The Wedding Update

It’s time for an update! Let’s work backwards ..

Mary Beth and I are married!

On January 2nd, Mary Beth and I entered into the covenant and sacrament of marriage in a beautiful ceremony that took place at a Lutheran church in San Diego. We surrounded by many of our family and close friends from all over the world, and the Triune God was definitely present as he blessed us with his grace and love. The next day we flew to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina for a couple weeks of honeymoon rest and relaxation, and we have come back to Southern California ready to commence the long but rewarding process of deputation, that is, our being deputized by our partners and supporters in the United States to continue our missionary work. In regards to the budget that our missionary society SAMS-USA has given us, we have approximately 50% of our pledge support raised. We will have to reach 100% before we can resturn to Belize.

We began deputation yesterday, January 24th, by visiting All Saints’ (Bakersfield) and sharing about what God has been doing, and is further calling us to do, at our various churches and schools. We received an incredible welcome by former SAMS missioanry Fr. Richard Menees and others in the congregation who quickly made us feel like a part of their community. We are looking forward to deepening this relationship over the years, and providing a link to their ministering alongside of us in Belize one day.

This coming week, we are very much looking forward to visiting Holy Trinity (Ocean Beach) and similarly sharing about our ministry in the Anglican Diocese of Belize.

I ought to share a bit more about the last few months, particularly leading up to Christmas. To be frank, they were very difficult months for me and Mary Beth. For me, November and the first part of December were consumed with issues relating to the school. Without going into too many details, I found that I was having to step into a managerial role to support teachers and principals with regard to a number of crises, crises that were emotionally draining both because of their nature and also because of the time they required. The Lord sustained me during those difficult weeks, and I thank you so very much for your prayers and for the encouraging messages that many of you sent me.

They were also difficult months for Mary Beth. As she and I have shared before, she has been wrestling with an assortment of health issues that reared their ugliest heads during a very stressful semester at school. The Lord sustained her as well, and she earned the highest possible grades and received “jury approval” for her senior recital this coming spring. Nevertheless, it was truly exhausting.

A true answer to prayer came, however, a few weeks before Christmas, as a medical specialist was able to identify what is most probably at the root of the many horrible health issues she has been experiencing. The treatment she is undergoing is straightforward (though the worst of it involves and incredibly restrictive diet), and we are so thankful for the many people who were praying for her health and recovery. And please, continue to keep her in your prayers.

So, thank you all! As life returns to “normal” we are looking forward to being in touch again very soon. Take care, and may God richly bless you!

Reflection – 5 years later

Today, Jan 20, is my 5th missionary anniversary!  I arrived here  5 years ago today with 2 bulging suitcases, joy in my heart, and a twinge of nerves.  Through God’s mercy, Leamarie True, came with me for 3 months to share her wisdom and experience with our teachers.  What adventures we had!

The five years have flown by.  I have met so many wonderful people, Honduran, American, and others.  I have witnessed so many miracles, seen Jesus everywhere, wept during tragedies, my heart has been broken and has been filled with joy more times than I can count.  The teams and I have built cabins, sidewalks, walls, painted countless walls, played for hundreds of hours with the cutest kids, worshipped, cared for thousands of patients, prayed for thousands more and collapsed from fatigue.  I have fallen in love with our Honduran staff.  Coming alongside me have been so many people and my church, supporting me and praying for me.  Suzy has become my spiritual advisor, co-worker, dear friend and sister.  How rich I am!

Many missionaries sign up for a term of service – 1 year, 3 years, 5 years.  I came with no particular end date.  I figure the Lord will let me know when it is time to go.  I remember thinking, about 2.5 years ago, that if I had committed to a 5 year term, my time would be half over.  It was an awful feeling.  I realized I would have been living a countdown. “2 years left, 6 months left, 1 day left.”  That is no way to live.  Instead, as Jesus tells us,

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?… Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” Matthew 6:25, 34 

This is hard for us to do in the US.  I am learning how to do this from the Hondurans, who as a pastor explained to me, set their sights on the next life. They take each day at a time.  Many of them worry about how to feed their children today…every day. But still, with their eyes toward heaven, they have time to be generous, kind, joyful, and full of faith in the Risen Lord.  This is surely a better way to live.

