Last month I had the privilege of attending the National Association of Directors of Christian Education Conference and writing the following piece for their quarterly publication:

A year and a half ago, I stepped on a plane and moved to Hawaii for my DCE internship, and in July I was installed as Director of Christian Education at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Aiea, just minutes from Pearl Harbor. Before moving to the islands, Hawaii was simply a place of my imagination, a paradise of beaches, hula, volcanoes, and palm trees.  I never expected I’d visit, let alone live on an island called O’ahu.

When I tell people I serve in Hawaii, I often get questions like “Do you take your youth to the beach everyday?” or “Why aren’t you more tan?” Sometimes, after a few more questions about surfing and aloha, people realize the truth, there must be moments when the place the world calls paradise doesn’t feel like it.

Like any other place in the world, we go through the ups and downs of life. We live on the most remote island chain in the world, and sometimes that feels lonely.  Family and friends are far away, and meeting face-to-face with another DCE requires crossing an ocean, a few time zones, and 2,000+ miles. Any time I make the  journey though, every hour in the sky and mile traveled is worth it.

January brought me one of those journeys. I made my way to Orlando for NADCE where for three days I was empowered, encouraged, and energized by Christian community.

It all began with singing, and I stood in worship with friends I had been joyfully reunited with for those few days. Jesus says, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20, ESV). His presence and power filled the room as voices joined in lyrics of hope and truth. We heard the words of Psalm 51, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,” and together the room ignited with celebratory songs.

The words Desmond Tutu were paraphrased, “Think less of the self less and surround yourself with those who love and those to love.” Once again,  I was reminded that I am not alone. I was surrounded by the community gathered in that place, and there was a community waiting to surround me again back on the islands.

We are not alone in our individual ministries either. Whether serving in the heart of Manhattan, a small town in Iowa, the suburbs of Baltimore, or the California coast, we all have a place in the Body of Christ; His great love surrounds and sustains us each and everyday. We know it is true in our separate ministry settings, but sometimes it takes a conference to let the truth sink in and empower us in our callings.

Some of the time we stood in circles, huddled together sharing ministry stories, making connections, and meandering from person to person, booth to booth. I heard about another church struggling with Sunday school attendance. Another DCE and I shared together the joys of building relationships with military families. I traded notes with the DCE who’s young adult ministry is structured similarly. We leaned into one another, linked by our shared vocations.

Encouragement is found in these kinds of conversations. They give answer to the truth found in the book of Hebrews, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

We stirred each other up with  listening, laughter, and learning.  Energy filled the air of the spaces we shared. Some moments felt like a youth gathering for DCEs. Celebration, growth, and praise marked our time.

Friday concluded with a service of Holy Communion. I stood singing, soaking in the final moments of being gathered in a room full of Spirit-filled Directors of Christian Education. I looked around the room at this beautiful network of friends, mentors, and colleagues considering the beautiful mystery of how this simple meal joins us together with believers of all times and places both here and in heaven.

We put our hands out, and Pastor Matt gave us a blessing, sending us back to our unique ministry settings. I held back tears as I said goodbyes and gave final hugs unsure of when I’d see those gathered around me or have such an experience again.

Before I knew it, I was walking through the airport mentally preparing for my long journey back to my home on an island in the sea. I returned to Hawaii feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.  This is the power of Christian community. When we join together, Christ is among us, energizing us for work in His kingdom.  

While miles may separate, much more unites us. Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again. It is the creed  that united the early church and unites us still today, confirming our callings.




If Labor Day marked the end of summer, then what a summer it was. A culminating four months marked the end of college and internship and the beginning of full-time professional ministry and this thing called “adult life.”

With a black robe, funny hat, plenty of leis, Chicago-style pizza, and family and friends nearby, college graduation signaled the start. I remembered walking up the scuffed, black stairs to First Kohn at the end of my freshman year thinking that the time to graduation seemed so far-off and unable to imagine what life in 2016 might be like. Somehow though, there I was in a gymnasium full of graduates walking across the stage with two degrees earned and a summer full of adventure ahead of me. img_1246Vacation Bible School transformed our little sanctuary into a spelunker’s paradise and left me with songs stuck in my head for days. I learned the goodbye part of aloha as friends and confidants from my first year on island moved onto new places. I played island tour guide and built sand castles when friends came to visit.

