Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Moving in

Whew! We made it.
David, his dad, and I (Allison) drove a moving truck, our SUV, and a utility trailer carrying a motorcycle across the MidWest in two and a half days. We managed to stop only as necessary (with a few extra attempts to resecure the motorcycle). God was so good to provide clear weather, especially no rain. We stayed with a friend the first night and decided not to drive the extra four hours the second night. Still, the Ohio state line was on the horizon the minute we got on the highway the third morning of our trip. We dropped Dad off at the bus station in Columbus with a quick hug. Then, we were headed for Coshocton. We arrived yesterday afternoon and unloaded the most necessary items for camping out the first couple of nights. MMS Aviation will send a work crew tomorrow to help us unload the moving truck with the furniture. We are excited to settle in to our new home! Do you like it?
Praise God for his countless blessings. We are thankful for everyone who helped us pack and who will help us unload, clean, etc. This has been a bittersweet but wonderful adventure full of sweet memories and hard goodbyes. Thank God that Jesus Christ makes it possible for a goodbye to be temporary. We'll see y'all later!

Friday, August 21, 2015

We're Going on a Bear Hunt!

Have you ever read the children's book "We're Going on a Bear Hunt!"? It is a great reminder that you need to be prepared for whatever you may find out on an adventure, like ... a bear!
The children in this story set out with their father looking for a bear. They face many challenges and obstacles, but they persevere through the snowstorms, rivers, and other scenarios. No obstacle can turn them back from their pursuit; it becomes part of the adventure. Finally, they accomplish the goal of entering a bear den when, to their surprise, it actually contains the bear they were looking for! Suddenly, they are faced with object of their adventure only to find they are not prepared for the consequences of their pursuit.
This story reminds me of a statement Jesus made to his followers, committed and uncommitted alike. He told them in Luke 14,
26 “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. 27 And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.
28 “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? 29 Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. 30 They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’
31 “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? 32 And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. 33 So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own."

Jesus said that it is foolish to begin a project without first counting the cost. Or, another way to put it is that you need to make your plan before you begin your project.

Last Saturday, we received the official mail stating we have received $4,815 in monthly pledges. That is $115 more than the amount we were required to raise to begin serving at MMS Aviation in Ohio. God is amazing! Somehow, I feel I should not be surprised that God provided above and beyond the amount we thought we needed to serve him in ministry. It's almost like the children's story in which they run home terrified that they came across the bear they were hunting. Did I set out on this adventure truly expectant that God would provide our needs? I've heard the quote from William Carey many times, "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God."

Tomorrow (also a Saturday), we are loading our belongings on a moving truck. We are almost packed, and the reality of moving to Ohio is sinking in. We hope to be in Ohio by Monday or Tuesday evening. What an adventure! We only received the phone call from MMS Aviation headquarters, authorizing our move, two and a half weeks ago. Praise God for providing all our support in such a short time. We are blessed to have been able to spend the last eight months sharing about the ministry of MMS Aviation with friends, family, and churches across the US. We have seen God completely surpass our expectations of him. Why did I think God was so much smaller than this?

I am excited that our adventure is not over; it is beginning a new phase of the journey. My favorite part of the story is when we get to the end of this journey and, much to our surprise (or delight in this case), we find exactly what we have been searching for: Jesus. I can't wait to discover more of what he is like. If our God is this amazing when we only know a small part of who he is, who can handle what he is like in full glory and real experience? I might find myself feeling a little of the emotion the children in the storybook felt, but I think instead of running home, I will run right to Jesus. Don't you?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The LORD has given the victory into your hands

