April 25, 2011

Brick by Brick, Stone by Stone

God has been working from the beginning of time building His Kingdom.  Even though we don’t deserve His love and forgiveness, He still showers us with his grace and mercy.  Then He allows us the privilege of joining Him in what He is doing around the world… how humbling! 

During the late 1700’s when the United States was establishing freedom of religion, France was establishing freedom of religion in 1789, which actually really began the process of freedom from religion.  French philosophy has become the dominant thought for the French people.  The core of this philosophy makes the concept of absolute truth foreign and inconceivable to the highly educated population.  Although the city of Lyon, as well as the country of France, has chosen to turn their backs on God, we believe the God has not yet given up on these beautiful people.  Their hearts are cold, hurt, confused, and without even knowing it, they are desperately searching for something to fill the void in their lives.  The church is asleep in all of Europe and God is working through this hard and desolate land to wake up the church and bring a new generation who have never heard of God’s love and forgiveness to believe in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

While visiting Lyon recently, we had the privilege of hearing a few testimonies from French believers of how God worked in their lives to draw them to Him.  The first gentleman shared how, even during his childhood years, he had a yearning for spiritual things.  In his search, he spent his early years as an altar boy in the Catholic Church.  As a young man he decided it was probably good to pursue the priesthood.  During this time he began reading the Bible on his own for the first time.  He was amazed at what he was reading; the priests had not taught much of what the Bible was saying.  It caused him to search further for the Truth.  At university he began talking with a Christian and began learning about Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.  He finally understood and believed after years of the Spirit’s prodding amidst all that was taught to the contrary.  He has such a testimony of God’s blessing on his life!

The second young Frenchman also shared about a yearning in his heart that he kept pursuing to find the Truth, though he didn’t know what it meant.  When he met his wife, who was a Christian, and began learning about Christ’s death and resurrection, he realized that was what he was longing for and chose to follow Christ.

How encouraging it was for us to hear these testimonies.  Even with more than 200 years of denouncing God, His Spirit is still working in the hearts and lives.  We are simply asked to join God where He is already working and be there to share about His gift of salvation to those who He is preparing.  With such a small role in His plan, we are guaranteed to not take any credit but, instead, to give God all the glory and power for what He is doing!!! 

Paul puts it so well in Ephesians 2:

“It wasn't so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It's a wonder God didn't lose His temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, He embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on His own, with no help from us! Then He picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Now God has us where He wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all His idea, and all His work. All we do is trust Him enough to let Him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join Him in the work He does, the good work He has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

But don't take any of this for granted. It was only yesterday that you outsiders to God's ways had no idea of any of this, didn't know the first thing about the way God works, hadn't the faintest idea of Christ. You knew nothing of that rich history of God's covenants and promises in Israel, hadn't a clue about what God was doing in the world at large. Now because of Christ—dying that death, shedding that blood—you who were once out of it altogether are in on everything.

The Messiah has made things up between us so that we're now together on this, both non-Jewish outsiders and Jewish insiders. He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance. He repealed the law code that had become so clogged with fine print and footnotes that it hindered more than it helped. Then He started over. Instead of continuing with two groups of people separated by centuries of animosity and suspicion, He created a new kind of human being, a fresh start for everybody.

Christ brought us together through His death on the cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. Christ came and preached peace to you outsiders and peace to us insiders. He treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through Him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father.

That's plain enough, isn't it? You're no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You're no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He's using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what He is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now He's using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.”  Ephesians 2 (The Message)

May God continue to work in the French people living in Lyon, and may we be ready to share the truth of the Gospel when He brings them across our path!  To God be all the glory!

April 22, 2011

Full Support in Four Months?

SEPTEMBER 2011 UPDATE:  Thank you so much for your prayers during the past six months of building our ministry partner team.  Thank you also to those who have already begun partnering with us in this vital work in Lyon.  You are SO appreciated and we pray for you often!

We believe God is at work in US, in our partners, and in those we have yet to meet in Lyon.  We are excited to continue to grow and learn during this process of building our team.  We also believe wholeheartedly that we will begin ministering in Lyon when - and only when - God has prepared the way.  We rest, knowing that His timing is always best, even if it means we will not be heading to France until the summer of 2012.

Pray with us that God would open doors for us to share the great need for a Savior in Lyon to many friends and family here in the states.  Pray also that at least 50% of our ministry partners would join our team by Christmas 2011 so we can begin the next phase of our training with ReachGlobal.

Thank YOU for your faithfulness!

