February 29, 2012

Answering the "Why?" :: Part 1

And how much different is it now as you live in God's freedom, your lives healed and expansive in holiness?
~ Romans 6:19

Why have we said, "Yes!" to God's leading to minister in France?  Because God is a God who heals!  We wrote previously about our health (or lack thereof) over the past 20 years, and in those times God continually reminded us of our vows, "in sickness and in health".  Praise be to God for showing up and showing off His healing power in our lives.  (You're welcome to read that previous post for more details.)

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
~ Jeremiah 29:11

We had such naive, idealistically high hopes when we plastered this verse on the wedding bulletin board that humid August morning 20 years ago, choosing for it to be our life verse. Somewhere around years 10-15, we had pretty much given up on what we expected for "future" and "hope" - you know, the kind that we had imagined God would provide.  Since then, we have been experiencing this verse in new and fresh ways, with what we think is a more informed understanding as we see a better picture of what God was really promising.

With God's healing again in our lives, we knew we had to do what we promised we'd do... serve Him.  As we've said before, through the difficult years Psalm 116 became our (for lack of a better phrase) life passage.  It says it so well near the end of the chapter:

What can I give back to God
for the blessings He's poured out on me?
I'll lift high the cup of salvation—a toast to God!
I'll pray in the name of God;
I'll complete what I promised God I'd do,
and I'll do it together with his people.
~ Psalm 116:12-14

This renewed health was the beginning of our journey to seek what God wanted us to do and where He was leading.

February 27, 2012

Proud Parent Moment...

Not the best quality image... sorry! :)

Bailey & Spencer sang last night at NorthWood High School's Winter Concert.  They are both in the concert choir and in vocal jazz (an acapella choir).

Thought you may enjoy listening to one of the best songs of the night (from a proud parent's perspective) when Spencer and Trent Sauceda the solo parts, along with the combined choir, in "Walk in Jerusalem".

Thanks, Jeff Cramer, for your amazing leadership of the choral program at NorthWood High School.  Thanks also to Jeanne Focht for all the work you do behind the scenes for the music programs and for your great accompaniment of the choirs.

Both Bailey & Spencer are also enjoying their involvement in the upcoming musical, "Footloose".  We can't wait to hear Bailey sing her solo in the opening number!  We'll try to capture another video to share...

February 26, 2012

Answering the "Why?" :: Intro

Some ask, “Why now?”  Why are you at this stage of your lives doing something so drastically different?  Your kids are all teenagers… ready to leave the nest in a few years.  Then there will be weddings and grandkids (hopefully not for quite some time).  Isn’t going overseas meant for young college graduates or newly married couples?

Yes, logic says that most missionaries are young with their whole lives ahead of them.  And, yes, we are in our mid-forties and our kids are teenagers.  And, life will continue at this pace (the kind of pace that keeps flying by more swiftly each year) and before we know it all of the kids will be gone from our nest and be in their own nest some place.

There are so many reasons why NOW is the right time for us.  To help share our lives – the good and the bad – we want to share with you the many reasons why we believe God has chosen to ask us to make this life-altering change at this stage of our lives, and why we are willing to give up whatever is necessary to do what has been asked of us.

Here is a list of all the reasons we know NOW is the time:
  1. God answers prayers
  2. God heals
  3. God closes doors
  4. God opens other doors
  5. God’s ways are higher than our ways
  6. God wants us to join Him where He is working
  7. God will not give us more than we can handle
  8. God is good and His love endures forever
“The really important thing is obeying God's call, following his commands.”  ~ I Cor. 7:19

So, how can we NOT obey?!   Over the next few weeks, we’ll share more from our hearts to explain how God has worked through these ways to bring us to this place of release and peace.

February 16, 2012

Of Netflix, Hulu+ and a little monthly Jesus…

Is that magical time of year again where we all have the privilege of digging through last year’s paperwork to find all the right information to take to the accountant.  We had our appointment last Saturday, and now we wait to see if we will be receiving a refund or if we owe something.  The last few years we’ve had a split outcome – owing to one while receiving a refund from the other (federal vs. state), but at least we come away with not feeling too bad since it’s pretty much a wash.