Last fall, my friend invited me to join her in a community Bible study group. It was so refreshing to participate in Bible study with women of all ages, backgrounds, and styles, yet united in heart with a desire to know the only true God and the one whom he sent, Jesus Christ (John 17:3). I was hesitant to join the Bible study group for different reasons. I resisted the idea that I should join simply for the connections I could add to my network of potential "supporters".  However, my decision came down to a prompting I believe the Spirit gave me to recognize that this may be one way God is answering my prayers. I have been praying that God would lead David and I to share our ministry with the people he has chosen to support us, prayerfully and financially.  I felt if I walked away from the opportunity God clearly was offering me, could I ask him for another (perhaps less blatant) option?
My participation in this Bible study primarily blessed me because it turned my mind toward a book of the Bible I don't often investigate. The group studied the books Joshua through 2 Samuel, but the book that captured my interest was Judges. In the back of my mind, I wondered how on earth this book would bear fruit in my walk with God right now. It has been an amazing discovery. This year David and I have been reading through the Bible in chronological order. Once again, we are reading Judges. Every section of the book reminded me of God's sovereign ability to hand victory to whomever he chooses. When discipline is required because the Israelites have disobeyed his covenant, God gives a foreign nation control over his people.  The Israelites' disobedience is so cyclical (and depressing) that it offers repeated occasion for God to demonstrate his power and control over the situation. Time after time, God raises up a man or woman to deliver Israel from their oppressors. Each situation proves how little the Israelites' freedom depended on their human deliverer. No, "The LORD has given the [fill in the blank with a variety of enemies] into your hands". These judges or deliverers are not impressive to me. The only credibility they have is the Spirit of the Lord that comes upon them to empower them to do God's will.
Like the war heroes and failed leaders of the book of Judges, I have been chosen by God: to be his child, experience his power, and do his will. Still, God's love and faithfulness is not demonstrated to me because of who I am. I am no more worthy, more obedient, more faithful, more sanctified than any other person. I have a choice to live worthy of my calling (Eph 4:1) and to demonstrate my love for my Father through my obedience (1 John 2).  But, God chose me simply because he wanted to and he will be glorified when victory is gained through my obedience.
I love the phrase that repeats itself in Judges 7 as Gideon steels himself and his army of 300 men (again only those whom God chose) to join in battle with thousands of enemy warriors. "The LORD has given the [fill in the blank with a variety of enemies] into your hands".  They went into battle so aware that God was the only one capable of turning this battle in their favor. In fact, the deliverers God raises up in these historical accounts all speak of the victory as already having happened. "The LORD has given the [fill in the blank with a variety of enemies] into your hands".
The LORD has given the enemy into your hands. Jesus already defeated sin, death, Satan and his armies. The victory is accomplished; God's will is as certain to happen as if it is over and done already. The victory does not depend on my might, my strength, my faith, my leadership skills, my obedience, or my power but on my all-sufficient, all-powerful God. Praise the LORD!

Friday, June 5, 2015

I Could NEVER do that!

I have heard a lot of different comments on the lifestyle David and I have adopted recently. Most of them start with this phrase.... "I could never do... ... like you."

I've shared some of the wonder and amazement that our friends and family have expressed in their comments.
"I could never travel for months on end..."
"I could never live on the road, moving from home to home as guests of friends or family.."
"I could never manage to eat gluten free or give up dairy...."
"I could never travel with my dietary restrictions and living overseas is even more unimaginable." 
"I can't imagine not having a Vitamin Cottage or Whole Foods store available."
"I could never leave my family to live in another state or another country..."
"I could never ask people to donate to support my family or my ministry financially..."
"I could never tell my family about my relationship with Jesus...."
"I could never..."

Ironically, I started out this year thinking many of these thoughts. I didn't want to travel for 12 weeks continuously. I didn't know how I was going to eat gluten, dairy, and egg free in states that don't have a Vitamin Cottage, Whole Foods, or Chipotle! I couldn't imagine staying in other people's homes with my sensitivity to fragrances (air fresheners, laundry detergents and softeners, cleaning supplies, hand soaps and shampoos).   I cringed at the awkwardness of asking people to consider in prayer how they might financially support my husband and I.  I dislike answering the questions, stares, innocent inquisitions  "Do you work, Allison?" or "Why aren't you in Ohio yet?"   I have grown so attached to my family: my mom, my siblings, my nieces and nephews, my cousin and her family. I love my church home and close fellowship in small group and with our church staff. How could I leave such an amazing gift?
Let's just say there are plenty of things I can NOT imagine myself doing but what I could NEVER imagine is being distant from God again. I've been there. I've done that. I don't want to walk that road again. Do you know that feeling? Distance between myself and God is the result of disobedience, rebellion, sin in my life because I want to tell God how my life should go and what I will or won't do.   I may still choose disobedience on occasion because my sinful self is still fighting to be in control of my life. But I NEVER will experience the fullness of separation my sin once caused, because Jesus Christ experienced that moment for me on the cross. He cried out in anguish, "MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?!!!"    How could I desire to walk in such a way to bring back those painful memories to my Savior?
I love this passage in 2 Corinthians 5 because it resonates with every choice I will make to pursue obedience to my Savior. 
"Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too. 12 Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. 13 If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. 14 Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ."

