Seeking His Kingdom

Amanda has been one of my best friends since fifth grade when we wore our plaid skirts and polo uniform shirts to Academy Charter School. We have grown up together in many ways: physically, emotionally and most of all – spiritually. Although we have lived miles apart from one another at various times throughout the years, our friendship never skips a beat. She is a blessing to me.

In August I had the pleasure of photographing Amanda’s wedding as she married her second half, Drew. I remember meeting Drew for the first time and thinking, “Amanda’s going to marry that man.” I’m glad she did. :)

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Photo Credit: Alyssa Martin Photography

I have been able to catch up with her since the “big day” and I wanted to share a part of our conversation. Amanda and Drew have an inspirational story that was an encouragement to me – I pray it will be for you too!

When you meet Amanda in person, it is impossible for her NOT to smile. She’s not only fun to be around, but her love for Jesus is evident within seconds of getting to know her. See for yourself! :)

 


 

-Hi Amanda! Tell us a little bit about yourself! 

I grew up in a small town south of Denver, Colorado, and have known the Lord from a young age.  I am so thankful that I get to walk and grow closer to Him every day. I went to school at Baylor University where I received a Bachelor’s in International Studies.  While there, I grew immensely in my walk with the Lord as I worked as a community leader (similar to an RA) and built community at University Baptist Church.

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Photo Credit: Sean Rollolazo

After graduating, I moved back to Colorado and interned for an organization that led mission trips in Denver.  Towards the end of my internship I got engaged to the love of my life, Drew West, and we have been married and living in Denver together for about a month.

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Photo Credit: Alyssa Martin Photography

-How did you and Drew meet?

We met the summer before my senior year in college while we were both working at the Center for Student Missions (CSM) as hosts leading mission trips to Denver.  They hired two guys and two girls that summer, and one of the first things they told us was that we were not allowed to date over the summer as it could make our ministry in the city complicated and get in the way of us leading groups and serving the Lord.  Inevitably however, the other two decided that they had feelings for one another and spent a lot of time together, which meant Drew and I spent a lot of time together by default. We ended up really enjoying that extra time together, and after the summer Drew started pursuing me more since our job restrictions were over. At first I had no idea what he was doing.  We started to get to know each other better through a long distance relationship until I finally moved home after graduating from Baylor and we were able to spend time together and go on dates.

-When did you know Drew was “the one” for you?

Honestly, it was pretty early, so I had to be patient for the timing to be right for us to move towards marriage.  I remember when I first came home for Christmas after Drew and I had been talking several hours each night for about three months while I was away at school. I was talking to my mom one morning and I admitted that I didn’t want to ever date anyone else and I could see myself spending the rest of my life with him.  This was huge for me, because I couldn’t admit that I liked Drew until he told me that he liked me first.  A little over a year later we got engaged and now we are enjoying discovering how we are “the one” for each other through the good times and the bad every day.

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Photo Credit: Stephen Flanscha

-You have a very exciting adventure coming up in just a few months! Tell us about moving to Africa!

Drew and I are getting ready to move to Zambia, Africa at the end of this year, most likely a few days after Christmas, so that he can study theology at Justo Mwale Theological Seminary.  I have been dreaming of moving to Africa and working in community development after I went to Kenya the summer before my junior year in college, and Drew has felt called to move to Zambia since he lived there for six months after graduating high school. We are so excited that God has opened a door for us to both go back, and we are thrilled to see the adventures God has in store for us once we get there.

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-Tell us about the process of deciding to go to the mission field. How did you know that was what the Lord was calling you and Drew to do? Have you always felt called to move to Africa, or is this something new the Lord has laid on your heart? What about Drew?

One of the things that I really value about our decision to go is that God placed these longings in both of our hearts before we had even met each other, which I think relieves the pressure that could be present if one of us had to convince the other that we had to go.

God began developing in me a heart for the nations in me after my first mission trip to Oaxaca, Mexico in high school.  At the end of the trip I remember journaling, and feeling like God was calling me to be a witness for Him in other nations, but I had no idea what that was supposed to mean.  I studied International Studies in college because I thought perhaps the Lord was calling me to serve Him as a foreign diplomat.  I began learning more about Islam and the Middle East and I studied Arabic for three years in college because I knew that I could apply this knowledge to places where Christianity was the minority. I love learning about cultures that are very different from my own.  I knew many people who were passionate about Africa, so I decided I wanted to go to a place like the Middle East where not a lot of people were willing to go.  However, God had different plans as I randomly ended up on a missions team from Baylor that sought to tell women in Kenya that they could be leaders in their communities and that God has beautiful and important roles for them to play even though the stereotype in their country often told them otherwise.  I fell in love with the people and the culture there, and I have been dreaming of going back to Africa ever since.

Drew’s story is closely connected with Zambia specifically.  He was nominated as one of three youth to go to Zambia in high school.  His home church has a longstanding relationship with a specific church in Lusaka, Zambia, and when he graduated from high school and decided he didn’t want to go to college right away, he fundraised to serve the church in Zambia.  Drew brought his guitar and led people in music and taught children about the Bible at a local school.  He also fell in love with the people and the place and he began dreaming about starting a nonprofit music school that would allow other people an opportunity to serve the Lord in Zambia through music.  The school there has a focus on missions, and Drew is hoping to use his degree in theology to build up his biblical knowledge and get more direction and perspective as we chase after the dreams God has placed in our hearts!

