Last Night I Dreamed About Orlando

By Tuesday, June 14, 2016 0 0

Last night Chris and I prayed before falling asleep, like we always do. We held hands and thanked God for our many blessings, prayed for our children and our support raising and our marriage. And then we prayed for Orlando. Chris’s voice broke a little when he thought of the parents. Parents whose babies won’t be coming home. Parents who had horrifying text conversations just moments before a monster took their baby’s life. And this is the picture that haunted my dreams last night: silent phones, still bodies, distressed parents.

We are heartbroken for this tremendous loss of lives. So many young lives; not that value decreases with age but that potential increases! I think of all the amazing things that have happened to me since I was 25 and I mourn the lost future of all these precious humans.

Which brings us to the age old question. What was God’s role is this tragedy? He is sovereign. He literally holds the world in His hands and not one hair on your head is lost without God knowing about it, ordaining its fall. I have studied the answer to this question, heard messages on it and read the many Bible verses that demonstrate that God’s purposes prevail over the purposes of man. I never know how to answer it exactly. It is not comforting to hear that He allowed it, willed it, caused it, or will use it. It’s too horrible! It’s not comforting to hear that He didn’t have a part in it but it is all because of the decisions of that horrible man, because then what is the point? If man is that powerful, then God must be weak. Indeed, this is a prevailing belief today.

This is my only comfort: Jesus, who redeems ALL things, will redeem this tragedy. I know that God was not surprised, though He is brokenhearted. God was not detached, though He does not control us like marionettes. We cannot yet see how, and perhaps we may never see this side of eternity, but this tragedy is part of the bigger picture, the bigger plan for all of humanity, and it fits perfectly into the puzzle, which God sees in completion.

God’s plan for every human is that we dwell with Him forever in eternity. This is the single best thing that will ever happen – no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering. Just perfect fellowship together with God, the creator and author of everything beautiful and good in the world. It comes at the price though. To ensure this possibility, God endured the very same tragedy that those brokenhearted parents in Orlando suffer now: His only son, Jesus, was slaughtered. God sent His son to be slaughtered.

Why did He do it? Because the horrific death of His son paid a ransom placed on mankind. He allowed His son to die in order to purchase us because He loves us. In order to purchase you. Because He loves you.

You see, the enemy of our souls tricks us into believing that God has withheld something good, and we chase after that something until we die.

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. (James 4:1-3)

Lest you think only Sunday’s killer is represented in this passage, remember that Jesus said that if you hate someone, you’ll be judged like a murderer, and John said it too, a little more pointedly.

No one loves perfectly, and the imperfections void our love when we face God. That’s what sin is. It’s a black mark on our hearts, which are designed in love, for love. Marred. Broken. Imperfections void our love in every relationship, really. It’s just that we (can – we don’t always) forgive and have grace and treat others the way we want to be treated – all things Jesus taught us.  He was aiding our survival in this broken world, and He was pointing to eternity, which will be full of perfect love!

Instead of casting aside our broken hearts and the messed up world that rules our hearts, God made a way for His perfect love to rule our hearts once again. He sent His son Jesus to earth, humbly, to grow up in this broken world, and Jesus grew up in it but was not blemished by it. He was perfect in every way – always loving, always gracious, always righteous, and always hanging out with the worst of the broken ones at that – the adulterers, the liars, the drunkards, the sexually immoral. He loved all those people. Indeed, he said they would be first in line to Heaven. He didn’t say it to condone their sins, indeed they turned from their sinful lifestyles time after time when they met Jesus, He said it because they would run to Him with abandon. When you have nothing to lose but your brokenness, it’s easy to come to Jesus. It’s when you’re holding on to something else – your past, your money, your rebel lifestyle, your pain, your reputation, your power – that it becomes hard. It’s like Jesus was saying, “you’re broken. If you know you’re broken, come with me. I will take care of it.”

It’s the knowing that is hard.

Tragedy reminds us.

What is Field Prep Seminar Anyway?

By Wednesday, April 20, 2016 0 0

I really wanted to post our full orange tree, which I’ve been using to show our progress towards 85% support, but we recently replaced, scrubbed to factory settings and gave away our old laptop, and apparently the files, which were on the desktop, didn’t make it through our minimalistic backup process. So, like I posted in our Facebook group, here’s a full bowl of oranges.

fruit+vintage+oranges--graphicsfairy003bgOn Sunday, we head to Harrisburg, PA  for a two week training called Field Prep Seminar (FPS) at our mission agency’s headquarters. It’s for prefield missionaries who have raised 85% or more of their monthly support requirement and who plan to leave for the field within the year.

Obviously we don’t know much abut it, but according to ABWE.org, it will focus on at least three things:

  • Transition to the mission field
  • Major adjustments to living in another culture
  • Adapting to the existing ABWE field team

To prepare for FPS, we read a number of books, including Tim Keller’s The Reason for God, John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad, and Cross-Cultural Connections by Duane Elmer. We also completed a Missional Biblical Theology course, which was essentially Systematic Theology for missionaries. Once we received our invitation to FPS, we did a few hours of homework on spiritual warfare, cultural issues, leadership, and child safety training.