I think there are quite a few decisions I can and will continue to make that will surprise even myself.  But my "self" has been changed by the incredible grace of God. My old life is gone; a new life has begun and with that new life, new choices are being made. I am eager to no longer live for myself but for Christ who died and was raised for me.  I'm sure some of the people I've talked to in the last 5 months feel the same way. They just may not realize the things they "could NEVER do" are changing as God changes them into a new person.

What unimaginable and surprising life is God asking you to live for Christ? 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Faith not fear

Hebrews 11 starts with this statement, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." The NLT states it this way: "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see."
Sometimes I feel this would be a more accurate statement about my faith: Now faith is something I hope to have, a conviction I do not seem to feel.
I just recovered from a moment of weeping before God as I recognize the fear I feel is stronger than my conviction to believe what God has promised.
Here are some of my observations from Hebrews 11:

  • These men and women were not righteous when they had faith nor did they become miraculously righteous at the moment they had faith (Check out Genesis 12 & 20 for big messes Abraham created in moments where he demonstrated a lack of trust in God after his initial momentous step of faith).
  • Abel, Noah, and others (Abraham in Romans 4 & Galatians) are mentioned to have received righteousness by faith or their actions were evidence of the righteousness they received by faith
  • These men and women are said to have earned a good reputation but did nothing to earn righteousness or God's favor
  • Many of them waited a lifetime to receive the promise God had given them; some died before receiving the promise
  • One thing sets these men and women apart from their counterparts (Abel from Cain, Noah from the rest of the world, Abraham from his father and brothers or his nephew Lot): They believed what God promised them and acted based on that conviction
They believed God's promise and their life was consistent, acting on that conviction, giving evidence to their belief. 
This truth harmonizes with what I've been learning in Paul's letter to the Galatians and the Romans.  Abraham believed God's promise that he would give the land of Canaan to his descendants, meaning he would have a son, an heir, through whom he would have descendants to inherit this land. Abraham waited for God to fulfill his promise. He had moments where he believed God without doubt and moments where he tried to help God along. He waited until having a legitimate son and heir was no longer difficult: it was impossible. He was nearly dead before God fulfilled his promise and a son was born to Abraham through his wife Sarah. 
Paul teaches that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. It was Abraham's faith in God's promise that gained him righteousness. This righteousness was not something Abraham worked to develop in his own character; it was not a natural characteristic of his life. Abraham did not have faith in God because he was a good person, nor did he have favor with God because of that reason. 
God gave Abraham righteousness that was not his own, righteousness he did not earn or deserve: Jesus Christ's righteousness. The same is true for every man or woman mentioned in Hebrews 11: they received righteousness as a gift from God because they believed him.
NOTE: There is a crucial distinction between believing God and believing "in God". James 2:19 says that even the demons believe in one God and tremble with horror. The difference is whether you believe what God has revealed about himself: who he is, how he acts, what he promises...
The demons know that there is only one God but they don't accept his authority, his plans for the future, his right to rule and command their allegiance. They are in rebellion to the truth about God.
What is my belief like? Do I believe "in God" but prefer autonomy, the freedom to choose to live, act, and believe how I want? Or do I take him at his Word and believe every piece of what he has revealed to be true about himself?
  1. Do I believe God when he states in his Word that he spoke all creation into being, that life and matter, existence, and science came from nothing through the power of his own words? Or do I believe in God and choose to search for answers to how life came about through scientific reason?
  2. Do I believe God when he claims to be three-in-one person, the Triune God, equal unity, holiness, authority, and deity but unique in roles and responsibility? Do I believe Jesus is who he claims to be, Son of God, Messiah, Savior? Or do I believe in the existence of a man named Jesus who was a good person, a great teacher, and I am hoping for a Messiah/Savior who has yet to come? 
  3. Do I believe God when he promises to discipline us for our "good" (Heb 12:10) and claims he can work all things (good, bad, horrible) together for our good (Rom 8:28) so that we will share in his holiness? Or do I believe in God but abandon any worship or obedience of him when life is painful, full of loss, and nothing like I wanted it to be?
  4. Do I believe Jesus when he says that "If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it" (Luke 9:24)? Do I believe God when he commands me to spend my life making disciples, baptizing and teaching in his name, and he promises to be with me always, wherever I go (Matt 28:19-20)? Or do I stay home where life is safe, comfortable, and familiar and I can grow in my faith while attending a church full of people who believe "in God" as well?
  5. Do I believe God's promise that anyone who trusts and believes in Jesus Christ will "live even though he dies" and be in God's presence forever? Or do I anxiously try to avoid illness and death, holding onto people and possessions on earth for as many years as doctors and medicine and careful, healthy living can make possible?
Here is where my faith has failed:
  • I dislike asking other people to partner financially with my family and give to support our needs. Do I not believe God has commanded I go?
  • I fear the discomfort and strangeness of foreign fields: bugs, snakes, new foods, new languages, new allergens and old allergies, malaria, typhoid, giardia, etc.
  • I fear the difficulty of finding foods I can safely eat without the availability of Vitamin Cottage, Whole Foods, and all the other stores that market towards the diet and vitamin supplements my immune system requires.
  • I fear making ends meet when vitamins, essential oils, and gluten, dairy, and egg free ingredients are so expensive.
  • I struggle with appearances, not appearing "worthy of my wages", pinching pennies and searching clearance racks to make it clear how much we need support or how well we are managing our finances-ultimately I fear people's opinions or approval more than God's. 
  • I fear having no room for generosity when my source of income is dependent on other people's generosity. Is it not God's generosity that provides for my needs?
  • I fear beautiful young foreigners throwing themselves at my husband, seeking his favor, tempting his pleasures.
  • I fear men taking advantage of myself and my daughters, or women fondling my sons. I fear the sexual abuse and immorality that is rampant in our world. 
  • I fear rape, torture, molestation, captivity, sickness, loneliness, barrenness, poor conditions, medical malpractice, and so much more...
Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, and all the others had equally as many trials and temptations to fear. It was not the absence of difficulty that made their faith evident. It was not their belief "in God" that sustained them or protected them as they waited for God's promise. It was their belief that God could and would do the impossible to keep his promise to them; this faith led them to act, to follow God's commands despite such difficulties.
Hebrews 11 concludes with some not-so comforting descriptions of men and women who received righteousness by faith. "By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death.
But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection.  Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons.  Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated.  They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. 
All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.  For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us." (vs. 33-40)