-Are you going with an organization, or are you simply planning to live among the people?

We are going on our own right now. Of course we will need prayers from friends and family back home, but we really want to live and be a part of the culture there as much as possible.  Drew has a college fund that is helping to get us out there, pay for school and fly us back home once a year to visit, so we feel very fortunate for this blessing. The school will be a great support system and the friends that Drew already knows there are excited for our arrival.

-You have a bit of an awkward transition period between getting married in August and then moving across the country in December. The Lord has provided in some amazing ways for you and Drew. Tell us more about that. 

On my end, I am so thankful that I have a wonderful and flexible job.  After finishing my internship in Denver, I needed a job to get me through the rest of the year while I was planning a wedding and preparing to move to another country.  I have not gone a day without a job so far! I worked as a nanny for a few months and now I work at Lululemon Athletica at a nearby mall. My team there has been so generous and supportive during this transition.

On Drew’s end, he was wrapping up an internship at a church as we were getting married, and looking for a job for our last few months as well.  We were hoping his job would include housing since we were trying to save as much as possible for our move.  Less than two weeks before our wedding, he interviewed and received another paid internship at a church very close to my work and gets to be supervised by one of our dear friends and mentors.  They were desperately looking for housing for us and they found it as difficult as we had been finding it, but as we began thinking outside the box they offered us a room at the church! We had an industrial kitchen, shower and lofted bedroom, and although not ideal, we jumped at the opportunity.  Yet another blessing: another staff member at the church happens to own apartments downtown and she offered us a one-bedroom apartment until the end of the year.  So, we spent our first weeks as a married couple literally in the house of God, and now we are settled into a free downtown apartment.  It is so true that God has plans for us that are so much bigger and better than our own!

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Photo Credit: Stephen Flanscha

-How are you feeling emotionally regarding the big move?

Right now I feel so excited. I know that there are a lot of unknowns, and that can be scary at times, but at the end of the day I am so amazed at the way my path has been paved for my dreams.  I know this will most likely not be an easy road; loneliness and hardship are likely to accompany a move like this, but I know I am in such capable hands. Even if I don’t understand how, I know God will provide strength. My part is to lean on Him and allow Him to be my everything.  There are definitely so many ups and downs but Drew and I are so thankful to have each other. One of Drew’s prayers before he felt ready go back was to find a partner to go with.  We are both so excited about how God has blessed us with one another, and we are learning how to see the Lord’s plans for us above all else every day and in every season.

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Photo Credit: Alyssa Martin Photography

-What are your plans when you get to Africa? 

Drew starts school January 7th, 2015, so we are hoping to move into our apartment on campus a couple weeks before so that we can get settled.  I am still not sure yet what I am supposed to do, but I am excited to take my time adjusting and get to know the people and the culture.  I am hoping to find a job for a nonprofit working in community development, but I am open to being patient and seeing what God has for me.

-You’ve been married now just a couple months. How do you like married life?!

Married life is the best.  It is not always an easy and romantic road, but it is worth it.  We are adjusting to living in the same space, sleeping in the same bed, cooking healthy meals together, and finding a new rhythm for our lives that is life-giving to both of us.

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Photo Credit: Alyssa Martin Photography

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Photo Credit: Stephen Flanscha

-Any words of advice to those of us out there who are nervous about embarking upon a journey, big or small, that the Lord has laid on our hearts?

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 (ESV)

I need to be reminded of this verse every day, because it is so important, and for me it truly puts things into perspective.  If we are truly seeking the kingdom of God there is nothing that can stop us.  It is true that our humanness often gets in the way of that.  I know for myself I tend to ask questions when God places things on my heart: “But where am I going to live? What am I going to do? How in the world is this going to come together?” But God can totally handle our questions and I often hear Him respond with Psalm 46:10 (ESV):

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

He is so much bigger than our doubts and our failed plans.  He is God, and He will be exalted, but isn’t it amazing that he uses us despite all of these things?

So use what God has placed on your heart to further His kingdom and glorify His name, these are the things that we were created for!

 

P.S. Here’s proof we’ve been friends since awkward fifth grade. YIKES!

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  • Cameron Crawford

    This is such a fun post! Love it!!!

    • http://www.glowliveaslight.com/about/who-we-are/ Alyssa Martin

      Thank you, Cameron!

  • http://www.hugsandpunches.com teresa swanstrom anderson

    Alyssa & Amanda ~ I love this post!

    Amanda, His plan for you is {{so}} exciting!! I can’t wait to hear more after you get there and are settling in. May God bless you richly in your big adventure!

    • http://www.glowliveaslight.com/about/who-we-are/ Alyssa Martin

      Thank you so much, Teresa! I thought of you while writing! :)

  • Annika

    I would love to hear more about Amanda! Hope Drew’s school starts well today! All my love from Germany xx