Live For Yourself

Sad fact of life is that people disappoint you.  Stuff happens, situations change…but there is always a constant.  Before you click away from this because it is clear that I can go onto a long rant about how “God is a constant” (which he is), just hear me out.  

When people disappoint us, God challenges us to seek shelter with him.  God literally pulls us back into his arms when distractions lure us away.  We have to live with our own happiness and the joy that stems from our relationship with God.

I had someone exit my life recently and it has made me reflect on my relationship with God.  Let’s call this person X.  X appeared in my life as quickly as she exited.  X took an interest in my past, heard my story, and decided it wasn’t her cup of tea.  It stinks, but after investing all the time and trust into that relationship, I can’t help but wonder where my relationship with God might be if I had invested more time into that relationship instead of with Him. Lesson is, never let God fade into the background. He always finds his way back into the center of your life….and only because He loves you that much.

Although I’ll certainly miss having X in my life, I think it is fair to say that God does everything for a greater good and a higher purpose that we can’t even comprehend.  As I urge myself everyday when I roll out of bed, and now I urge you: Wake up in the morning and decide to follow Jesus.  Trust in Him, invest in Him, and fall in love with Him.  

In other news, Atlanta was in the path of Hurricane Irma yesterday, one of the largest hurricanes to wreak havoc on the east coast in recent history.  As it pummeled its way through the Caribbean, the southern US braced itself for a beating.  Keep Houston, Florida and the rest of the areas afftected in your prayers, as they are looking at a long rebuild ahead.

God willing and assuming Irma cooperates, I leave for South Africa THIS evening for 8 months. Please please PLEASE keep me in your prayers for my time there to make the impact God intends and that my travels are safe! Please continue to follow my blog and follow my journey!

Where I’ve Been…

Hello all,

I know some of you must be thinking, where has Grayson been?  Well, since my last blog post (the one regarding my hospital visit) I have been very busy. After a few weeks of recovering from surgery, I started to really prep for my trip.

It all started when I realized that I was mistaken about the ease of getting a visa.  I had heard from several people and I had studied the South African website and was under the impression that it was an easy process that required very little documentation since I am just going as a “tourist.”  However, I soon found out that I was severely mistaken.  The application and gathering of all the paperwork actually required a staggering amount of hours and energy, all capped off by a long journey up the east coast to Washington DC which I made last week.  Where it gets interesting; however, is when I arrived at the South African consulate in DC.  Once there, I quickly found out that the word “Intern”, even “UNPAID, VOLUNTEER intern” is not a fan favorite.  The man saw a letter that was included in my documentation that he didn’t like, and without hesitation told me that there was no way I was receiving a visa.  I sat and tried to “sweet-talk” him for roughly a half hour before realizing I had exhausted all efforts to persuade him. I am usually quite persuasive, but no luck this time.

As I left the building, I was filled with anger and disappointment.  I had driven 12 hours alone to get the Visa and was denied because of a single piece of paper. It seems so pointless to deny me this.  I decided, however, to take this as a learning experience and ask what good can come from this experience rather than why did this happen.  Not everything always works out the way you plan it, so you have to take the hand you are dealt and learn and grow from it.  

After really thinking it through and talking with my mom about the good lessons that were coming from this tough experience, I had peace. God made it clear to me  that he was in control of the situation as he has been with the rest of this trip.  We have another plan for getting the visa, so we are back on track and nothing but God will stop me from going on this trip! I learned a lot from this experience including the need to do more thorough research next time, but really good experiences came out of my trip as I got to spend time with my aunt, uncle, and grandparents in Richmond which was an unexpected blessing. Also, I took the longest solo car ride to this date. Another step in my journey of life…

Thank you all so much for keeping up with me, I am back to posting regularly now that this stressful two week period of my life is over! My flight to SA is scheduled for Tuesday, September 12 so I will touch base before I go and once I am settled there. Please pray that the rest of my prep time goes smoothly and that God continues to prepare my heart for my mission in South Africa.

Hospital Visits…..

Last week God threw another challenge in front of me.  I woke up early last Tuesday morning with sharp pains on my lower right side.  I immediately was pretty sure what it was, and it made me angry.  I got my mom and we decided to go to the urgent care.  As I had feared, they sent me to Piedmont Hospital with what seemed to be Appendicitis… man, it really hurt…
I went to the ER and was admitted, had a CT scan, and ended up being admitted into the hospital fairly quickly.  The doctors looked a bit puzzled, which is never a good sign and I soon learned that the main concern for the surgeon was the excessive swelling in my abdomen including areas around my appendix.  By this time, it is already almost Tuesday night. They wanted to observe and try some antibiotics. I had to spend that night in the hospital, but woke up the next day optimistic that I would be going home.  To my disappointment, I thought the same the next day.  Finally on Thursday, I woke up to some good news.  The antibiotic treatments I had been receiving had begun to work and had reduced the swelling enough to do an exploratory laparoscopic surgery to check to see if it was appendicitis or something more serious. I know a lot of people were praying it was just appendicitis. Thank the Lord that was what it was and they took it out and I was out of there in no time. I was home really before I knew it  and the anesthesia did its job!
Throughout the whole thing, I really just had to rely on God.  With my trip coming up and all that preparations it requires, this was the last thing I needed.  I was trying to work some more before the trip and get a lot of things done to prepare, and this just slowed that down. God has really shown me the way, though. This could have happened as so many different times – when I was coaching the kids this summer at swimming, when we were in the middle of moving, when my mom was traveling, when I was already in South Africa, so I am really grateful for God’s timing.  My trip may be delayed slightly to give enough time to heal (more about that soon), but other than that, I am unscathed.  God is a good God and I am so glad to be on the road to recovery!