Wearing caving gear as children shouted “Follow Him” each morning and playing tourist each afternoon, I ventured around the Big Island for a week.  The clouds of Mauna Kea mysteriously drifted around us as we hiked atop cinder cones. As the sun set, they morphed into wisps of cotton candy in the horizon. Creation sang His praises, and children sang of His light.

IMG_8221.jpgAlongside twelve of my ohana, I made my way 4,200 miles to New Orleans for the LCMS National Youth Gathering. Our voices joined with thousands of others as we danced and sang with Rend Collective and shouted about our identity in Christ alone. We lost count of exclamations of “You’re from Hawaii?!” We witnessed echoes of Christ’s humility in Gathering staff, volunteers, New Orleans residents, and each other. Our honu had his 15 minutes of fame riding on escalators, taking photos, and sitting on stages. We laughed, and we cried, growing together as a community in Christ alone. img_8720With my parents present, I was installed and became Our Savior’s Director of Christian Education. Since then, there have been ups and downs, alohas of hello and goodbye, and One constant stability. My journey continues.

For now, I’m sitting in Starbucks sipping on a Pumpkin Spice Latte, which I suppose marks the start of fall. The school year is in full swing, and my days are full. I’m figuring out this post-grad life, trying to take it one day at time, and “live it well.”


The world is broken. The evidence is never far away, even in a place the world calls “paradise.”

Newspapers report senseless terrorist attacks and political mess. The homeless stand on corners with cardboard signs reading “anything helps,” and light posts become the walls of makeshift shelters.  The sick come knocking. Mothers loose their daughters. Doctors don’t have answers. Phone screens light up with messages we never wanted to hear. Tears fall.

Often times, the outside concrete evidence isn’t even needed. The brokenness inside ourselves is evidence enough. Fears of the future encapsulate. Insecurities overwhelm. Dreams wake us up at night seeming all too real. We realize this life is fragile.

But there is hope, and there is joy. There is peace, and there is unending love.

There’s evidence for all of it too.

The sun rises and sets. A monarch butterfly flutters across my path. Laughter spills out for the first time in far too long. Encouraging words come at just the right time. We hold onto each other in the moments when all seems lost.

A seventh grader with wisdom beyond her years tells me, “It [the resurrection] means we don’t have to despair.” An eighty-four year-old woman, whose life could be a movie, reminds that redemption means “we don’t have to be afraid.”

Brokenness is overcome by eternal glory giving the strength to sing, “it is well with my soul” for Paradise is yet to come.

Psalm 121 NIV

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

A Collective Journey



Today begins my final internship visit and evaluation, one of the last big moments before walking across the stage in May. It may not be graduation yet, but I can’t help but think back on the last five years and my journey to this tiny apartment in Honolulu County.

A couple weeks ago, I travelled to Phoenix alongside 1,800 other church workers for a conference. In one of the seminars I attended, the following quote by Richard Goodrich was shared:

“The spiritual journey is not supposed to be a solitary walk but a community pilgrimage.”

In high school, community supported and helped me to recognize my calling and place in Chicago. A community journeyed with me these last five years filling me with a sense of purpose driven adventure.

When I stepped onto CUC’s campus in 2011, I could not of begun to comprehend the collective journey I was embarking on, the places I would go, and the people who’s paths would intersect my own for us to walk in concord for a time.

Then, I was more of a solitary walker with a plan for how I wanted these 5 years to turn out. Sophomore year those plans crumbled, and I found myself in Thailand with a new perspective on the world throwing the story I’d written for myself in the ocean.

Family listened. Friends rallied around me. Professors prayed with me. A congregation welcomed me as one of their own. A group of fellow young adult volunteers in San Antonio got me to laugh and laugh some more.

Junior year, my fellow “teacher candidates” and I conquered methods and discovered the joys of learning with a room full of children.

Senior year, 30 hours of travel brought me to a beautiful four months of learning and adventure in Vietnam. 14 forth graders (now almost 6th graders) captured my heart. Visionary leaders and educators inspired me. Whether sitting around a table or going on a crazy adventure through the bustling streets of Hanoi, new faces quickly became family.

