down: 

  • 16 hour plane ride from Los Angeles to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates
  • 16 hour layover in Dubai accompanied with a free hotel room and a trip into downtown to see the tallest tower in the world
  • 5 hour plane ride from Dubai to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
  • 3 night stay in Dar Es Salaam to recover from jet lag, do some grocery shopping and a quick trip to the beach
  • 12 hour bus ride from Dar Es Salaam to Singida with a great Tanzanian soap opera playing to make the time go by

Here in Singida we will be working with the children’s feeding center. We will also be traveling to the village of Nkungi to work with the primary school and focusing on community development. But for now, we are so happy we are safely here!

See you real soon!

-Lucy F

Seasons are a funny thing.  You wait with baited breath for their changing colors and suddenly brown leaves are crackling under your feet.  Perhaps this post is finding you on the brink of launching into your season of summer or perhaps you are like me and are shocked to find yourself already halfway through June!

I have been blessed by many seasons in my time at APU, and one of the most memorable is what I call my alpha season.  This “season” laced throughout three of my years as a student and molded me in ways I didn’t even know I was pliable.  As an alpha leader (sophomore year) I was amazed as my heart expanded and I was able to lead 9 incoming freshman through the chaos and excitement that was their first year in college.  Then as an alpha coordinator (junior year) I was awestruck as I mentored and watched 11 alpha leaders blossom in their leadership.   

Not only did I dress like a mime, learn a choreographed Hunger-games-esque dance, plan a camping trip in November, lead an urban-immersion service trip, and facilitate our largest event of the year (Freshman orientation), but I learned an exponential amount about myself and who God has called me to be.  I was enabled as a leader to lead out of a heart of service, I was shown the infinite love of Christ as I basked in the light of being called for His purpose, and I was encouraged by others in the strengths I have as I learned to depend on Christ through my weaknesses.   

But perhaps the most life-changing lesson I learned from this season is the beauty of authentic and transparent community.  The people that have been scattered throughout my alpha season have taught me how to be vulnerable, they have loved me right where I was at, and together we chose to be present in relationship though we knew the leaves would change and the season would end. 

Whatever your season, I pray you are met by the assurance that God goes before and behind you in the change.  Keep your eyes peeled for the ways He displays His beauty!

Blessings friends,

-Emily S.

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Hello Friends! My name is Kierstan Hall,  I’m from the capital city of Sacramento, CA. Here’s a fun fact for you- Sacramento is nicknamed the city of trees, because it has such a beautiful tree canopy. I am a recent APU graduate with my B.A. in Philosophy. I’m so blessed to be able to share my APU experience with you this summer! So, hang on to your seats it is going to be a fun ride.

 My story starts Spring of 2011 when I transferred to APU from a large state school up north. My previous college was great, and I loved it, but I found that I was losing myself there. I felt that my identity was being shaped by all the wrong things and that I was living my life for myself, not really considering God’s plan for my life.

I knew I wanted to find another school, but I had no idea what I was looking for, until I came to APU. I was on a college tour with my younger sister, who heard about APU through friends back home. As soon as I stepped foot on campus, I knew it was the place for me. After I applied, I prayed “God if this is the place for me, open the door for me and I will walk through it, no questions asked”. Within those next few weeks I told family, and  friends that I was moving to SoCal. Although, I was assured and confident in my decision to switch schools I ran into a number of friends, and even family members, who were skeptical of my choice.  

I will be honest, I love new things, but I am terrified of transitions! There is something very uncomfortable about transitions. I find that in the midst of transitioning it is hard to relax or settle because you know that you will be leaving that place shortly. At the same time, transitions can cause us to be apathetic or even afraid to make a decision. During this period of transitioning I was definitely more afraid, because I had given up control over my life and handed it over to God.

The decision to transfer to APU is one of the biggest God moments in my life thus far and it is a transition that altered my life. It lead me on a path where God has continually shown His grace, love, and  favor.    

My prayer and hope this summer is that if you take nothing else from my story, that you will see a glimpse of what can be, if you allow yourself to lose control, to let go, and to let God lead you.

Grace and peace to you all and may you find God in the midst of your transitioning to APU

-Kierstan H.

God calls us out to the nations to fulfill His great commission, not only to leave an impact but to leave impacted.
My name is Mike Lawson and I come from the stellar beaches of sunny San Diego. I am a Business Finance major who spends his free time either playing sports or adventuring in the outdoors and now, sadly, entering into my final year at APU. There is nothing like your Senior year that puts everything into perspective. So, I am so excited to be blogging to all of you who are reading as I reminisce upon the impact APU has made in my life along with getting excited for what my last year has to hold!
Just this last semester, I had the amazing opportunity to spend four life changing months in South Africa through one of APU’s study abroad programs. This was a semester full of freeing adventures, inspiring culture, and mind blowing views. I continually found myself surrounded by the most hospitable people and nature where all I saw was green for miles and miles. Over the course of the semester I was able to serve for a month in a local township, go on a safari where I saw my favorite animal (a lion!), bungee jump off the tallest bungee bridge in the world, and go shark cage diving along the cape coast. South Africa became so much more than just an experience where it was normal to see a zebra walking along the side of a trail, but a place where I can look back and call… HOME.