I wrote a blog the night before I moved here, called Honduras Eve. In it I reflected on my call, its effect on many people and their loving response.  The truth is God is calling each of us.  Every call is different. Some are dramatic, leaving home and family or becoming clergy, and some occur in place, teaching Sunday School, joining the medical profession, raising your children in the Lord, modeling Christ in the workplace, volunteering to help the poor and oppressed…

But, here’s the thing.  God calls us to many things.  The most important is the call we all share:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

There is no end date to this call.

Finally, I reaffirm my commitment to my calls:

Lord, grant that I may always allow myself to be guided by you, always follow your plans, and perfectly accomplish your holy will. Grant that in all things, great and small, today and all the days of my life, I may do whatever you require of me. Help me respond to the slightest prompting of your grace, so that I may be your trustworthy instrument for your honor. May your will be done in time and in eternity by me, in me, and through me. Amen. – St. Teresa of Avila

Newsletter, January 2016

After the dismantling of the apartheid system in South Africa, many previously segregated Bible Colleges and Universities had to rethink the manner in which they taught theology. No longer could they assume that every student had had equal educational opportunities or that they all learned in the same way. This realisation gave birth to a lot of research, creative thought, and bold experimentation as some of the best educators got together to find a solution to the emerging problem. For this reason, I was very interested to chat with a number of educators in South Africa and also in securing some of the articles and books written by Africans on the subject of oral versus literate preference styles of learning.
All of our students in Gambella could be considered higher on the oral scale than on the literate scale. This has a tremendous impact on how St Frumentius proceeds…how we structure the curriculum and how we teach…not that we wish to “dumb down” the material, but rather come up with new and creative ways of communicating in a way that is compatible with oral preference learners and that is culturally relevant. In the past, oral preference learners have had to struggle through literate preference methods only to find that they are no longer able to communicate clearly to their oral preference parishioners once they return to their respective places of ministry.
So the second semester of our first year may prove be one of the most interesting periods in our history as a College as we will be laying a foundation for future students using some of the best research on oral preference learners by Africans in Africa. Everyone in the Anglican Church in Ethiopia will be involved at some level as we will seek to learn more about what our students will need in order to be effective leaders in their respective communities.
On a more personal level, a routine cardiac check-up revealed that I need a surgical procedure known as an ablation. This procedure will correct a worsening condition called Atrial Fibrillation, or A-Fib for short. The choice is between this procedure or taking two meds that have some unpleasant side-effects. The cardiologist wanted me to have it done immediately as I am apparently a high stroke risk right now, but after much thought and prayer, we have decided to continue on the meds until 18 July when I will have the ablation done in Cape Town, South Africa. This will allow me to complete the second semester and to adequately prepare for the next year.
We will be going to the US in March/April for the New Wineskins Conference in Ridgecrest, North Carolina. Both Louise and I will be co-leading workshops with Bishop Grant and Dr Wendy LeMarquand. Prior to the Conference, we will be stopping in Greenville (probably Easter Weekend) and Charleston SC (the first weekend in April). We hope to be able to see as many of our ministry partners as possible during this time.
Please pray for us as we start the second semester next week. Pray for Bishop Grant and Dr Wendy as they continue to provide wise guidance for us all, for Louise as she continues to bring our library up to snuff, for Karen and Jeremiah as they teach, for Rosemary as she helps us all with the administration of the Area, for Roger and Lynn as they lead the congregation in Addis, and for all our priests, deacons, lay-leaders, and Mother’s Union leaders. Pray too for the visit from ACTEA (Association For Christian Theological Education in Africa) in February.
We appreciate you more than we can say…thank you for staying the course with us and for fighting the good fight by our side.
Many blessings.

Johann and Louise

Coming to Houston Feb 28

Thanks to Fr. Carl Lund for inviting Matt to visit Holy Trinity in Houston TX on Feb. 28, right after the Synod for the REC Diocese of Mid-America. It is a blessing to be able to combine trips, and it will be a pleasure to see Fr. Carl again.

Loving Honduras December 2015

Loving Honduras December 2015

I have spent the last two weeks at my casita in San Lorenzo. We are having nine nights of posadas at different houses each night. The posada was at my casita on Monday. The villagers come down the road singing, led by two children dressed as Mary and Joseph. They knock on the door and sing to gain admittance, which they are denied until Christmas Eve, when they are finally recognized, invited in, and treated to a party. Read more…