Our schedule is going to be kind of grueling – some days are 12 hours long. But our leaders will make sure we have lots of snacks, breaks, fellowship and even some fun. They will allow us to include our kids when appropriate and, most certainly, the whole training will be engaging and life-changing. Between a missionary’s application for service and departure to the field, ABWE gets 3 opportunities to ensure excellence in missions – candidate seminar, Essential Missions Components, and Field Prep. So they take advantage of our presence.

We would appreciate prayers for us while we are attending this valuable training:

  • Safety and favor regarding travel logistics
  • Energy for us and for Chris’s parents, who will be taking care of the kids
  • Spiritual, mental and physical strength for our long days of training, and the ability to take it all in
  • Provision for the ministries we leave behind – our small group friends who will lead our Chinese friends through The Story of Hope, and our youth pastor who will lead our middle schoolers through The Way to Joy solo

We are so excited to reach this prefield milestone! Glory to God!

Serving in Colville, Washington

By Monday, May 4, 2015 0 0
Last weekend we had the privilege of serving at an event near Colville called Bonfire. The founders of Singing Waters Ministries host Bonfire each year as a way to introduce teenagers to vocational ministry. On their large property they set up 8 challenge courses. After registering and getting organized in the lodge, the kids eat their sack lunch and get ready to start the challenges, which take the rest of the day. In teams, the teens go through the courses, practicing team building and working together to accomplish each challenge. At a few of the challenges, the teens sit down to hear from a missionary. Chris camped out at a friendship chain, cheering teams on as they linked arms one by one and tried to walk on a wire from a platform to a tree and then to another tree. When a student lost his balance, he had to go back to the end of the line and the teammates had to fix the connect their chain.

2015-04-25 15.24.22

Sometimes it feels like our testimonies are unique among missionaries. We came to the game kind of late, we don’t have seminary in our background, and we weren’t involved in church planting prior to the call to missions. But as Chris shared his story, or God’s story in his life, with the teenagers, it struck me that God may be using our unique stories to call others to ministry. The fact is, we weren’t walking the path. Nobody, least of all us, expected this path. And even as we walk it, so many unexpected things have happened. But we were willing, which is what Bonfire is all about – reminding students that if they are a true disciple of Jesus Christ, they will be willing to consider how God wants to use them to advance His kingdom. It might not be full time ministry, but it absolutely will involve supporting missionaries, evangelism, and sacrificial living of some kind. I can only hope we played a role in diminishing fears or doubts for students.

2015-04-25 15.53.55

After the challenge courses were completed, everyone went to the lodge for chili dog dinner and a speaker. Finally, the night ends with a bonfire bigger than a house (not kidding!).

Some MK perks our kids experienced on this trip included a family road trip, stopping at a rest stop near Blue Lake to study the map (homeschooling on the road!), exploring the beautiful property that belonged to our hosts, and making new friends everywhere they went.

Ediz Hook {Day 22}

By Wednesday, October 22, 2014 0 0

Quintessential Peninsula. #portangeles #olympicpeninsula #driftwoodfordays

My loves, left to right: Cheesy, Humoring Me, and Distracted. #susannajane #austinbrother #olympicpeninsula #driftwoodfordays

During our recent trip to the Peninsula to visit our coworkers on furlough, we had a few hours between services and we needed the kids to have a rest before we spoke in the evening service. Hurricane Ridge was a bit far and it was cold, we didn’t think we could make it on a 1/4 mile hike to the Dungeness Spit, and we considered feeding the old circus bears at Olympic Game Farm, but it wasn’t cheap. Then a couple told us about the road out to the Coast Guard offices in Port Angeles. You just drive through the paper mill all the way to the end. On one side is the ocean, with Vancouver in the distance, and on the other side is the bay and Port Angeles.

We took a slow route so the kids could sleep, and we had to use the paper mill in our GPS because I thought our new friends had said “Eddie’s Hook.”

It really is like a secret spot! We felt like we were going somewhere unauthorized, as the road leads right through the industrial paper mill, but the signs pointed us onward to Ediz Hook.

Once there, we parked and checked out the view, the crazy waves, and the calm side of the sea. There were some Coast Guard kitties and lots of seagulls to entertain the kiddos. It was the perfect break for our little family.

Austin took another little snooze on the way back to the church, where we enjoyed dinner with our coworkers before presenting our ministry in the evening service.

Listen to the locals. That’s the lesson here.

31 Stories of Preparing for the Mission Field at Seasoned with Salt // theduryees.com

Honest Humor {Part 1}

By Thursday, September 25, 2014 2 0

A note: this is just meant to be funny. We really love meeting people at churches. We always meet kind, engaged people who confirm our calling and encourage us in this strange process we call prefield. Hope you enjoy Chris’s humorous take on it all.

Most people have never had the opportunity to go into long term or career missions, which means they have never had the opportunity to ask for support. Depending on who you are, this is either unfortunate or spectacular. Usually those views align with whether or not you’ve been a long term or career missionary.