Wow!  What a lofty goal.  Just as Jesus said in Matthew 19:26, we believe completely that – “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Would you take the next few minutes to read this extra-lengthy post and begin praying earnestly that our family could be fully supported by the end of August?

God blessed our time spent with the Lyon City Team and the International Christian Community of Lyon, and confirmed to each in our family that we should be returning to Lyon. 

When can we begin serving?
Raising support for a family of six to live in France, one of the most expensive countries to live in, is beyond overwhelming.  Originally we were praying that God would miraculously provide a team of “senders”, those who would commit to a financially support our ministry on a monthly basis, by December 2011.  However, after our time in Lyon, there is a consensus that it would be best if we could begin serving by the end of August 2011.

Why move in August?
There are two main reasons we believe we should be in Lyon by the end of August.  First, ICCL needs us to begin leading the worship and fulfilling our administrative support roles.  Second, our kids need to begin the school year there in Lyon.

As new missionaries to any overseas field of service, most spend the first year or so in full-time language study before they can begin their specific ministry role.  We feel blessed to be begin ministry as soon as we arrive on the field.  Our main ministry position will be in the worship/music leadership in the church, International Christian Community of Lyon (ICCL).  Since this church plant is an English-speaking ministry, we can begin leading the music ministry within the services and community outreaches while simultaneously learning the French language full-time.  ICCL has been blessed to have someone who has helped in the music ministry in the past two years, but he and his wife are moving to London this summer.  We were called to replace him in this role. The best time transfer this leadership and to keep the growth of this church plant moving forward is to be there by the first of September.

Our kids’ educational needs are the other very important reason to be in Lyon before school begins the first week of September.  Bailey will be a junior next fall and Spencer will be a sophomore.  Easton will be in 8th grade.  The French Baccalaureate and International Baccalaureate (high school programs) are both two-phased approaches.  The French Bac is taught in French; the International Bac is taught in English.  Due to Bailey’s age, she will need to go the English route.  Spencer and Easton can follow the French route.  If they can begin the school year, they will have a better chance at succeeding in this new school format.  If we move later, there is a greater chance that it will be detrimental for Bailey’s future educational needs, as well as for Spencer and Easton in the French Bac program.

The first two years are in preparation for a placement-type of test, which helps to point the students into the best program for their final two years in high school.  The final two-year plan is focused on six subjects and culminates in final exams in each of six subjects.  It is a even more demanding program than the US-based high school diploma.  Since Bailey will be a junior, all the schools we talked with said she really needed to begin the two-year program in September or she’ll have a very difficult time succeeding with the final exams.  Spencer & Easton will be placed in a French immersion program in a bilingual program.  Due to Spencer going into 10th grade, she will also be at a disadvantage with completing the first two-year phase well, especially with the need to learn it in French.  She may need to repeat 10th grade to be able to successfully begin the final two-year program.

Morgan is at an educational crossroads as well.  She'll graduate in June, and is still deciding whether she should go with us for a year, either as a gap year or taking online University classes or even possibly at a French international business school.  She could also go straightaway to University here in the states. 

All of this is quite confusing and overwhelming.  We trust that God has chosen us to make this move at this stage in our family’s lives.  It does, however, come with a price.  The kids understand that their schooling will be more difficult in general with the added pressure of French language acquisition.  As parents, we believe it is important to choose the best schooling option for each of them.  We do not want to have this overseas move cause them to struggle in completing their high school and heading on to university.

How much support do we need to raise?
Our support needs are broken into four main sections – start-up costs, personal expenses, benefits, ministry expenses.  We need to raise $50,000-$60,000 to cover start-up costs and have monthly commitments that total $13,500-$15,000.  These commitments will come from a team of individuals and/or churches that have chosen to financially giving on a monthly or annual basis.

Start-Up Costs:
This includes all travel to the field, shipping of household supplies, relocation funds, vehicle funds, pre-field training (readiness event, vision trip, orientation & candidate school), language up-front costs, conference, computer, rental security & deposit costs, and minimum IMA balance requirements.

Personal Salary & Living Expenses:
This includes a base salary equivalent to an EFCA associate pastor in the U.S., rent allowance, MK education fees, taxes and cost of living adjustment (which is currently figured at 45% increase).

This includes health insurance for the family, retirement fund, and service allocation to the ReachGlobal national office

Ministry Expenses:
This includes allocation to the area office, continuing education, office equipment & supplies, postage, shipping, passports & visas, travel & conferences, telephone, professional fees, prayer letter services, printed materials, technical equipment & services.

