God’s Family

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Sometimes I get lonely

Sometimes following Jesus gets lonely. Walking a narrow path can make us feel like we are alone, with no one to our right or left. Sometimes, we are even misunderstood by those close to us. Thankfully, I usually don’t mind being alone!

However, on special occasions in our life, I have noticed how God rallies his family together to encourage and build one another up. He reminds us that we are not alone at all! There are believers here and around the world who share our same hope. During these special times, we make connections with amazing people with whom we have nothing in common except our faith and obedience to the Lord Jesus.

Importance of friends and family

Recently Ben and I have spent time with our closest friends and mentors, our family, our church, and some disciples who we are just getting to know. Many friends are supporting us in our mission to India through prayer, fundraising, and encouragement. One dear friend is organizing a Zumba class fundraiser; others have given financial gifts so generously; some are discipling us and helping us develop godly character; still others have been our advocates and spread the word so that other brothers and sisters can pray for us. We are so grateful!

It is good to remember that we are not alone, and we cannot accomplish Jesus’ mission for our lives alone. God sets the lonely in families! (Psalm 68:6) Praising Him today.

Purchasing Tickets

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Buying Plane Tickets is the Worst

Purchasing tickets for me is one of the most difficult things that I ever do. I know that once I make the purchase, my view shifts quickly from “what a fun idea” to “there is no going back.” Even on short trips it is so difficult because so much money disappears all at once. I selfishly wish that I was going to Haiti, Puerto Rico, or any place where the cost of getting there wasn’t $1,000′s. But apparently there is no place for selfishness in God’s plan – which is another thing I struggle with.

If you have read this far, your assumptions are correct: Jaimie and I purchased our plane tickets to India this past Saturday. I’m not entirely sure how long we will stay in India. I’m planning on around one year. We just purchased one-way tickets at this time. We will be leaving the comfort of the American dream on August 14th. We’re going to a place where the beds (I’m pretty sure) are made out of straw, the water is unsafe to drink and we are pretty much guaranteed sickness… and toilet paper is a foreign concept.

Jaimie and I are doing this because we pray that God will see our obedience and draw closer to us.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. – James 4:8a

I believe that if I get rid of the stuff that I constantly hold onto for fear that it will be lost or stolen, that it will just be my wife, God, and the lost world. I won’t have time to worry about other things. I’ll have time to focus on my purpose – which is expanding the kingdom of God.

Don’t Look Back

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This morning I read Hebrews 11:13 “They (heroes of the faith) admitted that they were aliens and strangers on the earth.”

As we prepare for August, I am continually challenging myself not to look back and long for comfort. This is hard because honestly, I am SO comfortable here. I will fight disappointment when we have to cancel my membership at a state-of-the-art fitness center I use. I will mourn when my friends are far away and I can’t see them face to face. I have started to cherish every minute on the treadmill, every conversation with close friends, every meal cooked in my familiar kitchen. I have also read several books this month that I have been “meaning to read” for years, because I will be selling them next month. It’s amazing the things I can accomplish when I realize that our time is running out here. (I think I should live like this all the time – I would be rocking life!)

But despite the comfort we are giving up, it is a joy to obey Jesus’ commission! It is getting easier to discard, sell, or give away our things. It has become an exciting challenge to save our money for the mission field. I know we are called to accept inconvenience, sufferings and uncertainty. We are aliens and strangers here! We are looking forward to something better.

Counting the Items

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Counting the Cost Items

As Jaimie and I go through our things a thought keeps popping into my mind.

“How did I become like this?”

As I sit and type, I can barely move because of the clutter. I have so much stuff. I have a 5′x3′ desk, and it’s completely covered. I have accumulated so many things. The kitchen, by far, is the most organized distater in our home. It’s a whole room of storage cabinets. One of the smallest rooms in our home holds the most. It’s incredible. I counted the other day, we have 8 frying pans. How could this be? I had 6 guitars (for sale now), two cars, three couches, 2 beds, 5 dressers…and the list goes on. How did I become like this?

False Teachings

I believe it’s because that I have been taught that since I live in a “christian nation” that I can have my cake and eat it too. When Jesus says things like sell your things and give to the poor, or go and make disciples… He wasn’t really talking to me, right? What he meant to say is, stay where you are, work hard and make a lot of money, and then you can give a measly 10% to the local church and feel good about yourself.  That’s what Jesus meant to say, right? I look around, and shameful to admit, I must have believed that.

Here is some news. Jaimie and I don’t give 10% to the local church. If there is a specific need that the Church is asking for, we’re more than willing to help. But why would I only give 10% of a piece of my life to the local Church? Jesus commands us to give it all. (Which I have by no means figured out). How can I give it all? Every day I’m told through words or example through friends, family, media, government, etc. that I should keep it all. I should save, I should invest, I should buy fun things and take fancy trips. I should buy more homes, watch more TV, work longer hours to get overtime. Should I go on?