 

Thanks for your continued prayers…

My Past in South Africa

The most common question I get about my missions work is, “Well…..how on earth did you get started with this?”  The answer is simple, actually.  The easiest way, however, is just to tell my whole story of how I came to travel so much, rather than answer a ton of questions strung out throughout the next year!

I was a Junior in high school attending the Wesleyan School in Norcross, GA. Wesleyan is known for many things, but most of all, it is known for green, perfect grass and an exceptional missions program for students.  I hadn’t been on a mission trip yet in my high school career and the first half of the fall semester of my junior year was almost over.  I was sitting in my living room at my old house where I grew up with an empty application in front of me, contemplating the outcomes and whether my heart would be in it or not.  As if God whispered in my ear, I just felt the urge to go.  So, I wrote out all of the answers on the application and came to the final question, “Which trips are you interested in?” Choices ranged from Central America to Eastern Europe.  All of the trips were on Spring Break, but with plans to travel with family, my only option was the summer trip to South Africa.

I’m guessing you are starting to get an idea of how this goes from there.  When I got off the plane in Johannesburg, the first person I met was Charl Van Wyk, the man who was later to become my mentor. Over the course of an amazing trip with my school, he convinced me to return several months later over Christmas break to continue to work.  I was a bit sick for the duration of that first trip and the flight, time zone change, etc. didn’t help. I returned home looking and smelling like I had just lived under a rock for the last 10 days. My mom picked me up at the airport in ATL and as she hugged me, crying, she remembered the first thing I said to her is, “I’m going back at Christmas”. Now returning for my fourth time, I am excited to see how God works through me again as I am returning for hopefully, ten months, by far the longest time I have spent there yet…

God has led me into the mission field and placed me in a place that I cannot imagine could not fit me any better than the Plettenburg Bay Mission and the work i have the privledge to do in the country of South Africa.  The whole process and the “sacrifice” of two weeks of summer I though I was making by going on my first Wesleyan mission trip that fateful summer has paid its dividends as the work of God always does.  God has directed my life in this path and I am so excited to see where he takes me next!

Why I left college and where that leaves me now…

7/4/17

Since I am doing a bunch of crazy things with my life now, I think it is only fair that I explain the story of the sequence of events that led to me temporarily leaving college for the ministry.

Since the first time I toured Ole Miss during my Sophomore year, I knew it was a front runner in my decision.  The campus is beautiful, SEC football, and somewhere a little further from home.  Seemed like a perfect fit for me, but I realized somewhere in the first three months of being there, it was not where God wanted me right at that time in my life. It was fun and I made lots of friends, but something wasn’t quite right… I wasn’t sure what…

As many of you know, South Africa is a place that holds my heart.  I have done the past two Decembers there working with the Plett Beach Mission and am very involved there. While there in December last year,  I learned that I may be able to intern for a year over in South Africa, so I naturally jumped at the opportunity.

Even though it was a big decision to make, the decision to leave Ole Miss occurred I’ve the course of two conversations.  The first was a conversation with Charl Van Wyk, my mentor in South Africa.  Per usual, Charl and I begin to plan my next trip before the current one was even over.  This time though, he came out with a strong and different idea — he suggested that I should intern with him for a whole year! That idea literally ate at me overnight until I talked to my mom for the second conversation.  I decided to just straight up ask her if it was OK to put college on hold to do this instead of “sugar-coating” it.  To my surprise, she totally was on board and the wheels were in motion.

After those two conversations, my mind was set.  I got home, called Ole Miss to let them know I wasn’t coming back for the spring term, moved out the next weekend and began working to save for my trip!  Since then I have been interning at the church where I grew up (Johns Creek Baptist) and working to save money, which has been a humbling and unbelievably challenging thing to do.  God is good, though. I’m hoping to have enough raised and saved to leave in August!

I hope everyone has a good Independence Day, God Bless the USA!

GB

Trying To Figure Out the Ministry

6/19/17

I wanted to update everyone on what I’ve been up to since I left Ole Miss after just one semester:

As a “trial period”, I decided that during the 7 months I had at home I would involve myself in ministry, as well as work full-time.  I spoke with the youth minister at my childhood church and asked him to introduce me to the ministry.  He gave me the opportunity to serve as a volunteer  with the youth program and it has opened my eyes to a whole new sense of joy that can’t truly be explained.  A mission trip is an experience packed into weeks that you cherish and remember and are great, but getting to share the gospel consistently with students who are just a few years younger than me has allowed my faith to constantly grow alongside theirs.  Spending the whole weekend with the students for DNOW (Disciple Now) was another huge growth experience.

