Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Live your life, don't just let life happen to you. ~Caz

I am quite possibly the worst blogger ever. I used to be so good about this. Ironically enough, I was much better when I had far less to say, at least far less to say of anything important. The deeper things are felt, the less inclined I am to share them with everyone. A while ago in our curriculum reading we read "The Way of the Heart" by Henri Nouwen about embracing silence and solitude. In it, he talked about how wordy we are as a culture and the more we talk about things, the less we feel them. I've noticed the opposite, the deeper my feelings, the less I want to speak them aloud. Which I guess is ultimately the same thing.

I've been spending a lot of time this last week daydreaming. Dreaming about what live used to be like, the things and people that are familiar. Caz said recently that by this time, two months in, people often start feeling like, "Well, this has been a great missions trip but I'm ready to go home now." I can relate to that. I started feeling very homesick for my friends in Pensacola especially and my little apartment with April and Sheila. I was so ready to leave Pensacola behind forever when I left in August and now there are moments I would give anything to be back there, back where things are comfortable and familiar. I was praying about this earlier today, that God would give me the strength and the faith to stay present and to trust that 10 months from now, everything is going to be okay and I am going to be where I need to be. I realized that He is answering my prayers to learn what it means to surrender and as He is teaching me to let go of the familiar and hold on only to Him, I am clinging desperately to the things He wants me to let go. I am clinging to the edge of the branch, not realizing that God is holding his arms out two feet below me ready to catch me the moment I decided to release my death grip.

I told this to Caz this morning at our team captain meeting. She commented that we are all like that; we all worry so much about what will happen and then finally when we get there, we are surprised to find that everything is still all right. Six months ago I was stressing about where I was going to go next and why I was feeling restless. And yet here I am, doing okay, living life in Camden, New Jersey. In 10 months, wherever I am, I will be doing okay and still living life. So why worry?

A lot has been happening in and around me these last two months, the retelling of which would make this blog WAY too long. But overall things have been going well. Working at the school is great and the teens I work with are a lot of fun...and sometimes a pain in my butt. :) My math skills are improving significantly. My church here is great, though really small. Bible studies have been really fulfilling and most challenging to a lot of my long-held doctrinal beliefs. I love it though; it is wonderful to be thinking of God and His word in new ways. My neighborhood is busy and my neighbors have been soaking in the last of the warm weather so we've been able to sit outside with them a bit more than we expected. Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching and we will hopefully get to spend some really awesome time with them. My team is doing well and have been really good for me through my inner and outer struggles. We've been good for each other.

Please keep me in your prayers. Specifically for my school and how my heart handles each individual student. Also pray for my team and that we grow closer together and deeper into the bonds of community. Their names are Anna, Ellen, Josh, Matt, and Megan and I'm sure it would be a comfort to them as it is to me to be prayed for by name. I could use some prayer too regarding trusting God in each situation. I often do not trust myself to handle difficult situations well and I think that comes from putting too much faith in my own abilities and not enough in God. And lastly, to stay present; that God helps me keep my mind and heart present here, where I am sure I am meant to be.

Peace and love!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lord willing, I will actually get better at updating this thing. Original plans were to update once a week but the whole not having internet in our apartment put a damper on that one. But since I take a handful of teenagers once a week to a place called Hopeworks that teaches young people proficiency on the computer, I have a computer more readily available to me. Yay!

I am finally getting settled here in Camden and into a routine. Monday through Thursday I work at Christus with 14 ninth and tenth graders. Mostly I am enjoying all of them a lot and am starting to build some good relationships with them. I work as a teaching assistant in math, Spanish, English, and computers (at Hopeworks) which is definitely pushing me out of my comfort zone. I'm supposed to start their after-school program in November too so that should be fun. Weekends are left for our Sabbath, time spent in our neighborhood, chores, curriculum reading, and Church. We are all falling into our own schedules while also making time for each other and I'm relieved to finally start feeling like I'm living life here.

Jesus has been teaching me so much in just the 6 weeks that I've been here. Tonight and tomorrow we all go on our Solitude Retreat and get time to reflect over all we've learned, all we were, and all we are becoming. Most of us are really looking forward to it and some are dreading the silence. I think that it will be far different from what any of us expect, in keeping with Mission Year tradition. Nothing I've experienced so far has been anything like what I expected it to be. But each day I need Jesus more and I desire to know Him better, so I know that I am exactly where I need to be in spite of the pain and hardship.

