Windy’s eyes dance when she talks about her dream trip. For years, she had felt pulled by the open-hearted locals, gorgeous shorelines, snow-wrapped mountains and crystalline waters of New Zealand.  “I had seen so many pictures. I always wanted to go,” she says. In fact, she had even socked away money, bit by bit, toward a trip. So when she heard Grace Church was planning a service trip to New Zealand, it felt like the perfect opportunity from God. “I was able to get time off, I had already saved money, everything fell into line; kind of like God was telling me to go.”

When Windy arrived in New Zealand, she was excited to do some good for people while exploring a beautiful country. Certainly, she and her fellow team members got the chance to scrabble over black boulders at the foot of majestic mountains in Queenstown, and walk among packs of frolicking lambs in the hills of Christchurch. They also met with members of Story Church, a budding church plant sponsored by the 2020 Hope Project, and shared their experience as members of a growing church of multiple locations.

What Windy did not expect from this trip was to be confronted with her past. “I had a lot of trauma in my past,” she says. It was something many visitors at Story Church could relate to. “Right now, they’re struggling because of all the traumatic events that they’ve gone through, like the earthquake, and then another earthquake.” Windy also describes a feeling of unworthiness that seems to be common among locals. “A lot of people that I spoke to have had experiences that are very traumatic whether they are sexual or abusive, and therefore think they are unworthy.”

As she shared her own story with visitors at Christchurch, she found something beautiful happening. “It kind of grew me into another level of opening my heart to healing and realizing how much God has done for me in the last couple years. It’s like an onion and slowly but surely, you keep peeling more and more of yourself open.”

She returned home to Massachusetts with a different perspective on her life. “Everything I have has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Him and to be in a place of gratitude every single day makes your life so beautiful. I’ve felt so much peace,” she says “I went thinking that there was maybe something I could offer and what I got in return was so much more than anything I ever did.”

Now Windy is passionate about sharing with others the transformation God has had in her life.  She says, “This trip made me realize that everybody has a past and some sort of hurt.” She continues, “And to open yourself up to sharing makes you and people around you connected and more willing to live life on the path God wants. So you have gratitude versus always trying to control what you want to do and this constant friction of emotions.”

Windy was so moved by her experience, she is already planning a personal six-week trip back to Christchurch, in hopes of connecting with more people and sharing her story at Story Church.  “If you’re thinking about going on a trip, it’s because God has placed that in your heart,” she says, “You got to just go.”

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