While looking over the previous year's receipts, we see our “expenditures” as they really are, and it looks even more magnified because they are lumped together, line item by line item.  You know, like when we think we’re spending just $1.29 for a Redbox movie rental.  "What a great deal!"  So much better than the days gone by when a movie rental cost $4.99.  Yet, when we add up all of our Redbox expenses for 2011 it totals $172.49.  SERIOUSLY?  How could we have spent THAT much on just movies to watch at home?!  At the time of renting a movie or two, we excuse it because we only have the basic over-the-air channels, and we use the excuse that we don’t often go to the regular theatres that cost an arm and a leg.  Instead, we go to the $1 theatre. 

Uh-oh.  Redbox isn’t the only splurge here.  We also have a few other “cheap” entertainment monthly subscriptions:

·         Netflix - $7.99
·         Hulu+ - $7.99
·         Rhapsody - $14.99

Well, as we look at our year’s expenses, it’s easy to realize that even though we’ve cut out cable and don’t go to the “expensive” theatres, we do spend an amazing amount of money on “entertainment”.

How about you?  Isn’t it so easy to begin a subscription to something that only costs a few dollars a month?  It seems like if it’s less than $20 a month, it’s a “steal”; a “no-brainer”.  Movie subscriptions, magazines, cable, cell phone upgrades, ebooks.  The list goes on and on.

We’ve been convicted recently as we read again in Matthew 6:21, “The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” (The Message)  This is SO true!  When we rent a few Redbox movies, we become almost obsessed to watch them all within the 24 hours so we aren’t charged another $1.29.  Yet, the more time we spending watching TV, movies, and reading, the less time we spend on our relationship with God.

So often, I've said…

                “We have no more room in our budget to give.”
                “We are all tapped out.”
                “We have too many expenses right now, we can’t add any more.”
                “We already give too much to other causes.”

Honestly, I believe our lack of giving “in faith, above and beyond” for so many years has been directly tied to our perceived lack of finances to cover our own needs.   

We were just reminded a few weeks ago from a friend and co-worker about the real message behind the verses in Philippians 4.  Verse 17 reads, “Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.”  Then, the verse (19) that we all quote so well reads, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

So often we take verse 19 as a promise that God will supply all of our needs… just because we are His children.  But, the verse should be understood in context with the rest of the chapter.  The Philippians Church supported Paul financially while he was travelling and sharing the gospel in other lands.  He wanted to remind them that their giving to missionaries was like opening an account in heaven, and every cent they gave was an offering directly to the Lord and that God would meet every need of theirs according to HIS riches in Christ Jesus!

Here's the part where you might start thinking, yeah, they're just trying to raise more support.  But really, it’s not about giving to us… it’s not about giving to the ministry in France… it’s not about giving some extravagant amount of money… it’s not even about having “extra” money in your budget to give. 

It’s all about God… and our obedience to His call on our lives.  It’s all about participating in missions… and, if He moves you, giving an offering to the Lord and trusting that He will supply for all of your needs in response to your obedience.

Think monthly subscription… or nightly movie rental.  No gift is too small.  Remember the story about the widow in Mark and Luke?  She gave two small copper coins… all she had.  Do we give out of our wealth or out of our poverty?

We have committed in 2012 and beyond to give to ministries around the world out of faith that God will meet all of our needs.  If we were to look at our commitments based on our budget, we would not give.  Humanly, we can’t see how it all adds up.  But, God has challenged us to put more of our treasures in things that will last and less in earthly things – like Redbox, Netflix and Hulu+.

How about you?  How is God challenging you in 2012?  Will you prayerfully consider giving a little more than you think is humanly possible to something that will last?  Can you, in faith, 'subscribe' to a little monthly missions alongside your Dish, DirecTV, Netflix or Hulu+, or iTunes subscription?