As I transition back into the United States, I find myself with a very bittersweet taste in my mouth. I can now use what I’ve learned with my time in South Africa to impact and inspire those around me while desperately missing the memories made in a place that now holds my heart. Ultimately, I am so thankful for the 49 other students that I was able to cherish these Christ-impacted moments with because I can carry on my life in America alongside these people who I now refer to as family. Over the semester, we all created a mission statement for our semester that I want you all to read:

We the vulnerable, prayerful, and Christ-centered Spring 2014 South Africa family - connected through intentional support and genuine love - find meaning in listening, giving hope, choosing joy, & embracing adventure as we represent the Father’s heart of compassion, conquer our fears, broaden our perspectives, and empower others through selfless humility as kingdom focused healers.

I want to encourage all of you to step out of your comfort zone and allow God to do something amazing with your life. To do something that might scare you down to your core because its different, but know that this is an area where fear can be conquered with God as your guide.

Blessings to you all and to the journey God will lead you on,

Mike L.

"Home is where the heart is".  People long to be at home, and your home is whatever place you long to be, it is with the person or the people you long for and love the most.
 
For the past 4 years APU has become my home in the truest of ways.  I’m Emily, originally a small-town girl from Ferndale, WA with skies as clear as robin eggs and fields as far as the eye can see.  This May I just graduated from Azusa Pacific with my B.A. in Christian Ministries and a minor in Global studies!  I am excited to share with all of you the wisdom I have soaked up like a sponge and the joy-filled adventures that have adorned my APU experience.
As we venture together back through these four years that have shaped me exponentially, I hope that your heart will be stretched as you look forward to your own expansion of the understanding that home is where the heart is.
APU has become a place where my heart is at home for so many reasons, and one of the primary shapers this year has been Kaleo.  Kaleo is one of the seven chapels you will have the chance to go to as a student and it is unashamedly my favorite.  As a senior this past year I was blessed to help lead worship for this evening chapel service with the quirky, intentional, and incredibly talented band-mates pictured above.  These people have made me belly-laugh til breathless, been present in the difficult moments, and shown me what a life of service and worship looks like.
I am incredibly thankful for the growth that came from the relationships and experiences with my fellow worship team, but also for the Scripture we got to chew on in chapel.  The first semester, campus pastor Woody led us through some of the minor prophets: Hosea, Amos and Jonah where my eyes were opened to a faithful and relentless God that pursues His people no matter how far our hearts wander.  The second semester we journeyed through the gospel according to Mark where we unpacked the question “who is Jesus?” and we shattered our false expectations of Him, surrendering to His Kingdom and not our own.    
In summing up my experience in Kaleo and the state of my heart within the home I created here, the words of a song we frequently sang in this chapel ring true:
Always faithful
Always good
You still have me
You still have my heart.
"You Have Me" — Gungor  
May God meet you in your heart in the current home He has you in, and may you wait expectantly for the homes around the corner,
-Emily S 

Men’s Chorale Korea Tour

I, along with Man Choir, were given the opportunity to tour South Korea for 19 days, ministering to the Korean Church. Tour ended today, but oh what a trip it was! 

Our purpose in going to Korea was 2 fold: firstly, to minister to the Korean Church through music and worship; secondly, to create and continue to grow our relations with the Korean people and APU. 

Although this trip has been demanding mentally, spiritually, and physically, the life-changing stories and impact on the Chorale was well worth our time. On this trip, we have come to recognize that God’s love transcends all language and cultural barriers. 

I am so thankful that APU offers opportunities like this. I am constantly amazed that my university cares about the expansion of itself and also the growth of its students through culture experiences. If you want to watch the daily updates that we did, you can check out our Facebook page HERE

I could quite literally write a short novel about this trip, but I won’t keep ya. South Korea is one of the many countries that students are sent to through APU. If you feel like exploring the world through your university, seriously consider APU.

-Eric D.

"Places are not just places. The place you start your journey is your anchor, the filter through which you process every single step along the way. Our places shape and teach us until, before we know it, we do not just live in a place. It lives inside of us."

As I rest, contemplate, reflect and remember what the Lord has done for me, I am filled with deep gratitude.

Trying to put my SA experience into words cannot adequately be done, and I’m okay with that. But just as people don’t necessarily remember what you say— but rather how you make them feel; I will always remember these moments of how SA has made me feel.

I have experienced feelings I didn’t know existed. I sat on the plane home to America, experiencing such a weighty mix of emotions: broken heartedness in saying goodbye to everything, numbness, exhaustion, excitement and I looked back on what is now hindsight, and I did it.

I overcame some massive giants and experienced some of my greatest joy. South Africa is my story, it’s God’s story, and I get to keep it forever.

May you be deeply encouraged and venture greatly,

-Kristen P

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."

In the 27 hour flight back to the states, I experienced every range of emotion. On the one hand, I was deeply saddened to say goodbye to people and a place that has shaped and molded me so tremendously- a place that will forever be etched in my heart with sincere gratitude. However, I was also extremely excited to arrive back on main campus at APU and see all my dear friends that I have missed the past four months. 

Coming back to APU was filled with catching up stories, reconnecting with friends, graduation festivities, and surprise visits and outings to maximize my five days at APU before heading home to Washington for the summer. 

South Africa is no longer simply an ambiguous place with mystery and wonder, it became my home- where joys were celebrated, epiphanies and realizations were in abundance and where the 24 once strangers in my cohort, became my family. 

My heart is full and I am excited to see how God will use my South Africa semester abroad to infiltrate into conversations and shared experiences in months and years to come.

Blessings on your summer,

-Kristen P