I was asked to volunteer at Vacation Bible School and I got to lead the 6th graders. It was a challenging, but worthwhile experience.  It really allowed me to work with an age that I had yet to do all that much with, so it was great to get that experience.  It was also super rewarding to see the curtains drop and the lights turn on in the kids’ heads as we introduced Jesus to them.

While serving at the church, I also had the opportunity to work at Chick-fil-A doing lunch deliveries. Wow, that place knows how to spread joy.  Is it sometimes slightly a little much, sure, but seriously those people are awesome to be with every day.  I met some really cool people doing that both inside and outside Chick-fil-A. It really let me surround myself with good people and see the good in so many situations.

The choice I made to leave Ole Miss was bold…and many people questioned it.  Some still do.  But God is making the way clear for me.  I am called to South Africa at this stage in my life.  What about after that?  Well, I’m not sure yet, probably finish school, but God is cool and his plan is a whole lot bigger than mine so I’m just along for the ride!  Questions have been answered and stars have finally fallen in line and my trip is beginning to take shape.  I am so blessed, thank God.

GB

The Start of My Journey

Some may know me and may receive a mission letter similar to this.  Some may not receive this as a hard copy so I want to just put it up here to make sure everyone can get the information!

I am excited to announce that I will be traveling back to South Africa for ten months!  God willing, I plan to leave in August and travel to Johannesburg to work alongside my mentor, Charl Van Wyk, interning as a youth minister. Charl is a native South African and a lifelong minister. I have had the pleasure of working with him three times for short term missions in South Africa since 2015. Charl is a Godly man, a stellar role model, and a true inspiration to me. He contracts with various churches in South Africa to start, repair, or grow their youth ministry programs.  I am excited to work alongside him and live life as a true, full-time youth minister for a year!

Many of you know that I first went to South Africa and fell in love with the South African people the summer between my junior and senior year of high school at Wesleyan (2015). That is when I first met Charl and he invited me back to serve that Christmas (2015) on the Plettenberg Mission trip. It was an amazing experience and I was drawn back to SA for a third time in 2016 for the three-week Plett Christmas mission. It was then, this past Christmas, when I felt the Lord calling me to more. I decided to explore the option of taking a year off from college and following where the Lord was leading me in South Africa.

I returned to the states after Christmas full of excitement and my parents supported my decision to take this past semester off from college to work and save money to use to self-fund a portion of my trip and prepare. I have been working at Chick-fil-A, teaching and coaching swimming, and also volunteering alongside the youth minister at Johns Creek Baptist Church learning more about youth ministry and that has been a huge growth opportunity for me from a maturity and faith perspective. My plan is to serve in South Africa with Charl from August 2017 until May 2018 at which time I will return home, work over the summer, and head back to school that fall. While I will be behind my peers academically, I believe the Lord is calling me to this year of service and I am excited to see all He has in store for me!

The preparation and financial implications of this longer mission have exceeded my expectations.  To fund my 10 months in South Africa, I estimate a financial need of $12,000 US dollars. This should cover my flight to Johannesburg and 10 months of very basic living expenses.  The money I have worked for and saved will be used to supplement my basic living needs and any incidentals that I encounter.

While in South Africa, I hope to have saved enough to be able to visit some areas of the countryside outside of Jo’burg also. I also plan to work alongside Charl on the Plett Mission again this Christmas as part of his core leadership team. For those who have followed my missions before, you know all about this trip; however, for those who may not, this mission is held on the coast of South Africa (Plettenberg) where we essentially direct and operate a Vacation Bible School hybrid program and love on South African kids for about a month.  I am so excited to do this for my third year and my first as part of the core leadership team!

For donations, I am pleased to finally say that I have officially partnered with Scripture Union Pennsylvania. This means that all donations to my trip are tax deductible. I have been working closely with Blaine Bergey, the Chief Financial Officer for Scripture Union Pennsylvania. He has informed me that if I gather checks written to Scripture Union with “Grayson Blount Mission Trip” on the memo line, he will provide tax return certificates to the addresses of the corresponding checks.  This is great news because figuring this part out has been the biggest obstacle for me in preparing for the trip. If you are interested in making a charitable and tax deductible donation, checks or cash (with an address for the tax return) can be mailed to my primary residence at 3600 Ivy Rd. NE Atlanta, GA 30342. Just to be completely clear and transparent, anything money spent over the 10 months outside the scope of the basic living necessities will be from my own personal funds. I want all contributors to feel confident that any contribution is being used carefully and wisely. If you choose to donate, receiving funds by July 1 will help me tremendously as I plan and prepare and secure living arrangements in Johannesburg.

Regardless of whether you choose to support me monetarily, I do ask that you please keep my travels and preparations in your prayers.  I will be keeping this blog very active throughout my travels, posting pictures and stories of what I see and experience.  I also have a new Instagram account dedicated to my missions with the handle @followgrayson.

I would love for you to join me on the new and exciting journey.  The next twelve months will be filled with uncertainty, anxiety, and a lot of smiles, so I really hope you will join along on the journey with me and watch the Lord show Himself in glorious and mighty ways!

GB