May we challenge you today to pray and ask God how he would like you to become more involved in His work around the world this year?  Would you ask Him if He wants you to partner with the ministry in France?  How about somewhere else?  How about somewhere closer?  Somewhere far...far away?  And, then would you obey what He’s calling you to do?

We honestly would love all of our friends to partner with us in the call to Lyon, France… but, more than that, we want YOU to be obedient to GOD and take a step of faith – wherever that step of faith leads you. 

February 12, 2012

What a difference a year makes...

This past week nine more candidates arrived at ReachGlobal’s headquarters in Minneapolis to participate for one week in the “Readiness Event” – think psychological tests, interviews, more tests, re-enactment of a hostage situation, and loads of information.  Last year at this time, we participated in the REV along with this group of amazing people.

It was an exhausting, yet exhilarating, week.  We found out on February 10th (Steve’s birthday) the amazing news that we were accepted as long-term missionaries to Lyon, France!  One couple is heading to Czech Republic, another couple is heading to Costa Rica, one is working at RG headquarters with TouchGlobal, and three of them are now in Dar participating in a  two-year training program with TIMO.
Here are some highlights of this past year:
  • Shared our story with our small church (Sunday School class) at NMC
  • Weekend support team building training in Indianapolis in March
  • Stretched and grew through a 15-week course called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement
  • In April our entire family enjoyed 10 days in France visiting the Lyon City Team and experiencing what it will be like to live in France
  • Spent time developing informative materials, like newsletters, blog, letters, and so much more
  • Felt overwhelmed with the shear amounts of things to do to on a daily basis
  • Watched our first child graduate from high school and then head to Thailand for a month
  • Spent many evenings sharing our story with friends in our home, their homes as well as at restaurants
  • Learned (and continue to learn) that God’s timing and ways are so much better than ours
  • Experienced another first – our first child to finish 10 years in 4-H
  • Completed a five-week online course offered by ReachGlobal called Intentional Living
  • Walking through times of cleansing and refinement
  • Participated in more training at ReachGlobal for developing ministry partners
  • Enjoyed Christmas and New Year with family and friends, here in Indiana and in California
  • Had a meltdown and searched for God’s confirmation that we are on the right road – and we received it in an amazing way… His word to us – Don’t Quit!
  • Shared our story for a missions emphasis weekend with a wonderful church in Morenci, Michigan
God continues to walk with us, stretch us, teach us, and show us His grace.  Thanks for walking through this past year with us, and for your continued prayers for us.  As we head into this next year and continue sharing our story with others, we pray that God will bring together just the right team of ministry partners and prepare us for ministry in France.

February 2, 2012

Rock Bands, Jumbotron Screens, Buckets of Tears and Oodles of Money

According to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, there are 1,414 megachurches in the US.  A megachurch is defined as a protestant church that sustains an average weekly attendance of 2000 people or more in their worship services.

The largest megachurch in the US actually has an average weekly attendance of 43,500.  Our next door town, Nappanee, has a population of just over 8,000, and our own church, Nappanee Missionary Church, is on the list of megachurches with over 2,700 in average weekly attendance.  We were actually kind of shocked to see our own church on this list, because we never hear anyone talk about how many people go to NMC.  I don’t think it’s a  ‘badge of spiritual honor’ to the leadership.  We’re just grateful that going deep in your spiritual walk and being ‘fully committed’ is a much stronger emphasis than how many people are in the seats.

We have no convoluted notion that the amount of megachurches in any given country is somehow the sign of spiritual health.  Even the secular world is suspicious of the concept:  "Rock bands, jumbotron screens, buckets of tears and oodles of money", they write. But it is interesting to note that in all of France, there is only 1 megachurch, which is located in Paris, and their average weekly attendance is 2,000.  There are only 2.4% evangelicals in the entire continent of Europe.  Only 2 of every 1,000 people living in Lyon profess to be evangelical… that’s 0.2% of 1.6 million people.

I don't know that France needs more megachurches, but I do know that there is a great need for Christ’s love and grace in Lyon.  Pray with us that God will continue to soften hearts to Him!