So I ask myself the question again, Do I believe God's promises are true and that he will keep his promise no matter how much time elapses or what happens in the meantime?
Only my actions will tell....

Thursday, March 12, 2015

God Provides

We learned from our accounting department last week that we have reached 51% of our monthly support pledges. Best part about the support pledges, so far, is that these dear people have begun to support our ministry NOW and each month their support accumulates toward our ministry launching funds. Others have donated special one-time gifts to the ministry launching fund. We have over 1/3 of the ministry launching fund accumulated and it is quickly approaching 50% as well. Praise God for his abundant provision.

We are also deeply grateful for the numerous times friends or family have given us a special gift for personal use. These gifts have met needs for printing and shipping ministry resources, meals on the road, hotel costs, gas, even our routine 3,000 mile oil changes. Yes, we have been on the road long enough to require an oil change every other month. Thank you for trusting God to provide and trusting us to use these resources wisely.

We are also blessed to have stayed with many hosts in cities across the US. We are so grateful for the ways you have lavished love on us: feeding us, allowing us to do laundry, treating us to activities and events, cleaning up after your house guests move on. Thank you for all the dollars you have saved in hotel costs. We have only spent one night in a motel in 12 weeks of travel. We have spent far less than necessary on food and groceries because of your generosity and hospitality. Thank you for taking care of the two of us like family. We love you all!

We feel like we are living among believers like Paul addressed in 2 Corinthians 9:6-15,

"Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 9 As the Scriptures say,

“They share freely and give generously to the poor.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”

10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 12 So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.
13 As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. 14 And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. 15 Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!"

Yes, we thank God for His gifts (you) too wonderful for words!

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Whirlwind of Events

February is almost over and I have a concession to make. Yes, a concession... I concede that I have writer's block. So many thought swirls through my head but how do you construct any sensible words to share with the world?
The best thought at the moment is to share with you how we have experienced God's presence in the last two months on the road.

