Hey guys.  I wrote this about a month before I left the Philippines.  Looking back on that year of my life, I realize that the further I trekked that season, the less I spoke up about the reality of what I was experiencing.  Though that year was by far the best of my life, and I am grateful for the blessings and lessons, it was also without a doubt the hardest 365 days I have ever encountered.  I say this without an ounce of exaggeration; there were days I wanted to slip away through the cracks in the cement of the walls of my tiny, sweaty, apartment.

Being a missionary is not as glamorous as my Instagram may have caused it to seem, and is as far-removed from easy as I was from the comfort of my temperature-regulated, cushioned, quiet bedroom in Boise.

The following is a glimpse into some of the intense emotions and mental struggles I battled through in the Philippines.  Though it definitely doesn’t describe the season in its entirety, and if you’re hungry for more details, I’d gladly sit down and share them now that God has put my feet underneath me to some degree.

But I hope that my transparency frees you to be more vulnerable.  It’s a challenging lesson to learn, how to be courageously honest about one’s self and experiences.  Yet it’s as liberating as it is terrifying, and I hope that some of you who are hiding behind the illusion that you have to manicure your life in order for people to like you and include you finally start gaining the boldness to disclose the raw, unfiltered, grimy, and even painful parts of life.  And at the end, still have this truth: that the goodness of God underscores literally every chapter of life.  That regardless of the adverse seasons and the amount of times you cry yourself to sleep, He is still the God of freedom and healing.  He’s never left you, and He never will.

And through the really, really heart-wrenching days of the last year, I learned that, too.  God is good, no matter what.  So yeah, here I go…


Taking a deep breath.

In, out. Repeat.




Okay here I go.

Saying more than I ever wanted or intended, but I cannot pretend that I haven’t been fighting for what feels like my life and my sanity lately.

I don’t really like this position, lying down in front of you and recounting my experiences, or the troubling things that have crossed my mind lately.

But here I am, the girl who many call a missionary, the girl who is slowly but surely been shying away from that title because the shame I’ve been trekking through lately makes me feel so unworthy.

Stop. Take a deep breath again, Hannah. In and out. In and out.

I have one month left of the biggest season of my life so far. Eleven months of living in a developing nation called the Philippines have flown past my eyes. And I know, I’ve allowed myself to fall somewhat silent over the last few months. Not because I have nothing to say, or because I want to keep in the dark those who have been following my journey. I just really don’t know how to tell you all that I’ve been walking through a hurricane. I felt like if I wanted to share my struggles, I would have to tell you all which way is up, and I honestly didn’t know the answer to that for the last few months. I just kept looking at the Father, not even sure how to relate to Him sometimes, because He seemed so impossibly good, and I seemed too incredibly bad.

Depression. So heavy, it kept me in bed some days. So weighty, it was hard to open my eyes sometimes. So thick that it exhausted me to fathom that I could even dare to believe in good things.

Anxiety. So tormenting that I often lost my breath trying to catch up with my reeling thoughts. It was like my mind would cast its line out into the deep, and an enormous fear would tug on the bait, and I couldn’t stop the elusive string of thought from diving into the dark and unknown. So far from the light that I started not even knowing what was solid or what to grasp for help. I have never felt more like I was drowning in my whole life.

Shame, so massive that it felt like an enormous thunderhead on the plains of my soul, and I was doomed to walk underneath it. That its rain would melt me down until I eroded away with the earth. So alone that if I cried out for help, I wondered if anyone would even hear me. I thought I had to resort to lying flat on the ground in surrender, and be trampled by my future. This is what I deserve, I swear it’s true. I cannot possibly be free from my past.

Thankfully, Jesus is more real than all of it. He is the Way up. And now I’m finding my wings. I’m holding tight to this hot-air balloon that I call freedom in Christ. It’s crazy. Now I can breathe. There aren’t rocks on my chest right now. There aren’t any weights tied to my feet and my hands aren’t stuck behind my back. Abba is teaching me how to be His child again and it makes me want to never leave the safe place of His lap.

I write this, honestly, unsure of the reasons. I think it’s mostly because I’m so thankful I’m being set free. And I want people to know it’s possible. To be so far gone in your thoughts, your shame, your circumstances, and your sin, yet never past the point of return.

I’m a missionary, if that’s the title you want to give me. I’m the one who is supposed to have it all together. I am the one who is supposed to be most free. I’m the one who is working for an organization that promotes freedom.

And for the last few months, I still felt and lived like a slave. To my emotions, circumstances, and sin.

Turns out, freedom is Jesus. It’s an option for everyone, and a choice everyone has to make. A yes to Jesus is a yes to freedom in you.

So you can be the one that everyone claims to have it all together, and you can be the one that people point out as the biggest mess or failure. And regardless of what it looks like on the outside, despite the physical, mental, or spiritual chains we encounter in our lives, we can all be completely, one-hundred percent, radically, and wildly free.

It’s not about us. It’s about the liberator, the emancipator, the victor.

He won for us.

For me.

For you.

Take a deep breath, Hannah.

The reason for my tears is no longer my overwhelming sadness, fear, or hopelessness.

My tears are those of a much more honest human. They come from a broken, but healing heart. They stream from the core of someone who has finally seen the light. From a deep place of gratitude. From a person who now has a genuinely profound and new understanding of what it means to no longer have chains.