I'm trying to keep up with 2 blogs right now so I'm not going to write much more here. If you want to see more you can check out my blog through Mission Year too at:

Thanks for your prayers and support!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Finally I can blog!!! The past two weeks have been like being in a whirlwind! It's been amazing and frightening and horrifying and beautiful all at once. I arrived in Philadelphia two weeks ago yesterday and met my City Director, Caz, as well as the other team captains. We stopped by the Mission Year office before heading to where we would be staying for the week and who should walk down the stairs but Shane Claiborne, author and founder of The Simple Way! Lindsay, one of the other team captains and I felt completely star struck (which wore off later in the week when we realized he is just a normal guy after we had dinner at Caz's house and played Catch Phrase with him). But still, it was pretty cool. :)

So we stayed in Logan (North Philadelphia) for the whole week on mattresses in the living room with four fans and the window air conditioning unit blowing right on us because it was so hot upstairs in the bedrooms. And I thought I was moving north!!! Caz took us all over Philadelphia and introduced us to the amazing goodness of Water a snow cone but SO MUCH BETTER! The entire week was spent learning how to navigate Philadelphia as well as our neighborhoods. I spent a day with a MY alum wandering around Camden, Lindsay around Wilmington, and Rah around Logan and Center City Philly. There is another team in Southwest, Philly but the team captain wasn't able to come early like we were.

Last Thursday, my team arrived and we spent two days just setting up our apartment and getting to know each other and our neighborhood a bit. Then off to Atlanta for Mission Year bootcamp where we met all the other teams from Chicago, Houston, and Atlanta as well as the whole MY staff. We heard lots of speakers, ate lots of food, discussed lots of different subjects, and worshipped together. It was incredible...minus the gigantic spiders.

So about Caz. This woman is incredbile. We've had a number of hiccups these past two weeks and I have yet to see her handle any situation with anything less than absolute grace and patience. She is so incredibly calm and collected and I've already learned so much from her. She gives every person she meets dignity and it is a beautiful thing to observe. Through her, other MY staff, the other team captains, and my own team, Jesus has already taught me so much about what it means to "love my neighbors," to see Him in every face, and to give every person dignity regardless of who they are or the circumstances they are in. I can't believe I'm only two weeks in this and I've still got almost a year to go! That is absolutely thrilling to me.

My teammates: One word...HILARIOUS! So far, we have truly been enjoying each other so much. They crack me up and we have already had a number of adventures that ended in lots of laughter. They are so passionate about loving Jesus and people and have already been such an inspiration to me. They have been very gracious and supportive to me as team captain as well and I am so grateful that God picked each one of them to walk with me in this journey this year. I'm not naive enough to think that things will always be easy and fun; I'm sure that we will have our fair share of conflict. But I trust that if we are all seeking Jesus as our first love, we will handle those conflicts with love and compassion.

Neighbors: We've also met a handful of our neighbors within our apartment complex. All of them have been very kind and willing to help us with anything we need. They helped us move in, carry groceries up the stairs, collect our mail when we were in training in Atlanta, etc. So yeah, basically they are awesome and we can't wait to get to know them better. The neighborhood itself is pretty nice too, not at all what I expected. Walk a half mile to the left of our apartment and you get into fancy shmancy Merchantville. Walk a half mile to the right and that's where it gets rough. But even in the rougher areas, people have been really nice.

(I have 7 minutes left on this computer so I'm gonna wrap it up even though I've got so much more to tell!) Basically, I'm loving it here. I'll be sending out the 2nd round of newsletters soon as well so if I don't have your address already you can message me on facebook or write me a letter!

My address is:
Stevie Neale
4313 B. Maple Ave
Pennsauken, NJ 08109

But no packages there please! I have a different address for that I can give if anyone wants along with the guidelines for what they can contain.

Also I still am in need as far as support raising goes! You can give easily at my launch page:

Thanks a lot! Love you all!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It finally hit me...

As I was walking my older sister and her two young sons to her car last night. "Don't leave, come home and live with me. We'll go out to lunch all the time and get manicures and pedicures and do all sorts of fun things." That is what I've become accustomed to hearing from my 80 year old grandmother who just wants everyone she cares about within a five mile radius of her. I hear similar things from my mother on a pretty regular basis too and occasionally from my father, but they are trying to be good. 

But last night, my older sister, Stacy, who never says anything that may even be taken as meant to discourage me from doing anything I want to do, hugged me for the longest time in the middle of the road with tears streaming down her face (also a rarity) and said, "You can come home, Stevie, you know that?" Just a simple question that wrapped up everything she was feeling but never said. And that was it. Well, that and, "I love you, be safe." Even writing this it makes me want to cry. 

I haven't been sad to leave home since I left for college 5 years ago. And I'm not really sad for myself, but for them. It finally hit me why my family has been acting this way when they didn't behave like this when I went away to college. They actually expected me to come home for good. I think it is only within the last two weeks that they are starting to realize that I have no intentions of living at home again. And even though, I'm strong in that decision, because I don't think Jesus' will is for me to spend the rest of my life in South Florida, five minutes away from my whole family, married with 2 1/2 kids, it is heartbreaking for me to realize the reason behind their fears. They fear the truth that I really have been serious the last few years when I've been telling them that I'm not coming home. That...and for some strange reason they all think I'm going to get shot in Camden. 