A year ago, I had no inkling of where I’d be in this moment, but somehow I’ve been in Hawaii almost 9 months continuing on this collective journey with new people to join alongside.

I attended  Hillsong United’s concert with some of them here in Honolulu last Saturday. With thousands of fellow pilgrims, we sang the words of one of my favorite songs:

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me.” 

His lead is the best. Every step, He is walking beside. In the moments when the journey feels more like a solitary walk, He is there. When two or more are gathered, His power is at work.




Come and go, go and come

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In a sea of sunburnt tourists. “We hope you’ve enjoyed your stay on the islands.” Go.

Windy City. Winter clothes waiting. Warm heart. Come.

The Sears Tower shrinks behind me. 55 extends for miles. Go.

The Arch glows. The gateway to homemade meals and familiar faces. Come.

3 quirky safety videos, a sprint through Houston, a sandwich in LAX. Go.

Lights twinkling in the middle of the Pacific. Come.

The coming and the going doesn’t feel so patterned, rhythmic, and simplistic though. The heart gets involved both beautifully and painfully, and time never seems like enough. The going comes to soon and the coming not soon enough. I wrestle with time like I can control it. The best moments though are the ones I allow myself just to be, phone put away, watch-face ignored, talking story, whether I’m in the midst of coming, going, or simply staying.

All the coming and going doesn’t necessarily get easier, but it becomes a part of life that’s better embraced than resented. It’s a part of all our lives. People come. People go. What was once anticipated becomes memory.

Through it all an Anchor remains. “Come to me,” He says. “Go,” He commands. In all my coming, may I come to Him first. In all my going, may I go, because He has sent me. When it’s time to stay, may I stay as He sees fit.


An End and a Beginning Part 3/3


Time is a funny thing, full of ends and beginnings. Somehow 2015 is over and 2016 is in full swing.

To ring in 2016, I stood barefoot on a sidewalk watching fireworks in every direction and marveling at how when I rang in 2015 I could have never imagined the place or people I was standing with in that moment.

2015 was quite the year.

I said goodbyes. To college life as I boxed up dorm room dishes amidst stacks of books (some read and some skimmed) and watched friends walk across the stage receiving well-earned diplomas. At the security gate of Lambert International Airport trying not to completely loose before hopping on a plane to cross the ocean. Over the phone singing “Amazing Grace”.

I’ve adapted (and am still adapting). To street names and towns with more vowels and combinations of h’s and w’s than I new possible. To calculating time zones when making phone calls and adjusting travel time to the ever finicky Honolulu traffic. To calling flip-flops slippers and snow cones shave ice. To life and ministry on this beautiful island tourists call paradise, but where we do life with all its ups and downs.

I wonder what I’ll say about 2016. I’ve already been on some amazing hikes. A trip home is approaching. God willing, graduation comes in May (finally). The call process is looming (prayers please). There’ll be more adapting and more changes. There’ll be joys and sorrows. There’ll be adventure. It may be unknown now, but that’s what I love about the journey, because it’s taking me to glory I can’t even imagine.

The 6th Day of Christmas Part 2/3

One of the first questions asked of me at internship orientation was, “How do you feel about not being home for Christmas?” The thought scared me and shot a small pang in my heart.

Today is the 6th day of Christmas, and until this year, my immediate family and our Christmas traditions are all I’ve known during these 12 days of celebration. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t moments I wish I were in St. Louis or that I haven’t felt a sense of disappointment and sadness as I see photos from home and friends reunited with their own families on Facebook. In three weeks though, I’ll be heading home via Chicago, and my parents have promised they’ll keep the decorations up until I get there.

In my family, Christmas is the one time a year everyone comes together, and my heart overflows with love and joy. This year, my heart has been filled in a different way.

Surprise packages have shown up in mailbox reminding me of love that stretches across the miles. Kind texts, Facebook messages, and emails have provided daily encouragement. I’ve been surrounded by a beautiful ohana here and able to experience Christmas in a whole new way.