These tears are a response to Abba’s emancipation proclamation, written in blood, signed with sacrifice, validated in uncanny love.

Oh God, I am finally free.


That’s Right, I Saw That…

In most ways, I’m getting fairly accustomed to the differences of lifestyle here in the Philippines, as opposed to my life in Boise.  For the most part, I’m starting to be okay with almost always being sweaty to some degree.  I am also now taking advantage of the moments when I’m caught in endless streams of Manila traffic as times to think, process, and pray.  I’m used to refrigerating every opened package of food, even nuts and uncooked pasta because ants are the real deal here.  And I actually have a rice cooker that I use willingly and regularly, sometimes even for breakfast.

But there are some experiences, some things I see and stories I hear, that I’ll probably never, ever get used to.  I’ll probably always find humor in the garbage men taking naps atop the mountain of trash loaded on the truck as it hauls down the road at 40 mph.  On a more serious note, I probably won’t ever get used to seeing filthy little kids on overpasses, asleep with a Jollibee cup in hand and 20 pesos inside.

During this last outreach trip to Angeles City, I had a conversation in a bar with one of the parents who attended the Parent Vision Trip through Adventure in Missions.  As my Filipina sister and I led our team through the slimy bars on Walking Street, there were multiple times throughout the night where I noticed the momma’s heart of one sweet lady on my team breaking over and over again.  Every time a girl rubbed her scantily clad skin to relieve herself from an overly air-conditioned stage, or teeter in her skyscraper stilettos, I swore this lady nearly jumped out of her seat to clothe her with the shawl on her back.  Every time a customer did something violating to the dancers, I thought I’d see a purse come slamming down on someone’s head.

But I didn’t.  And as we sat on the torn, pleather seats of the last bar we attended that evening, I fell into a conversation with this momma.  She asked me some pretty tough, thought-provoking questions.

How do you see this stuff so often and keep coming back?

How do you handle these experiences and sleep at night?

Truthfully, dwelling on the fact that a highly-paid dancer at one of these bars gets paid $5 for dancing on a stage all night in a bikini and stilettos while men harass and violate her really does make it hard for me to sleep comfortably in my safe bed.  And knowing that she can get forcibly plastered by men buying her drinks, where she receives the commission of a subway sandwich is even harder.  And the truth that someone can buy her for the night for the price of a jacket at the mall simply takes the cake.

How does one handle all the evil that happens on Walking Street?

Well I’ll be the first Jesus-loving, God-fearing, spirit-filled, Christian to say that at first, it makes my image of God look a little dark.  And I am not about to go into a theological debate over why bad things happen to good people because I don’t have that answer yet, and maybe never will.  I still know in the depths of my heart that if the God I love and know is true, then His heart is completely wrecked over His daughters’ oppression.  I don’t have to question His character.

And as we sit on those bar seats that have seen too much evil throughout the decades of Walking Street’s existence, I wonder if what I’m witnessing isn’t an accident.

We are Jesus’ hands and feet, right?  We as Christians, according to 1 Corinthians 12, are actually called the body of Christ.  If the purpose of our lives was to get saved and go to Heaven, then we might as well just die at the altar (sorry that’s a little dark), but I think you hear what I’m trying to convey.  Jesus loves us so much that He not only came to earth to die and save us, but to use His life as a model so that when He returned to the Father’s side, we could partner with Him, and embody the love of Christ as we do Kingdom Work.  In other words, perhaps we are the eyes that see evil, connected to the hands that reach out, connected to the legs that carry out Kingdom endeavors, connected to the head that gives practical gospel and direction (like helping bar girls go to school), which is connected to the heart.  And I mean, The Heart—The Father’s Heart. 

And that heart is so sweet on the broken.  Jesus’ heart is absolutely, 100% for every one of those girls’ chance at living and experiencing true freedom.  But for Jesus’ body to truly be aware of the task at hand, and for us to adopt the Father’s Heart for the broken, sometimes we have to see messed up things.  Sometimes we have to endure sleepless nights for people who hardly ever sleep soundly.  But how wonderful it is, that God chose me, a young, reserved, quirky, brunette, green-eyed, freckled, 20-year-old girl from Idaho to be His partner in doing Kingdom business.  And He is calling you, and you, and you, dear readers, to be His partners as well.

That thought reawakened something in me as I sat next to that mom on that bar seat that night.  I had a new resolve to be more aware of what I see, and decide what I can contribute to the need I perceive around me.  No, I can’t feed every starving kid in Manila, as much as I wish I could.  But I can continue to fight for the 64 girls who call Wipe Every Tear home, and whenever the Lord allows me to see something that pricks my heart, I will fight for them too, even if it’s only 5 pesos in a Jollibee cup.

I am not responsible for what people do with my love, kindness, and generosity.

I am highly responsible for the heart that sits inside my chest, the cultivation of it, and the love, generosity, and kindness that can, should, and will pour out of it.

So I ask: what do you see today that’s broken?  Is it a starving child or an abused neighbor?  Is it the homeless in Manila or the homeless under the bridge near your grocery store?  Is it the trafficked girl or the burned-out, single mother?  Allow yourself to be more broken for the broken.  Adopt the Heart of the Father for your community.  Be very brave, and very kind. 

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith, but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you tells him, “Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,” but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that? So too, faith by itself, if it is not complemented by action, is dead.”

– James 2:14-17