  • We left home to begin full-time partnership development December 27th, 2014. Today is February 27th, 2015. God has provided 48.72% of our support already. We are eager to see how quickly he will bring us to full support and send us to Ohio!
  • Allison's dad wondered how we managed to begin our travels right at the time that gas prices dropped the lowest they have been in years. We thank God for reasoning with the oil merchants on our behalf. :o)
  • We also noticed that God has arranged the weather to allow sunny days and clear roads for each of our major travel days! Touring the MidWest in January and February may seem a little crazy but we have experienced God's favor each step of the way. Last Friday, we left Bloomington while snow was flying, but it stopped before we had been on the road 5 minutes.
  • We are constantly encouraged when we meet face to face with other believers and share the work God is doing in the world to bring the gospel to people who need Jesus. We love sharing our story of God's grace and his transformation in our lives. We are even more blessed to hear your stories of God's grace! My favorite moments are sitting around someone's kitchen table or living room and praying for one another. It is truly a blessing to communicate with God and intercede for each other.
  • New Mexico highlights: Being in Albuquerque for a cousin's wedding, showing up at church on the same Sunday as a high school friend when he gave an update about ministry in Turkey, staying with hosts who have become like family, sharing the Lord's Supper with church family in Los Alamos (potluck style!)
  • Calvary Bible College and Missions Emphasis Week: We loved the fellowship with all generations: missionary representatives (from all corners of the world and stages of life), college students, faculty and staff (preparing students to serve in their community and the world). It was a privilege to be counted among those who have given the majority of their lives to advance the gospel. It was an honor to challenge students to see every activity and every major decision as an opportunity for God to use their lives to advance the gospel.
  • Missouri highlights: staying with my college mentor and fellow missionary representative, reconnecting with friends from Calvary, attending ODBC (Allison's MO home church), catching up with a young woman Allison mentored four years ago
  • We have been so blessed to stay with family and friends across the country. We have had 7 families host us in the last two months. 
  • Illinois highlights: watching toddlers learn to walk, "speaking" a tonal language with a 2 year old, helping my dad out on the family farm, 40 minutes of sharing our story and praying for God's work among the nations at a church in Bloomington, drinking hot chocolate and eating pizza without cow's milk!
  • We recently learned about a non-profit, Corporate Angel Network, that organizes transportation for cancer patients so they can receive the best care possible.  Their motto: "Cancer patients fly free in empty seats on corporate jets."  Later that week, we were at a church where someone mentioned a coworker whose young son has cancer. What a blessing to share this information with a family who would greatly benefit from this service.  
We head out from Illinois next week to meet God on the third leg of our journey: Michigan, Wisconsin, Tennessee and beyond!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Daring to Fail

I wrote the following note during the summer of 2012. Care to take a trip down memory lane with me?