I watched beautiful hula dancing as the sanctuary filled with candlelight and the sounds of “Silent Night.” I cheered with children about the most fantastic birthday of all time. I rang handbells and sang about a special king born in a manger throne. I was adopted and enjoyed normal traditions like Christmas dinner and opening presents just wearing shorts instead of a warm sweater. I sat on a beach admiring the sunset as I wrote “Mele Kalikimaka” in the sand considering all that Christmas means.

Whether in St. Louis or in Aiea, the Reason why we celebrate is the same. That little baby, Savior of the world, fills our hearts with hope, peace, love, and joy for all time. He is all we need.


Christmas Sunset

Busily Beautiful Part 1/3


Since Thanksgiving, life has been kind of a whirlwind, and I’m finally taking the time to stop and reflect on it all. The week after Thanksgiving I wasn’t quite sure how it would all work out and how I would make it to this point. As with any month there have been highs and lows, but overall the past weeks have been busily beautiful.

I’ve feasted on pancakes with the children of Our Savior before they presented their Advent program as sheep, shepherds, cows, angels, innkeepers, Joseph, and Mary.

I’ve washed car after car with awesome youth by my side thankful that car washes can be a yearlong Youth Gathering fundraiser in Hawaii.

I’ve survived a bird flying into my car as I drove down the highway after a day of island touring.

I’ve sung Christmas carols atop a double decker bus admiring twinkling lights and the “Shaka Santa” with my Our Savior ohana.

I’ve eaten delicious Japanese food and circled around the Aloha Stadium searching for treasures at the Swap Meet with newfound friends.

I’ve hosted youth Christmas parties with goofy games, plenty of cookies, and the AC turned on instead of the heat like at Christmas parties on the mainland.

I’ve had my sister by my side walking on beaches, baking Christmas cookies, sitting in traffic, exploring, flying along a zipline, laughing, and loving every moment of sharing Hawaii life together.

Each snapshot of these busily beautiful moments makes me realize how important it is to stop and take it all in. Too easily, each can go by in blur with their significance forgotten and potential for learning disregarded. The stopping makes it all the more beautiful though, and I pray “teach us to number our days, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”


Thanksgiving Away

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Thursday marked my second Thanksgiving away from home and my immediate family.

Up until these two years, Thanksgiving and family were synonymous. I don’t know right now where I’ll be next Thanksgiving or if I’ll be with my family. For now, that’s ok, because I know I’m where I need to be on this journey.

Last year, I enjoyed 3 turkey dinners in Hanoi and then hopped on a night train to stunning Sapa for a culminating weekend of adventure with Martha and Elizabeth.

This year, I descended on my pastor’s house with a group of other 2o-somethings for dinner, football (I’m not sure I’ll ever understand this American phenomenon.), and games.

Both weren’t typical but wonderful in their own ways. Both involved Skype calls home marked with tinges of joy and sadness. Both included wonderful conversation and laughter. Both were spent with people who’ve become family in a way, because they’re without family too.

“Give thanks in all circumstances” we’re told.

And so I give thanks, because no matter where I might celebrate or who I am with blessings abound.



It’s been 146 days, 7 hours, 22 minutes, and coming up on 5 months since I first arrived in Hawaii. In some ways, it seems like ages ago, and in other ways, it seems like just yesterday. Time is a funny thing.

After a day off, spent mostly talking on the phone or chatting with friends over Google Hangout, I’m sitting at one of my local Starbucks thinking about the past 5 days and the past 5 months leading up to them.

In the past 5 months, I’ve moved, started a new life, hiked and seen places I never imagined I’d visit, and found a place in the Our Savior ohana.

In the past 5 days, I’ve camped with an awesome group of 5th graders, greeted trick ‘r treaters, watched the pieces of Fall Festival planning fall into place, and talked a lot about life.

When I arrived here in June, 5th Grade Camp and Fall Festival seemed like events far into the future of internship. Now, they’ve passed and are memories of ocean air, egg drop victory, campfire songs, youth dressed as security guards, bounce house joy, and root beer floats.

The coming weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas are certain to be filled with preparations and anticipation. I asked myself questions like “How will Christmas away from home and family be?” and “Where will I be in a year?”

I seem to say, “Time will tell,” “God only knows,” and “just pray,” on repeat. This I know: that no matter what I face is His hands.