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by Ginny Kjer

At the beginning of the semester I was sitting on the rooftop of my school here in Seville, Spain wondering what God had in store for me. The morning air was crisp with the slightest chill, but I couldn’t complain since it was below zero back at Northwestern. I hadn’t yet decided what word I wanted to focus on for the year. After sitting in silence as I looked out over the city, the first line from the song “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack floated into my mind. It goes, “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.” Wonder, for me, is being in awe of God’s creation. In the past this has been displayed through my friend’s vulnerability, watching children kick a soccer ball in the street, and by enjoying the beautiful sunshine. However, after spending the past three and a half years at the same school, in the same town, with generally the same people, I had almost stopped wondering. The craziest part is that I hadn’t realized that I’d stopped wondering until this semester. For me, it took a completely new culture to realize I had probably missed out on wonder-worthy details at NWC. Looking back, I wish I had spent more time on the field after my last collegiate soccer game or walked across campus a little bit slower, so I could enjoy the beauty.

Naturally, since arriving here in Seville I have had a lot to wonder about, both to question and to be in awe of. Lately, I’ve challenged myself to wonder at my surroundings. This semester I’ve been humbled by how amazing God’s creation is as I’ve seen God’s handiwork all around me. What once was foreign is starting to become normal everyday life after being here for a while. Nonetheless, there is still so much I haven’t seen. Each day, as I walk through familiar (and sometimes not so familiar) streets, I try to look up, down, and around for something new to wonder at. So far, I have wondered how to navigate the curvy streets of Seville, and how to politely tell my host mom I don’t like the juice she packs in my lunch. (That worked out. She was actually glad I told her.) I have also wondered how I can possibly express how amazing my study abroad experience has been, and if my calling is still what I thought it was.

It’s so easy to go through my daily life without thinking much about what’s around me. Many times, I’ve become so accustomed to my surroundings that I’ve become somewhat desensitized to them. The same has been true in my faith journey. I’ve become so set in my routine of daily devotions and weekly church services, that I don’t feel or acknowledge the wonder of God’s love for me. I had become desensitized to the full impact His love had in my life. But, more and more, I have come to realize the God of the universe loves me and that in itself is something to wonder at. Wow. Why would the God of the universe love me? Because in Christ, I am His daughter, His Beloved. I so easily forget this fact when I get caught up in my daily life, but that doesn’t make it any less true. As I finish this semester abroad and come home to start the next phase of life, I hope to continue to witness the wonder of God’s amazing creation.

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By Candice Howell

I recently heard the quote by Pricilla Shirer that said, “The devil CANNOT destroy you, but he will find any way in his power to discourage you.” Although I knew this deep down, it wasn’t until after my family started a church two years ago that I realized the influence that he has in this world and how he is very much alive and on the move, especially against God’s will.

My dad was called into the ministry two years ago after my mom had been praying for the past twenty years. My dad originally went to Wheaton College where he was studying to be a pastor. He knew it was what God wanted and called him to do, but he was not obedient to this call due to extreme hardships that occurred due to his freshly fatherless home life. However, my mom and my aunt continued to pray for seven years that God would work in him and lead, guide, and call him. God answered my mom’s prayers by planting a church, Grace Cornerstone Fellowship, in the spring of 2016 where my dad is now the pastor.

Once we started our church, the spiritual warfare became evident. In no way was he wanting our church to succeed. Due to my dad’s difficult childhood, fears of doubt, anxiety, and depression started to creep into his mind after not having strong attendance for the first year.

But this did not shock me. Of course, satan was going to discourage and attempt to destroy something that is honoring and glorifying to God. Why wouldn’t he? He will not target the people who aren’t trying to live for Christ. He wants the strong ones. There was tension starting to form in our church and Satan was winning. He was using relationships to tear down what God wanted for my dad and our church. I started getting discouraged because I was seeing how hard it was to do God’s will. I cried out to God asking, “God! Our family is trying to do your will, but it seems impossible at times, why?” And that is when God spoke to me. He said, “Candice, my daughter, the people are not the problem. Satan is the problem. You have to start fighting your true enemy.” I started to remember my true meaning on this earth, to love and serve God in everything I do.

This was such a new concept for me. Fighting Satan? Don’t I need to fight the people that are causing the problems? The answer is no. The enemy knows our weakness and insecurities and he will do anything in his power to manipulate people, things, and circumstances. I have learned recently, that fighting people leaves the root of the problem untouched. I need to get on my armor and fight the one who is truly out to discourage, deceive, and divide. 1 Peter 5: 8-9 says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” Spiritual warfare at times has been scary, but I know that if I am following Jesus the devil has no power over me, my church, or my family. God has already won the battle, and we now fight from His victory.