[“God wants to send us to dangerous places to do difficult things.” Mark Batterson  Wild Goose Chase
At the beginning of the year, Jeannie Roth (a Cadence missionary and old friend), gave me the book, Wild Goose Chase, by Mark Batterson.  At the time, I was struggling with making a decision about the direction of my future. Mark Batterson’s book dealt with understanding and following the Holy Spirit’s guidance to obey God’s will.  I felt trapped between trying to obey God and having the faith to dare to obey what he actually wanted me to do. Neither my friend nor I understood at the time how this book would travel with me through the adventure that, so far, has been the greatest of my lifetime.
To start the year, I had been facing constant struggle and grief in my heart about whether to continue working a secular job or to pursue full-time ministry. It has been my heart’s desire for several years to be in youth ministry. I became a volunteer youth leader at my home church shortly after graduating Bible college 6 years ago. However, the division of my time and attention between work and ministry was a constant source of frustration.  As the demands to develop a career and gain further training at work built, I became faced with this problem: my growth as an employee required training that was completely opposite the strengths God had given me to develop. There was no option available within the workplace to grow as I felt God desired.
I took a trip to see family and visit some friends whose counsel I have always known to be godly and wise. It became clear after that journey that I had stayed long enough in my current employment and proved myself faithful. I knew leaving my workplace meant losing consistent, reliable income; I was also leaving an employer who had always cared about my needs. I will never have another opportunity like that again. However, I knew that God was closing the door at my current workplace. It was time to let go of the security and wait for the next opportunity.
I have since been on a roller coaster of ministry development and opportunities to share my faith and my story of God’s faithfulness.  I left my job in May. As I was preparing for unemployment, my home church offered to hire me as a part-time assistant to the pastoral staff. I mainly serve under the associate pastor who is responsible for both the children and youth ministries. My duties vary almost as widely as his areas of administration. I have taken the opportunity of fewer work constraints to travel on two mission trips. My first trip was with a group of youth, college students, and adults from our church. I traveled with 14 team members to San Jose, Costa Rica. We spent 8 days constructing a chicken coop, witnessing, and playing with children from an area daycare. Upon returning, my family traveled to South Dakota to visit my brother and his wife in their new home. The month of July has been full of preparations for Vacation Bible School; I have assisted our associate pastor as director.  The preparations were interrupted only by a week-long youth camp in Durango. I was able to participate as youth leader, chaperone, and family group leader-Bible teacher. VBS began immediately after camp. One week later, I am on a train traveling through the German countryside to Berlin to participate in a conversational English camp that exposes teenagers in Germany to the power and reality of a relationship with Christ.
Each of these opportunities has given me challenges, deepened my faith, and forced me to depend on God’s faithfulness. A couple years ago, I was diagnosed with Celiac’s disease which requires me to completely avoid gluten, primarily found in wheat. Eating on the road, much less in another country, is a daring feat. It is hard to trust the safety of your health, through your stomach, to people who may not understand or even speak the same language. God understands and has guarded me from any severe reactions should I have eaten wheat unknowingly.  God has also blessed my travels with many opportunities to tell of his greatness and his faithful love. I have had deep conversations with teenagers and adults, members of my mission team, complete strangers, and young believers from Deer Park, TX.

If anyone should ask whether I have been following God’s will, I cannot say with certainty that every decision I have made in the last six months followed God’s will. I do not think perfect obedience is what we are to obtain yet. It is obedience that demonstrates we know God. The Bible teaches that we must know God through the ways he has revealed himself, the Bible and his Son, Jesus Christ. Yet, how often do we see in the Bible point blank instructions about what the future holds? No one has read in the pages of Scripture, “thou shalt take this job opportunity” or “thou shalt marry __________.”  I believe it is how we obey the revealed will of God amidst the changing circumstances or decisions which have not been so clearly revealed that demonstrates obedience. In Hebrews 11, the men and women recorded are recognized for their obedience to what they knew God told them to do and their faith in who they knew God to be. It was the faith they had in God’s character, his faithful covenant love, that gave them confidence to risk so much in obedience to his will.

I will not be so bold to say that I have been demonstrating the faith these renowned men and women had. But I will not exclude myself from seeking to obey what I know about God-his character and purpose-in the effort to please him with my obedience.  I have relied on the knowledge that he will give me the strength, health, and courage to do what he commands me to do. I also have taken daring steps forward to advance the glory of his name and his kingdom because I know that is his purpose for the church on earth. How can I refuse to be part of such an adventure?

Mark Batterson writes that “More often than not, the will of God will involve a daring decision that seems unsafe or even insane.” I have wondered if I am insane many times throughout the summer. If this is insanity, you may want to find an institution to commit me to. Until someone comes to take me away, I commit myself to the care of a God who is powerful enough to sustain the earth and everything in it. I pray that this journey grows in me a desire to constantly live on the edge of insanity. 1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  Paul also writes of himself and his companions in 2 Corinthians 5:13-15 “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and he died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for him who died and rose again on their behalf.” If God sent his Son to die as a living demonstration of his foolish, extravagant, lavish love for us, why not live a life that mirrors his insanity? I want to show love to those he loved and that might look just as crazy.

One of the adventures God has introduced into my life this summer has been through a man who may someday soon become my husband. God is only beginning to show me the amount of grace and love he is pouring out on me through this relationship. I don’t know if it is God’s will that I marry this man. I know that if I do, the journey of loving and being loved by God is going to become a whole new learning experience. I am thankful for the crowd of witnesses who have walked this road before me. They have a lot of wisdom to share!]

It is a strange experience to look back on the thoughts and questions we had years ago. I am grateful for the faithfulness of God as I look back and see his protection and leading in those years. He is the same God today. Even now, married to "this man" and following God's direction to serve him as a full-time missionary, I am choosing to trust and daring to step out in faith that God remains faithful.