Giving it All

I have no idea what it means to give it all. But could it mean what I’ve believed it to mean for so many years? Save my things and write a small check once a week? I don’t think so. This is why going through all of my things and either throwing them out or selling them is so hard. Not because it’s hard to get rid of things. It’s because every day I see another item, I realize how much I failed Jesus in the past by collecting these things and holding onto them so dearly.

American Perspectives

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Today I reflect on American culture and how it influences our thoughts and decisions. This reflection was prompted by a conversation I had with a friend in which I explained our reasons for moving to India. I said, “We are going to build relationships with other disciples and encourage them. We are going to spend time with the orphans. We are also going to try to qualify our non-profit as a certified adoption agency.” Of the three reasons I listed, only the last one is quantifiable in the short term. None of them are grandiose. Worst of all, none of them seem sufficient to justify our move, at least through the American cultural lens.

I got to thinking: are we really going to accomplish anything? Is it worth it, if we do not come home with big “results” to share with those who support us? What results are we hoping for, realistically?

We Americans are obsessed with speed, numbers, and results. We believe in all things “mega” – the bigger, the better – and we supersize things that were never meant to be supersized. We get annoyed when we have to wait 5 minutes in line at the store. We expect to “get ahead” in life, and quickly. And while I believe it is wise to be efficient, accountable and purposeful, I think some of these American ideals are a hindrance for people who want to follow Jesus. For example, as I evaluate the purpose of our mission according to American cultural values, it does not seem significant. The relationships we build will not be seen as “progress.” The nine boys in our orphanage will not have been adopted by the end of one year. We will not have built wells or churches. We will not have conducted mass revivals or evangelistic campaigns. When we return, America will shake its head and say, “what a waste of time.”

But then, should American values be my standard by which to measure success? As Christians, our measuring stick is God’s Word. What does it say about missions? How did Jesus do it? This is a question worth asking, and an answer worth researching.

Upon observation, it appears that Jesus didn’t shoot for big numbers or speed. He spent most of his three year ministry with twelve regular guys. He fled a large crowd once when popular sentiment was so strong they “threatened to make him king by force.” His family members were perplexed that he did not make an open show of himself to gain popular support. While scripture is clear that He does not want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), he did not stake his mission on the easily swayed masses. Instead, he focused on the slow, tedious and unassuming task of training leaders who would reach the masses. His twelve disciples were his plan; relationships were his priority, not results. By American standards, his mission would have been considered insignificant with only a few hundred followers, including the eleven remaining apostles. But have you read about what his disciples did?! As recorded in Acts, they “turned the world upside down” as each did his part. They reached individuals just as Jesus had reached them. Jesus’ ministry was multiplied eleven-fold when the eleven faithful apostles began preaching the gospel, and it continued on.

I suppose we must, in the words of author Robert E. Coleman, “decide where we want our ministry to count – in the momentary applause of popular recognition or in the reproduction of our lives in a few chosen people who will carry on our work after we have gone” (Master Plan of Evangelism). While our mission fails in America’s eyes, it may still be significant for the kingdom if we are obedient to God’s plan.

Planning the Trip: for first time travelers

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Want to visit India?

Jaimie and I can help you get overseas by sharing the process we went through.

1. Start saving money.

If you are coming to visit Jaimie and me, you’ll need about $2,500/person – and that’s bare-bones. Jaimie and I started saving about one year out.

2. Get a passport.

Getting a passport is the easy part. I’m sure your local city hall can help you out, but if you want a head start, check the State Department Website.

3. Where are you going in India?

You’ll need to know this for your Visa. You’ll need to have a contact person in India before you travel. If you are coming to visit us, we’ll be glad to help you out with all of this.

4. Get an Indian visa

This is one of the most stressful parts for me. You have to send a non-refundable money order to the consulate in hopes that they approve you. If they don’t… try again.  Lucky for you, Jaimie and I would be very willing to help you with this process. But if you want to fly solo, Travisa Outsourcing is the way to go! (FYI – you’ll want a tourist visa)

5. Book a plane ticket.

Another stressful part. A plan ticket to and from India is about $1,600 – $1,800 depending on the season and how far out you book. I would recommend booking at least 3 months out for the best rates. You’ll need your visa number before booking your flight I believe, so have that ready. You can monitor flights on Kayak.

 

That’s pretty much it for your first trip of two weeks or less. If you want to learn how to move to India, you’ll have to keep watching for a future blog post.

Driving Toward the Storm

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Today was my last teaching day. As I left work, I reflected on my time there and felt a sense of finality; things will not be the same from now on. I have spent months refining a familiar and effective routine which will be no more. While I look forward to our move, my prideful side resists the new and daunting environment ahead where I am again a novice.

I drove away from the sunny campus and turned to the west, where dark storm clouds loomed a few miles away. Driving toward the storm, I contemplated the direction our lives are headed. I am sure we are willingly headed toward challenging times. I am naïve, but not enough to believe that our move will be easy, fun, or even successful. I know our faith, minds, and relationships will be strained. I know I will feel incompetent, which is my worst trigger for sinful behavior. As I headed for the clouds, I prayed for God to allow us to grow in all the difficulties. I know He always uses these times to shape my character. “Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:2