How can YOU help?
God has called each of us, as believers, to share in His plan to reach all people groups with the Gospel of Christ for His glory.

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”   Matt. 24:14 (The Message)

Three key roles need to be filled as part of the “Dahlgren Lyon Team” serving in Lyon – Goer, Sender, and Intercessor.  Our family is stepping out in faith as the Goers on the team.   We cannot go without a large, faithful team of Intercessors and Senders

Intercessors –
We are looking for Intercessors who will pray “on the spot” upon receiving email requests, as well as those who have a special heart for prayer and would like to invest in our ministry more intentionally through prayer.

Senders –
We are specifically looking for people to commit to give on a monthly basis ($400, $300, $200, $100, $50) or an on annual basis.  We also need a special team of people who will support us with significant financial gifts toward our start-up costs.

Will you step out in faith as a SENDER on our team to reach the city of Lyon with the life-saving message of Jesus Christ?  We need immediate financial commitments and start-up gifts in order to be in Lyon by the end of August!

How can I become a ‘Sender’?
To commit on a monthly or annual basis, you can complete this form and mail it along with your first monthly gift to EFCA ReachGlobal. 

Checks should be made payable to EFCA ReachGlobal with Dahlgren #1021 written on the memo line.  Mail checks to:

EFCA Donor Services
901 E. 78th St.
Minneapolis, MN  55420-1300

Online giving is also an option... just visit:  Online Giving for the Dahlgren Family

You may also set up automatic monthly donations by contacting the EFCA Donor Services at 800.745.2202

We would like to thank you VERY MUCH for your continued prayers for us during this support team building process and for your commitments to join our team as a sender or intercessor!  As God prompts each of us to share in His Kingdom Plan, we can together give Him all the praise and glory for how He brings together the “Dahlgren Lyon Team” in the next four months!

“Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever.  Amen!”  Revelation 7:12 (NIV)

April 16, 2011

He's an On Time God...

The reality of the ins and outs of what this move to France will take has come to the fore as we've been encountering daily life here in Lyon for this vision trip:
  • Learning the language to a level that we can truly communicate (rather than just saying bon jour, bonsoir, au revoir, pardon, où sont les toilettes?, and merci)
  • Choosing the right place to send the kids to school, and the ramifications on their long-term education that each choice means (total French immersion?  English only?  A combination?  Not to mention the expense of each of those choices and the reality that there are no organized sports or music options through those schools)
  • Understanding the cultural practices well enough that we don't constantly walk around in one big offensive way 
  • Dealing with the fact that we will be living in a very expensive city with extremely limited means
  • Learning to live in an apartment again after almost 20 years of spacious home ownership
  • Metro (subway)/bus/train travel around the city
  • Being 'fit' enough to walk very long distances
  • Leaving our pets behind (two yippy maltese won't win friends in close quarters)
  • Learning how to live where everything is small--cups, beds, bathrooms, cars, portions
  • Selling our accumulated belongings
  • Being away from family and friends
It's such a long list, and by just taking 10 minutes to list them all, it might seem like we're living more in the human side of the equation than in the supplied grace that we'll need to sustain this calling. It reminds me of the story that I heard many years ago about the conversation that Corrie Ten Boom had with her father when she was concerned about her ability to live out her Christian faith in the midst of great trials:

     “When I was a little girl,” I said, “I went to my father and said, ‘Daddy, I am afraid that I will never be strong enough to be a martyr for Jesus Christ.’”
     “Tell me,” said Father, “When you take a train trip to Amsterdam, when do I give you the money for the ticket? Three weeks before?”
     “No, Daddy, you give me the money for the ticket just before we get on the train.”
     “That is right,” my father said, “and so it is with God’s strength. Our Father in Heaven knows when you will need the strength to be a martyr for Jesus Christ. He will supply all you need — just in time....”
So, we rest in the fact that we know that we are called to France to join Him in the work that He is doing to bring people into a worshiping relationship with Him.  We rest in the fact that it is only He who can give us all the strength and grace that we need--just in time!  We rest in the fact that He is an On Time God!

April 13, 2011

The two hills of Lyon...

We're half way through our vision trip and soaking in as much as we can about this beautiful, but utterly lost city of Lyon.  The first weekend we were whisked off to a chateau about one hour north of Lyon.  Beautiful setting surrounded us.  It felt as if we were in the wine country in California (or in the movie, Mama Mia!).  After just 24 hours in the country, a couple of the kids were already waffling on their desire to move here, but the weekend with some of the wonderful people who attend International Christian Community of Lyon (ICCL) was like a weekend away with family and won their hearts.

