Thursday, March 20, 2008

Welcome Home - A Letter to Marissa


Hi. First of all, I need to say I've never written an open letter to anyone before...especially someone I've never met. But here goes anyway. I'm definitely not trying to embarrass you in any way (of course, we only have about 141 readers), and I really am hoping it's OK to share a little bit of your story with the world.

As you know by now, this whole "me finding out about you thing" started a few weeks ago after CT and I led a night of worship to open Chick-fil-A's corporate seminar in Orlando. Afterwards, I was hanging out backstage when your mom and dad made a beeline for me. Though it was a little dark backstage, their faces were radiant as your mom began to tell me your story.

I was instantly glued as she told me how He spoke so powerfully to you during one of the night sessions at Passion 07, moving you so strongly that you walked out after the talk determined to touch the peoples of the world. I don't know for sure, but by what she was saying I'm guessing it was the message "An After Party For All Nations." The whole point of what God was saying to us in that message was that the good news we are carrying is for the whole world, yet most will never know it until some of us cash in the "normal" American life and head their way. I'm guessing a bunch of people agreed with the talk, but you decided to go...right then and there.

I don't know for sure, but something tells me you could walk back into Philips Arena (or the GWCC, I don't know which venue you were in that night) and walk right to the seat you were sitting in when His call on your heart met a resounding, "I will go, God. And I want to go right now."

As your mom's talking, I have this incredible picture of a 19 year old KSU student leaving this session with something burning inside that could not be quenched. The way I heard it, you came to Passion 07 with questions already stirring in your heart. Not sure of your academic path, you were feeling like you wanted more clarity before enrolling in another set of classes, plunking your money (or your parent's) down for another semester and buying a new set of textbooks for another round of classes. Seems like you were unsure of some things, yet pretty confident you didn't want to waste time when the whole world was experiencing an emergency on an epic scale.

Pretty soon you found yourself kicking around in the Go Center, checking out opportunities to engage in God's purposes around the globe. Human sex trade caught your heart and soon Thailand came into focus. Before long you were back home telling your parents what many dread, "Mom, dad...I'm dropping out of college for a while and running after this passion I have to extend rescue and repair to people I have never met. I'm not sure where I'm going or exactly what I'm going to do when I get there, but God willing, I'm going. I know Jesus is going...and I'm going with Him."

At this point I was trying pretty hard to read your mom's face, wondering how she was going to respond. If she had had issues with it, I would have understood. Passion is not about being hasty or neglecting commitments. That's not God's way and often leads to people jumping at opportunities that are not well thought through, not supported by those that matter most in their lives or, in the end, not that helpful to those who are the intended recipients of the effort. But you did something that showed so much maturity and wisdom. You downloaded the talk and had your whole family listen to it...and by doing so you gave them all the chance to come around what had arrested you. That was a very cool thing to do, and I know went a long way with your mom and dad.

Well, at this point I'm REALLY glad we came to the CFA seminar (the seminar was amazing, but this little God-connection made the night even more special). Your mom told me how you started searching the Internet looking for a way to turn your Thailand dream into reality. In time, you came across a place called Home of Joy, a small orphanage in Chang Mai that was looking for six-month volunteers. By summer you were on a plane with your dad to the other side of the globe. As he told it, the moment he had to say goodbye and get on the flight back to the States was one of the hardest of his life. But then he said something potent happened. He said you put your hand on his shoulder and prayed over him. I got chills. He told me how your prayer for him blew him away and gave him the strength to leave his daughter in a far away place and head for home. He said it was one of the most amazing things that has ever happened in his life.

The flight departed and soon you were alone with your new family at HOJ, loving precious little Thai children in Jesus' name...investing in the future of little lives and a needy nation. I've been to Chang Mai a few times, and while it certainly has a sense of charm and appeal (from time to time I still crave a banana and condensed milk Roti from the street vendors), I really am not sure I could get fired up about staying there for six months. That's a lot of tuk-tuks! But you did. You stayed. And served. And prayed. And fought through the struggles. And though you wondered. And missed home so much. You kept going. And made it to the finish. In by doing so, you changed the world.

Now the tables are turned, and you find yourself back in the US, probably laying awake at night with those children's beautiful faces in your mind. I'm guessing you find your thoughts always drifting their way...wondering how they are, and if they miss you, and if it mattered and if they will one day become all God has always dreamed they will be. And you've probably wondered if someone else somewhere in the world is feeling that explosion in their chest you felt that night in Atlanta, and hoping their "Yes" to God will eventually lead them to Chang Mai to take your place.

Your mom said you weren't sure what the next part of the story looked like yet, but that you're looking to get back into school and taking steps toward playing a more permanent role in God's global story. I have no doubt His voice will be clear, and the days ahead will be purpose-filled vs. just more "college days" squandered as many often are.

Well, somehow this letter has become quite lengthy (no surprise to those who know me), but all I really wanted to say is that you have become a huge inspiration to Shelley and me and our Passion team. I scribbled a quick note in my semi-illegible handwriting for your mom to pass on to you that night, but I wanted another chance to tell you how much your story means to us.

