Friday, March 28, 2014

On Field Support

We have a little guesthouse at our home in Kijabe.  Guesthouse is likely too fancy a term for the small bedroom and half-bath that sits just outside our back door a few yards.  I like to refer to it as the guesthouse or the guest cottage, though, and as its name would suggest, it houses many visitors passing through Kijabe. 

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This small, unassuming out-building has opened up an additional ministry opportunity for our family and one for which I am thankful.  The Lord has indeed called us to Kenya primarily to teach third culture kids, but He continues to give us new opportunities to pour out blessing on these missionary families, beyond teaching their children.  Kijabe plays an important role in the missionary community of East Africa, one of education and healthcare, and as I’m finding out quickly, one of hospitality.

About two weeks ago, on the 13th of March, I was preparing to have Dan’s JV boys basketball team over for an ice cream sundae party when we received a call from our superintendent asking if we would be able to host friends of ours serving with TIMO in a remote part of Tanzania.  Turns out they were already en route, being flown to Nairobi by AIM Air and then transported to Kijabe to undergo testing due to severe abdominal pain.  {You can read the whole story on their blog if you’re interested.}  I readied our guestroom in case one or both of them would be staying the night, and friends of ours met them at the hospital to walk them through the administration there.   Not wanting to send them back to the bush without undergoing the proper tests and check-ups, they stayed with us for ten nights while visiting Kijabe Hospital periodically.

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And God radically blessed that time.  During the final push of second term, it should have been overwhelming to house guests.  It was not.   It was a JOY to have them with us, to extend our home as their home, our food as their food, and {sometimes} our kids as their kids. It was during those ten days that the Lord kept impressing on me: “this is why you’re here. this is why I have your family here, in this house with the guest cottage, in this ministry, in Kijabe, Kenya.” 

This is on-field support. 

We serve in a supporting role for missionary families – like many of you reading this blog from the US who pray and give and love on our family.  We provide on-field support for missionary families.  We teach and disciple and hang-out with their high-schoolers here at RVA, but we also serve those who otherwise have no affiliation with RVA.   It’s yet another layer of care for missionaries planting churches, translating Scriptures, and taking the Gospel to the least-reached. 

Yes, it comes without the excitement of witnessing people hear about Jesus for the first time and without the intricacies of learning a tribal language.  It’s a behind-the-scenes ministry that seeks to push the Gospel forth by taking care of the Lord’s workers.  And it’s a behind-the-scenes ministry we feel strongly about. 

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We have a lovely little room for guests. It sits just off of our garage.  And we are delighted to make it available as the Lord leads, for the advancement of His global Kingdom and for His glory.

till He comes again,

Monday, March 10, 2014

Jehovah Jireh

As we prepare to take our first home assignment in a few short months, I’ve been reflecting on the circumstances and events that the Lord orchestrated to bring us here and the way He has provided for our family in the days since.

It’s remarkable really, the way He continues to lead and guide us, assuring us that we are exactly where He wants us.  We joke often about living this backwards American dream – the upside down Kingdom dream I guess.

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100_0532Pittsburgh 2006 (both photos)

You know the one:  We graduated from Geneva, Dan designing single-span bridges for a small engineering firm and me overseeing public school construction projects.  As the Lord led, Dan went back to school full time to earn a Masters in Secondary Ed, and we dropped one full-time job entirely.  Then we had Ethan and Nate within 17 months of each other.  I quit my job to stay home with them, and God provided Dan with a teaching position.  For five years, Dan taught in a public school district and I stayed at home to care for our children, adding Evelyn in 2011.   In June of 2012, Dan resigned from his teaching job and we packed our lives into 17 bags, boarding a plane headed to Kenya, where we wouldn’t be paid by the school at all, but rather by the Lord’s provision of money through His body, the church. 

Of course, the Lord, the God of the Universe, was orchestrating the whole thing.  He was preparing us for this. We slowly stepped down the corporate ladder over our 7 married years in the states, and He proved Himself faithful.  He showed up in big ways as He was leading us to RVA - raising what seemed like an insurmountable goal of support in 10 months and selling our house out from under us in 4 months.

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It seems like there would be so much uncertainty in living this inter-dependent lifestyle, relying on the faithful stewardship of God’s body of believers, but I’m thankful to report it’s been remarkably rewarding, humbling, and anything but uncertain. 

It’s now March of 2014, four months shy of two years since we hugged the necks of many of you.  Two years since we connected face-to-face with the 64 family units who give to our ministry monthly and He continues to prove Himself faithful. 

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Sixty-four families gave twelve times last year.  Another handful of families gave yearly or semi-monthly.  Four churches give as a congregation regularly.  Thank you!  Really, THANK YOU!   That’s roughly 70 family units and 4 churches allowing us to be sentproviding for our daily needs so we can invest in the Kingdom through this next generation of missionary kids.  

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And that’s not even mentioning our prayer support.  We send out prayer requests semi-regularly by email to over 200 addresses.  Each time we do – you respond!  We get about 10% of you emailing us afterwards, letting us know that you are praying and updating us on your lives.  THANK YOU!

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He IS our Jehovah-Jireh and we will continue to trust in His gracious provision as we serve here and as we look ahead to our home assignment.  I pray that we would continue to take seriously our responsibility as stewards of these resources and that we would have hearts overflowing with gratitude.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

busy. busy. busy.