I have the greatest amount of respect and love for everyone in my family and how they have chosen to live their lives. They are all wonderful and loving people and the family is about a tight-knit as any I've ever met. We have a blast together, and often too. But my life is different. My dreams are different. I don't care if I ever have the perfect husband, 2-4 wonderful children, a big house, two cars, a dog, and a picket fence. I don't care if I ever make six figures. I don't care about prestige, fame, beauty, riches, or anything like that. I care about people and I love Jesus. And I want to be where I can best love Him and others. And whether or not all of those other things come to me matters not, actually, I'd prefer they don't. I'd much rather a hut in Thailand than a picket fence in Coral Springs. I'd much rather spend my life needing God than being comfortable and complacent. And I don't ever want to think or feel like I don't need God. But all of that doesn't make seeing the tears in my sister's eyes and hearing her soft voice any easier, or any less heartbreaking. 

Pray for my family please, and pray for me. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Loving without fear

I need to not be writing this. I need to be getting ready to run some of the hundreds of errands I have to complete before I leave next Friday, but Jesus gave me an awesome revelation this morning and I had to share because I think it is going to be incredibly important to me throughout this next year. I'm sure that what I wrote in my journal would be completely incoherent to anyone but me so I will try to make it clearer in my retelling of it.

I was thinking about love and about why we love who we love. And I wrote, "who my heart loves is up to You, because You own my heart and You teach it to love and You love through me." If I'm already making no sense at all, refer to 1 John 4:7-21, but it might be just as confusing. It occurred to me, that is the reason we are called to love everyone. Because we cannot love God and NOT love anyone, which is why He says, "Anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God." We cannot hold hatred in our hearts for anyone and expect to still hold love for God. God loves everyone and if He lives in us, then like 1 John 4:12 says, "His love is made complete in us." And when we love like God, we will love everyone without prejudice, judgment, or fear. That is why Mission Year. That is why I'm excited to go to "the most dangerous city in the nation." Because God is teaching me to love without fear, because "perfect love drives out fear." 1 John 4:18

Monday, August 3, 2009

Send me anywhere...

Interpreted by Jesus: Camden, New Jersey. 

In about three weeks, I will be moving to Camden. Brave and faithful souls are welcome to Google Camden but if you lack either quality I do not recommend it. :) So I've moved all my worldly possessions that I've collected over the last five years out of Pensacola, my first grown-up town, and back to my childhood home in Coral Springs. It is very surreal moving out of my first "grown-up" town after spending 5 years there. It was incredibly difficult to leave all the people that I've come to love so dearly, but I have full confidence in them, myself, and Jesus that geographical location will not diminish the depth of those relationships. 

I've promised to keep a blog throughout the year to many who are thankfully interested in the work God will be doing in and through me in Camden. Though I must warn my attentive readers that I will not have internet access in the house I'll be living in. I will, however, make as many trips to the public library to update as is humanly possible (and no, not alone for those who were concerned).  I will also be writing on my blog through Mission Year at  I just think this one might be more accessible and easier to find so I've chosen to keep my own personal blog as well. And the format is less confusing for me (technology!). 

So what I've learned so far about Jesus/life/myself since applying to Mission Year:
-it is really hard to leave your first adult town, since nothing but sheer will and desire will bring me back there (without the obligation of biological family, you know?)
-true friends are the ones who will stay up till all hours helping you to pack or just visiting with you while you rummage through all your junk
-there are people you love who will try to convince you to stay and others that are glad to see you go...both love you equally as much, they just have different ways of showing it. 
-practically speaking, it is harder to trust the perfect will of God than the imperfect will of me
-Jesus never intended for me to be still in anything or anyone but Him
-just when I feel like I'm going to get a break from being a leader, I get chosen as a team captain, which taught me that God will not tolerate complacency
-some people give good advice with little love, others give bad advice with great love....take what you can
-the love of God eliminates fear, the love of a person multiplies it
-that I should be afraid, that many are afraid for me, but that the safest place to be is inside the will of God and perfect love casts out fear
-that I have WAY too much stuff
-that God only reveals as much as we NEED to know, not as much as we WANT to know

Those are just a few things and I'm sure there is a lot I'm forgetting and a lot more to come. I'm sure really excited to look back on this initial blog in one year and see all that Jesus taught me about Himself and about those He loves. But I'm not going to rush or wish away even a second of this next year so as far as I'm concerned that day can take as long as it wants to get here! 

Thank you all for your interest in my new ministry opportunity and for your constant love, support, prayers, and happy thoughts. If you want to learn more about Mission Year, check out their website at

Or if you want to send much needed financial support you can go to my launch page at  

Peace and Love in Jesus!!!