I know there are countless others like you, students propelled to the far corners of the world as a result of God's call at a Passion gathering. That's so humbling...and what the whole Movement is all about. Marissa, you are what Passion is all about. And you put a brilliant face on everything we do. We are honored to be in this crazy God-adventure with you and are believing greater things are yet to come in your life!

Welcome home,


  • Thank you for sharing her story, for inspiring people like me to GO and join in the plan of Christ, for giving me courage to face whatever will come as I prepare to go.

    but first, I'll see you in Atlanta.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/20/2008 7:57 PM  

  • Amazing story. I think she would have got in Francis' plane after Dallas. Hopefully he will have one ready after Atlanta, so we can all jump right in like Marissa!
    Thanks for the amazing story!


    By Blogger Victoria, at 3/20/2008 9:13 PM  

  • beautiful to see Christ moving in my generation, and the places the Gospel is not only being taken to be preached, but taken to be LIVED!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/20/2008 9:40 PM  

  • Thanks for sharing Marissa's story. Praise God for His work in and through many, many other college age people (and their parents!). In Atlanta and in cities all over the world, may the Lord pierce His people's hearts with His calling to "GO! Now!"

    Can't wait to see what He does in Atlanta in a few weeks!

    By Blogger Marcia B, at 3/20/2008 9:40 PM  

  • man, this story fires me up and makes me ask..."Lord, where do you want me to go? to do? to be?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/20/2008 10:29 PM  

  • This gives me courage for the journey ahead of us this summer ministering to the Body in another country. I am encouraged, and can say, that yes, God spoke to my heart SO deeply at Passion '07, also. As I have purchased tickets for us, I have been asking myself, "Lord, did I hear You right?"
    Thank you for this story. It is confirmation that I have. I went to Passion '07 as a volunteer. And want to go to this country as a 'volunteer' on the team of Jesus. This story has reminded me of that night I wept in His presence for this generation, wept for the courage to go and desire for His call to me, and wept that the American church would step into the role of uniting with the rest of the Body around the world, and reach out to those who don't know Jesus.
    Still praying for 'that girl' who is in or is going to Iraq to serve at the Freedom Center. I meant to ask you your name that night, but at one point I think the Lord gave me your name. Regardless, He knows who you are. I pray for you from time to time. I am even crying now reminded of His love for you, and His love for them in Iraq. You were in Phillips that night, or morning actually... I pray that you are on your way or in that place God has called you to.
    Loui and Shelley, its all going to be worth it.
    With Love,
    Jennifer in Chattanooga

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/20/2008 11:31 PM  

  • louis, this is ONE of the many reasons that I believe in Passion. I don't know what I have to offer you but what I do have I offer.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/21/2008 1:42 AM  

  • Thanks for sharing Marissa's story! I'm deeply moved.


    By Anonymous Michiel, at 3/21/2008 2:01 AM  

  • woohoo ... what a great story! i love how these stories motivate and inspire us to live for Him. it's the 268 generation in action! :)

    By Anonymous Matt, at 3/21/2008 3:29 AM  

  • louie \

    i didn't know how else to get a hold of you, so my apologies for writing this on your blog, thought you might get this instead of me guessing your e-mail address.

    i was in la. inspired by the stories of thailand. i'm now here.
    i met the women who rescues and literally buys children to save them from the sex industry here.

    thanks for la.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/21/2008 5:08 AM  

  • Wow, thanks Louie for sharing this story and writing this letter. It's so inspiring and what she did is truly amazing. She just followed Jesus and He brought her to the place where He needed her the most.

    Sometimes it's hard to break away from the plan your parents have for you. I haven't followed that plan at all. And sometimes I felt like I dissappointed them. And I've had discussions about faith and tradition. And it's hard. I left their church in order to grow. And I've hurt them with that. I've prayed a lot about it and about the situation and slowly, slowly God is opening their eyes. I know that wherever God will take us, He will care for the people around us, our family & friends.

    Sometimes it's hard to phantom that. It's hard to put all your trust in God. It's a struggle for me everyday. But I recently heard a song and the lyrics are very simple but it said: "My faith is on solid rock, I'm counting on God."

    And yeah that's so true, we need to put our trust in Him and count on Him!

    By Blogger Jacoline, at 3/21/2008 8:41 AM  

  • Jeremiah 29:11
    "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

    By Blogger Jacoline, at 3/21/2008 8:48 AM  

  • I have tears in my eyes...at the age of Marissa I had the same questions in me...but God wanted me to go to university...I don't know what are His plans for me...but the burning flame is still here in my heart...
    Louie you help me to not let this fire be dampened, while I wait for Him!Thanks!!!

    By Anonymous Daniela, at 3/21/2008 1:14 PM  

  • wow, thanks again louie. That was very inspiring...

    By Blogger Anna, at 3/21/2008 2:01 PM  

  • Marissa took a step of faith that many of us are too afraid to take. I got chills as I read her story. You go girl - continue to let God lead you in every area of your life!! You're an inspiration to all!

