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Saturday, May 28, 2016

A vote worth casting

During the third and final term of each school year at RVA, several underclassmen candidate for the position of Student Council Chairperson.  They have the opportunity to give a short speech in front of the staff and student body.  Often these presentations are infused with some comedic element or a few tongue-in-cheek campaign promises designed to elicit a chuckle from the audience.  These are always worth attending - even if it is only to see the joker, who knows he doesn’t have a chance at winning, make everyone laugh.

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It was refreshing to hear the young man quoted below use his three minutes in the public eye in such a way that the spotlight was aimed somewhere other than on himself.  I asked him afterwards for a transcript of his speech so I could share it with all of you.  Enjoy.

“Each year we have these elections for student council president. And each year, several candidates come up here, and persuade you why it is they that should be president. They come here with hilarious and comical speeches, witty lines and slogans, and talks on what it means to be a leader. I know this, because last year that was me. And always at the end, we tend to add a little thing about how we want to serve God this year, and how really it’s all for his glory anyway. Well, as I was planning my speech, thinking about the president I wanted to be, I realized something. I don’t want God to just be the pretty bow on top that I wrap up my speech with. It should be all about him. So instead on talking on what a good leader is, I’m going to talk about the Godly leader that I want to be this coming year.

When we look at the kings of Israel, King David was considered amongst all the Kings to be the Mightiest, the greatest. Saul may kill thousands, but David kills tens of thousands. He was promised that his descendants would reign on the throne, forever. I see David, and I have to ask… how? How does this man, who was guilty of adultery, and murder, who was constantly crying and weeping for deliverance from overwhelming enemies, who’s own sons turned against him and against God, how, is he seen as the greatest leader of Israel’s history.

In truth, it was not for his strength, but for his weakness, not for his might, but his humility, it was not because he was whole, but because he was broken, that God was able to use him to do awesome things through him. I learned this past year, that leadership is a spiritual gift, not an innate ability, or an ascertained talent. True leadership is when we finally surrender, so that he can lead us. A true leader is actually just a follower, a servant, a humble and broken man, who knows he can’t do it, but also knows who can.

If I am to lead a body of Christ, then I better be representing Christ and not myself. My goal for this coming year, is not to bring about huge changes or great ideas, which can both be good, but what I want instead is to lead in a Christ like manner. To be able to honor him, and just follow after him. To be humble, and fully dependent, not on my own strength, but on his.

‘Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does no faint or grow wary, his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength, Even youths shall faint and be wary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be wary, they shall walk and not faint.’

Thank you.”

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God is at work in the hearts of the students here.  Thank you for helping our family have a hand in teaching, mentoring, and witnessing these young people as they grow more and more into the likeness of Christ.  It is an honor to watch them mature here at RVA and go out into the world, well-equipped to play their own role in expanding God’s Kingdom on earth.

*The picture above was taken our first term here (fall 2012) when I coached the 7th and 8th grade boys soccer team.  Many of these young men, including the author above, are now preparing to enter their senior year; it has indeed been a pleasure to walk through life with them.   

Friday, May 6, 2016

…but grace

Four years ago.  Four years ago we sold our home, gave away a car and a set of couches, sent many of our worldly possessions off to safe places with friends and family and boxed others up into storage.  We were thinking through goodbyes, upcoming transitions, moving our little ones to Kenya, flights, packing, more goodbyes, financial considerations, prayer letters, blog entries etc.  So many things to think through.  We were talking about ‘lasts’ and leaving well.  In short, we were counting the cost of this call He had placed on us. 

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During that final month in the states, our honest prayers were filled with painful, angry, doubtful, yelling. The sacrifice seemed too much and we were overcome by the laying down of things that were precious to us.

We moved to Kenya not knowing WHEN or IF we would make friends here, not knowing WHEN or IF our family would come to visit.  We moved to Kenya not knowing HOW many of the details of daily life would play out.  We had counted the cost, but what we didn’t count on was His grace. 

Christ calls us to do hard things in this life, yes, but He also offers us grace; unmerited blessing to undeserving sinners.  During those months of transition back in 2012, we forgot about His grace!  After all, Ephesians 3:20 describes God as “him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work in us.”

And did He ever surprise us with his grace!  Four years later, we are still surprised by the outpouring of God’s grace on us daily. 

  • He has given us a growing love for this school and this community, for our students and our co-workers, for our work here. 
  • He has lavished on us deep, lasting friendships here on this side of the world. 
  • He has enabled us to maintain solid, pick-up-where-we-left-off relationships with dear family and friends we rarely see at home.
  • He has provided time and time again caring, Godly teachers for our boys in this school, wise counsel for them and for us when we struggle, and a body of believers to live and serve alongside. 

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And then, during this second term of service, He began showing off his grace to us in the bridging of our two worlds.  And unmerited blessing He continues to pour out!  First, we hosted Kelly, Sabrina and Henry Knapp, having the privilege of introducing our beloved Beaver community to our Kenyan community in 2015. Then, Dan’s parents were able to serve at RVA for three months in 2015, bridging our Alden sending community to this one through their service. 

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And so it continued: It was pure, joy-filled fun to have Dale & Martha Schartner with us in early February and to soak up Martha’s gifted speaking ability at our women’s retreat!  Less than a week later, Dan’s sister Rachel, her husband Dale and their four kids landed on Kenyan soil to serve at a children’s home 4 miles from us.  We spent 6 weeks semi-together as they served, and 3 weeks doing life as a family of 11 in our home. 

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To top it off, dear friends Chris & Ellen Crefeld and their four kids flew in to celebrate the Resurrection with us!  What abundance!!  Even now, we’re thrilled to be planning and looking forward to my mom & Craig’s upcoming visit, their second time to Kenya! He IS able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine and He DOES. 

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And as this 2015-16 school year comes to a close soon, we find ourselves in transition as a family again.  Not nearly as big of a transition as ones we’ve made before, but one nonetheless. Nearly 60% of our staff will go on home assignment or be called away from their ministry at RVA this year.  Over half of our little community!

Some of that 60% are the very people God so generously placed in our lives for the past few years, and we find ourselves counting the cost yet again.  We count it for our kids as we watch their close friends move to different continents and we count it for ourselves in the very same way.  How quickly we forget the grace He extended in even providing those friends! We certainly didn’t expect or demand these relationships, and yet He provided them. A gift.

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I pray that as we enter another season of goodbyes, we would draw near to the One who called us by name, the One who lavishly pours out His grace and faithfully provides more than we can ask or imagine. 

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