The past two days have been filled with lots and lots of walking.  Getting out of bed this morning was quite painful - blisters on the bottom of my feet and leg muscles aching with every move.  (I guess I should have continued after week 3 on the 10-week exercise plan at MapleTronics!)  We all know what we'll be involved with when we get back home - a walking program!

Lyon has two hills on the north side of the city that are affectionately called "the working hill" and "the praying hill".  We walked through the working hill on Monday afternoon, Croix Rousse.  This area of 100,000 people has no evangelical church presence.  Tuesday we visited Forviere, the praying hill, where the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere is set beautifully on the hill.

Viewing the Basilica on "the praying hill" from "the working hill"
The basilica was built to honor the virgin Mary, the mother of God.  They prayed to her on two separate occasions to save their city, once from the plague and once from the the Prussian invasion.  Both times the city was saved and they now worship her for saving them.  They began building it in 1872 and finished it in 1884.  It was built to look as a fortress from the outside and majestic from the inside.  Throughout the inside the walls are adorned with ornate murals of stories from their view of history and the virgin Mary.  As is common within the catholic churches, there was no of evidence of Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, throughout the entire structure.  What a sad concept to realize so much emphasis is placed on the mother of Christ, but no understanding of how close to the source of life-giving hope they could experience through Jesus Christ.

Here are a few pictures (again from my phone) of the Basilica.  We will post great pictures that Morgan took later on our Facebook group, Par-Lay-Voo.

The front entrance (top half) of the Basilica
Inside view from the back of the Basilica
The ceiling work in the Basilica
One of the murals on the inside wall of the Basilica
View from the Basilica, "the praying hill" of Croix Rousse, "the working hill"
Looking over the city (this is just the left angle from the top of the hill) was breathtaking.  Yet, how can such a beautiful city of 1.5 million people be so far removed from the love of Jesus Christ?  There is believed to be only 3,500 evangelical Christians in this city; that's only .2%!  Such a needy people who currently don't think they are in need of anything but their own intelligence.  What a challenge AND an opportunity to share Christ's love with them!

April 5, 2011

Family Vision Trip to Lyon

Thursday, April 7th, at 5:10pm (central time) all six of us will be on a plane leaving O’Hare International Airport in Chicago heading to Lyon, France, returning home on April 18th.  To say we’re excited would be an understatement.  This family vision trip is the next step planned by ReachGlobal for our family to experience first-hand what it will be like to live in Lyon.  ReachGlobal is committed to planting healthy churches using healthy teams that are made up of healthy families.  It is very important that each of our children, especially since they’re teenagers, have a peace about moving to and ministering in Lyon.

 Our time in Lyon will include:
  • ICCL Spring Retreat – April 9-10 (this is the English-speaking International church where we will be serving through music & worship)
  • Meet & spend time with the Lyon City Team families – 11th
  • Attend the Oasis (ICCL prayer meeting) – 11th
  • Attend men’s breakfast/Bible study – 14th
  • Attend women’s Bible study – 15th
  • Dinner with Refuge (young adult ministry) – 15th
  • Visit three potential schools for the kids – 12th & 15th
  • Tour various sections of the city – 11th, 12th, 14th
  • Attend ICCL’s church service – 17th  
As we get everything finished at work and packed to go, we have many thoughts that are swirling around in our minds, including:
  • How will everyone do on such a long flight, especially flying overnight on our way to Lyon? (1st flight from Chicago to London will be about 7 hours; 2nd flight from London to Lyon will be about 2 ½ hours)
  • What will it feel like walking the streets of Lyon?
  • How will the people act toward us Americans?
  • How will we communicate since we don’t yet know French?
  • What will the food taste like?  Will we be served something “unique” to France that we’ve never eaten before?
  • How does an International, English-speaking church that includes over 10 nationalities WORSHIP?
  • What will the schools be like?  Will it be easy to decide which school(s) to send Bailey, Spencer & Easton to?
  • Can we imagine living and serving in Lyon as a family?
  • Do we “gel” with the Lyon City team?
  • Do the kids like it in Lyon?
  • Do we sense God’s confirmation on His leading our family to serve in Lyon?
As you can see, there will be much to learn and experience while we’re in Lyon.  Please join us in praying for God’s confirmation on each of our lives!  We know that as He continues to lead us and as we continue to step out in faith, He will direct our paths.  Above all else, we want to be used by Him where He wants to use us and where He is working to give Him all the glory and praise!  Thanks for your prayers!