Ok, so going a month without posting on your blog probably isn’t good “blogger etiquette.”  Sorry about that.  February, the month of love, was indeed lovely overall but also extremely busy.  Sometimes I wonder if we say that too much.  I hope people aren’t offended by it – after all, everybody’s busy, right?  Who is to say that my busy is more all-consuming than your busy? 

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I’m reminded of a Seinfeld quote from the ever-insensitive George Costanza: GARY: Hey George.
GEORGE: Gary? Well, well, well well.  Where have you been?  I've been leaving you phone messages for months.
GARY:  I know. I've been pretty busy.
GEORGE: Busy. Don't give me busy. Who's not busy?  I’m busy.  We're all busy.  Everybody's busy.  All right, tell me, what's kept you so busy?
GARY: Mostly chemotherapy.  ok, I'll see ya.                                                      Classic Costanza.  Open mouth, insert foot.

All this talk of busy-ness got me thinking.  It is unfortunate that few involved in Christian ministry are strangers to hectic schedules and overflowing planners. Maybe you’ve heard the statistics about the decreasing average tenure of pastors, youth ministers only lasting a few years, or missionaries burning out long before their intended commitments are fulfilled. And your average Charlie church-goer isn’t off the hook either. He gets just as over-committed as anybody, balancing ministry involvement with a full-time career and family.

Part of it is certainly understandable – why wouldn’t we be pouring ourselves out in service to our Lord? God has called each one of us to build his kingdom, carry his cross, spread his gospel, and edify his body, the church. We shouldn’t be expecting Easy Street. We rightly desire to give our all for Christ and should expect to get tired along the way.

I wonder, though, about the appropriate level of crazy. And do we ever stop to consider the consequences of exceeding it?

Jesus’ disciples had a unique perspective on Christian ministry. They worked and served alongside our Savior in the flesh, observing his pace, his time management, his energy levels. Being fully man, He grew tired just like we do. He needed breaks, rest, and time to reconnect with his Father in heaven. Working until you tire isn’t wrong; Jesus did it on a regular basis, and he was perfect.

But his followers weren’t. And they missed some pretty amazing things because they were too busy to notice. One example comes from the Gospel of Mark. Jesus has just fed a crowd of several thousand with a kid-sized pack lunch. The disciples were actively involved here – they were the ones distributing the food. Then, that same evening, Jesus walked on the water to meet his friends in the middle of the lake. Remember, this is the same lake where they had witnessed him talk down a tempest just a few chapters earlier. Yet in the face of this aquatic balancing act, the disciples’ response progresses from terror to amazement. Mark 6:50-51

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed…”

Completely amazed? Really? Hadn’t they just witnessed him multiplying bread and fish like it was Math class? According to Mark’s timeline, Jesus had already cast out a legion of demons, raised the dead to life, forgiven sins while healing a paralytic, cured a woman who grabbed his coat and restored a shriveled hand on the Sabbath. Add to that the storm-calming and claims of Divinity and you have a pretty impressive resume!

So why the sudden attack of amnesia? Verse 52 goes on to reveal the underlying problem: “...for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”

Hmmm. Most heart-hardening is either directly caused by God (see Pharoah, king of Egypt) or by the sin present therein. This is a classic case of the latter.

Busy schedule = prideful focus on self = focus off of God. At first I was offended at the disciples for seeing right past their Savior, then I realized I do the same thing.

How often have I missed out on what God is doing because I’m too busy? Am I so concerned with making sure everyone gets enough loaves and fishes that I fail to see the food materializing before my eyes? It’s a scary thought.

I get so caught up in ministry that I can miss the One I’m ministering through. I’m busy teaching, coaching, praying, parenting, loving, encouraging, training, serving, giving, yada, yada, yada. (last Seinfeld reference, I promise)

But if I’m doing all these things on my own strength, it’s all for nothing. I need to be drawing daily from the Fount of Living Water, leaning heavily on the Lord of all Creation, standing in awe of the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, and falling on my knees in worship of the Resurrection and the Life.

“Bless the Lord, oh my soul, oh my soul. Worship his Holy name. Sing like never before, oh my soul. I’ll worship his holy name!”

KNOW your Savior. DWELL in his presence. EAT at his table. LIVE by his Word.

Don’t miss out!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Parenting from Afar

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“This choice isn’t me failing at parenthood, it isn’t me handing off the responsibility and gift of my children to someone else, it isn’t separate from my role as a mother. This choice of sending our children to boarding school is part of our parenting, it is what being responsible for the gift of these teenagers in our context…looks like.  It is me being the best possible mother I know how to be.  And because it breaks my heart and leaves me crying against doorframes and into pillows and at stop signs, it feels like failure.”

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The Things Teenagers Leave Behind  - Hands down the best article I’ve ever read regarding the tension that lies with many missionary parents who parent from afarRead it

“But just because something hurts doesn’t mean it is bad, wrong, or failed. This is, perhaps, one of the biggest things my teenagers leave behind. And I hope it is something they also take with. The realization that life won’t be easy, comfortable, or pain-free and the confidence that this is okay.”

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Pray for the parents of the kids we teach and coach and mentor.  I guarantee that for most, their decision to pursue RVA for junior high and/or high school was not an easy one. 

Brave fathers and mothers across this continent express gratefulness for the opportunities that RVA provides all the while grieving an empty chair at the dinner table.   Because, as I’m sure, they still picture their seventeen-year-old young man or woman like this:

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We still feel strongly called to stand in the gap, not to take their place {certainly not!}, but to come alongside them for this season, to help disciple and raise up a generation of Kingdom Builders, like their parents. 

Come serve these missionary families and be a part of what God is doing in Africa.

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