Each visit with an individual, family or church is called a “ministry visit.” We are ministering to others with the encouragement that it is our calling and desire to serve God. A big part of each visit is sharing our need for financial support, so we call them “asks.” But that sounds like we are only doing it because we need money and we would never have invited ourselves over for dinner to begin with.

Church visits are very busy days for the entire family. Generally speaking, we need to get up at 4 am so we can shower, get dressed, wake the children, eat, feed the kids (yes, that is a different step) and drive to said church. It seems crazy to get up this early in the morning but there are many factors to this:

1. I will need to wear a tie. This seems minor, but I’m from the Pacific NW and we don’t typically wear a tie to church. But I want to make a good impression. This means that I have to tie my tie at least 10 times because while I know how to tie it, getting the length right is tough. At first the back of the tie is longer than the front which is completely ridiculous (although I’d love to try it sometime to get the sympathy support). Then the front is longer than the back, which is good except when it hangs down to your knees.

2. We need to make sure our kids are going to behave. With an infant and a toddler, this essentially means an extended period of time spent in prayer. “Oh Lord, I pray that our kids will sit still and be quite while we are presenting. We pray that they will use their pleases and thank you’s. Even the infant. We pray that they would not lie on the floor or lift up their dresses and other such activities. Essentially Lord we ask that you lavish miracles upon us today. Lord, if you help us out today we will become missionar–Oops. Oh yeah. OH LORD, PLEASE HELP US! WE’RE MISSIONARIES!”

3. We need to arrive on time. Any and all GPS units give an estimated drive time of 45 minutes regardless of where we’re going. Seattle to San Jose? No problem. Only 45 minutes driving time according to Garmin. Of course we know that is wrong, so when we plan a ministry visit in Tacoma, we question the drive time and leave on Thursday.

4. We need to gather our presentation material. It doesn’t matter if we used our presentation stuff last week. It still isn’t all in the same place and something is always missing. “Honey? Where is the presentation material?”
“What part?”
“All of it.”

Like anyone in an unfamiliar environment, we make snap judgments when we arrive at the church. Pulling into the parking lot, my brain plays a little game with me.

“Wow, this place is big. CHA CHING!!!
“What strange layout.”
“Where’s the front door?”
“Can I park in the pastor’s spot today? After all I am giving the sermon…”

Once inside (we always park an appropriate distance away from the church, even though we have two small children, a laptop, a trifold display board and a box of display contents), we begin to set up our display and meet the pastor and others.

I’m a short guy so most pastors are taller than me, which sometimes adds to my nerves for some reason. Like if he doesn’t like something about my presentation, he’ll squash me like a bug. I know it’s weird but this is the kind of thing that goes through my head in these occasions.

Thankfully, we get to leave our small children with strangers in a strange building so that’s not stressful at all.

Usually during Sunday school we present our ministry to the adult Sunday school class. Sometimes we show pictures and talk about the country we serve in and answer questions afterwards. The question part is the toughest because we can’t control what people ask or how they respond.

Church member: How come your Bible isn’t in Spanish?
Missionaries to Spain: Because we are here with your church and you all speak English.
Member: But in Spain they speak Spanish so you might want to think about that.

Member: Do you speak Spanish?
Missionary: Not yet. We’re working on it and we have to go to a language school before we begin our ministry.
Member: In Spain they speak Spanish so you might want to think about that.

Member: My cousin lived in France for two years and really liked it. She says it’s right next door to Spain. They speak Spanish in Spain and not French so you might want to think about that.
Missionary: Yes. Thanks.

After Sunday school comes the big time! If you are the man of the house, you give the sermon. Not all of us missionaries come from backgrounds in ministry. In fact most of us had regular secular jobs before going into missions.

So, my first church experience went something like this:

OK, they just introduced me so here I go. Look confident. No! Don’t pee. That doesn’t show confidence. Look at all those people!!!

Actual church size: 45 people.

What is my sermon about again? The Bible, I’m pretty sure. My notes don’t make sense anymore. Here goes!

“I’m glad to be here with all of you. God is really great and good and so is His word. I have a copy of it right here on this pulpit. He’s sending us to Spain and we’re nervous but He is God so… Let’s pray. Lord, I pray for stuff that is needed today and some stuff for later and this church and all of the people I met. Amen.”

I sit back down and my wife leans over and says, “Good job. Maybe work on a few things for next time. I’m proud of you.”

Huh. I wonder she could possibly think needs work. That sermon was awesome.

At the end of this mighty successful visit, the pastor comes up and shakes my hand and gives me the love offering. This is the money people have given so we don’t run out of gas on the way and have to hitchhike home. He then says, “the missions team and I will discuss possibly supporting you guys. We know you want to get to the field as soon as possible so we will be having our next meeting in 2026. We’ll let you know how it goes.”

We leave, the tie comes off, and we drive home hoping to sleep for days because after all of that, we are exhausted. Of course we have kids so we can’t sleep for three days. We nap for a few minutes and get ready for the next visit. Some kind folks whose names we don’t remember from the church we just visited want to meet with us individually.