    By Blogger GodzGirl, at 3/21/2008 3:34 PM  

  • wow. incredible. i'm speechless and humbled after hearing Marissa's story.

    God is so wonderful, isn't He? His Love just makes me want to cry.

    By Blogger Joe, at 3/21/2008 5:22 PM  

  • amazing story! thanks so much for sharing with us.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/21/2008 6:37 PM  

  • God is wondrous in his ways! My study this week has been on the GREAT COMMISSION, and I have also stumbled across this web site!

    Remember all praise is for God, otherwise it is for his counterfeit...satan

    By Blogger Mr Smith, at 3/22/2008 2:05 AM  

  • beautiful.

    By Blogger ::it's all for Jesus::, at 3/22/2008 12:07 PM  

  • This is a very encouraging story and shows just how greatly God is using Passion. I pray that many others find out just what God wants them to do and do it with the same faith and passion as Marissa, whether it be to go to China or to open a furniture store. I love seeing the fruits of Passion and love that the Passion team can see the fruits of their labor.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/22/2008 9:22 PM  

  • Praise God!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/23/2008 5:41 PM  

  • very cool, marissa! praying for your next steps and for the little ones you loved so much in chang mai.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/23/2008 6:35 PM  

  • LG:
    Thanks for sharing Marissa's story. I was visiting my son and daughter-in-law, Dave & Bethany, this weekend and they shared with us this blog. Dave and Bethany know Marissa through her brother who is planning to move to Capetown, South Africa to obey God's calling with my son and daughter-in-law. The thrill of a believing Mom & Dad to see their child obey God's call, whether it is to South Africa or to Gainesville, Georgia, is indescribable. When I listen to the passion from my son's heart for the people of South Africa, I wish I personally had unlimited funds to support him while he is on mission with our fabulous God. I can picture Marissa's mom's face as she was sharing with you in Orlando. I anticipate hearing another round of God's activity in my son's life when he stops by our house after the Passion 08 Conference. Thanks for doing life with this 268 Generation.
    Joe B

    By Blogger Joe B, at 3/23/2008 8:48 PM  

  • God bless you, Louie and Shelley for the sacrifices you have made in answering God's call upon your lives.
    Marissa's story is amazing and I know there are many more like it.

    Hope to see you guys and catch up soon. In the meantime, I'm glad I found your blog!

    By Blogger Vicki Courtney, at 3/23/2008 9:23 PM  

  • i miss the podcasts!!

    By Blogger Mayra, at 3/24/2008 11:39 PM  

  • WOW...what an amazing story! Makes me happy to hear how people have made a change in their lives for Christ. I think that God is smiling!

    Thanks Louie for sharing and I miss the podcast too!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/25/2008 9:46 AM  

  • ditto on the podcasts...your few but devoted listeners are waiting...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/25/2008 10:52 AM  

  • well done Marissa!! :)

    "God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you're ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done.
    As one psalmist puts it, He throws caution to the winds, giving to the needy in reckless abandon. His right-living, right-giving ways never run out, never wear out.
    This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God,
    wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.
    Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians. It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God.
    This relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ. You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone.
    Meanwhile, moved by the extravagance of God in your lives, they'll respond by praying for you in passionate intercession for whatever you need.
    Thank God for this gift, his gift. No language can praise it enough!"
    II Cor 9:8-15 (the Message)

    (thanks Louie, for sharing Marissa's story)


    By Blogger Kimmer, at 3/25/2008 10:33 PM  

  • This story is so encouraging to me. It wsa Passion One day when I stood with Heather mercer as she gave her talk and said yes I will go to the hard places. Then the next two years of passion in nashville continued to reconfirm in me the call. After finishing grad school is 2006 I came to serve as a career "m" in nepal. It has been an incredible journey. I am so glad that I answered God's call at the One Day Event. Everyday I wake up in nepal and cannot believe that I at 26 get to serve God here. I was especially touched by the story of marissa's father. I will never forget the tears streaming down my daddy's face as he watched me go through security at the airport to leave to go to a country in extreme turmoil. As I left his loving arms and crossed the security line, I walked in the loving arms of my heavinly father and he was guided me in a way I never thought possible ever since.

    By Blogger Jenn, at 3/26/2008 1:02 PM  

  • Awesome.

    By Blogger Annie, at 3/26/2008 11:05 PM  

  • HOORAY for the new podcast! What a wonderful title: Great Endurance. Am downloading as I type and can hardly wait to hear what the LORD is continuing to do with Passion!

    By Blogger Aslan's Girl, at 3/28/2008 12:23 PM  

  • Woohoo ... a new podcast is up!!! Thanks for the update Louie! :) I'll continue to pray for you and the team.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/28/2008 12:54 PM  

  • Love, love, love this story!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/28/2008 2:57 PM  

  • Yeah!! New podcast...going to download RIGHT NOW! Thank you!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/28/2008 2:59 PM  

  • This is a beautiful example of the faith we all need to have. Well done Marissa. I pray God's blessings on you.
    Louie, thank you for sharing this with us. It is the word I needed for today. See you in Atlanta!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/31/2008 11:51 PM  

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