Retreat and Reset

So much has happened since my last post!  It was early June that I made the decision with SAMS to shift to associate status.  This means that I’m not actively raising support and do not have any immediate plans to return to the field, but am discerning what the long-term will look like regarding my role in missions.
I had an overwhelming response of love and affirmation, which was an incredible gift since it was a very difficult decision to make.  One of my supporters who happens to be a relative, asked if I’d considered a sabbatical, even a short one, to get away.  Well, I hadn’t mainly because I’d barely left the house for months!  But St. Christopher had been on my heart, and I really wanted to support them, so I called to ask about that option.
Later that day, I got an email from the camp inviting me to a retreat that weekend!  That led me to taking almost a week for a personal retreat.  That was not my plan, but how it worked out, and I am so incredibly grateful!  I’ve never had so much time like that.  I read several books of the Bible, my journal in entirety (which was very helpful), went through a debriefing SAMS had sent, and spent time praying and journaling.  I walked the beach twice a day.  It was just what I needed to gain perspective, and by the last day, I had a sense of direction for next steps.
The very evening I got home, I came across a French teaching position at a local private school, which led to me learning of at least four open French teacher positions in Charleston.  That’s unheard of!  I couldn’t believe it!  I ended up applying for two and accepted the offer at a brand new public high school in nearby Mount Pleasant.  I’m so incredibly thankful and recognize God’s hand of favor and grace, particularly in His impeccable timing!  So now I’m looking for a place to live and have lots to do before we hopefully start on time this August.  That’s it for now. 🙂

Great Expectations

Life has gotten extremely busy all at once!  I’m on Week 3 now of an LCC (Language and Culture Coaching) course I’m taking.  I love it so much!  It’s so wonderful to be back in the world of linguistics with other like-minded people to learn about something I’ve grown very interested in, coaching.   Not only is it useful for my long-term goal of being an LCC on the field, but I’m taking it for credit, which fulfills a requirement to keep my teaching credentials current.  The expectation up to this point has been that I would get a Visa by teaching ESL.
All of this is on the table right now as many things have changed in the world, including ministry plans.  There is so much that I don’t know and can’t answer, but what I do know is that I won’t be partnering with the organization I was intending.  That decision was carefully made with SAMS’ guidance after a series of red flags and some changes in the original expectations.  
On the one hand, the decision frees me and opens me to many possibilities out there, which I am currently discerning with SAMS and invite you to discern with me.  I solicit your prayers and welcome your input if you receive something.  On the other, it places new decisions before me.  I get excited about the possibilities even though there is a sense of loss with this step.  
I am amazed at the Lord’s timing for multiple reasons.  It couldn’t have fallen at a better time—when my family is grieving, when travel is restricted, when (at least for a short while) there was extra time to devote to prayer, worship, and time in the Word.  
I’m especially grateful for the last reason because somehow despite the fog and turbulence of life these past few months, some things have actually become clear.  First, I have confidence that I’m exactly where God wants me for this season: here with family.   Second, He’s helped me realize that location isn’t something to get too set on.  I’m still very open to SE Asia and know of at least one possibility that interests me, but I have accepted that the plan will look differently than I expected and prepared for, though I’m still discerning to what degree.
I’m incredibly grateful to continue to prepare by testing the waters as an LCC.  I have even gotten to practice on a fellow SAMS missionary living in Ethiopia.  While it’s a challenge since I’ve never even been there or learned the language, I love it and am so very grateful to have a context while I take the course.  (If you’re wondering how I could possibly help someone learn a language I don’t speak, it’s a challenge!  But it’s about helping with the overall process and locating resources, not instruction.)
Both in getting back to the language/culture world along with having daily devotions with my family–something new for us–I’ve found myself thanking God for giving me the desires of my heart.  It’s just like Him to bring sweet things during a time of stress, loss, and uncertainty.
I realize that I am not alone when it comes to loss and unpredictability in this season.  While we are all experiencing uncertainty right now and could be tempted to dwell on dashed hopes and frustration of the unknown, I’d like to challenge each of us–me first–to find peace and joy in  the knowledge that God has a plan and is able to orchestrate events in such astonishing, unexpected ways that we could never have anticipated or matched what He is doing to accomplish such great purposes for His kingdom.  Let us walk by faith and not by sight.  

Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this.  He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination!  He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you.  Now we offer up to God all the glorious praise that rises from every church in every generation through Jesus Christ–and all that will yet be manifest through time and eternity.  Amen! Ephesians 3:20-21 TPT

Unreached People Groups

I’ve been sharing at different events, with some of you even, about unreached people groups.  A people group is simply a group of people with shared cultures, customs, and languages.  To give you an idea, “US American” is the largest people group in the United States. :). 

In SE Asia (I’m referring only to the 6 deaneries within the Diocese of Singapore: Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Indonesia), the smallest people group in any of these nations is 100 while the largest is over 200 million! 

Unreached people groups are populations who have little to no access to the Gospel.  They either have no resources including the Bible and/or few to no believers who can tell them the Good News.  Can you even imagine that?  It’s hard to when we live in a world that has an abundance of both.
What do we do with the fact that Jesus gave his followers one task before He left the earth (and before He returns)?  …To go and make disciples both at home (Jerusalem), with neighboring areas (Judea and Samaria), and abroad (the ends of the earth). [Acts 1:8]. 
In my opinion, a good first step is informing ourselves.  A good second step is praying for these people.  So, I’d like to share some resources with you to do just that!  If you’re someone who likes analytical data, the Joshua Project is for you.  If you like to get engaged, I’d like to recommend you participate in Radical Secret Church a week from today on Friday, April 24 (hopefully it’s not too late to register) who will focus their prayer time on the unreached church. 
Disclaimer: I normally don’t recommend things I’ve not participated in firsthand,
but I’ve been affirmed by some reputable voices that this is solid and worthwhile!
Please note that this event starts late and goes into the night, far past by bedtime, he he.  It’s intentional as many persecuted Christians do not have the freedom and opportunity to meet openly or frequently like we do.  
If you’re interested in participating with me, let me know!  It’s virtual, of course, and we’re all social distancing; but I signed up as a small group (but paid the individual price, which is what you would need to do I think) and can see about adding members to my group.  Blessings!

Good Friday

This week has been a slower pace than normal and quite intentionally.    I say intentionally because even when everything is shut down, it’s amazing how busy we can get particularly with technology!  I’ve tried to embrace this slower pace to really give the Lord my time and attention.  After all, when else do we have so much time and permission to set aside to pray and seek the Lord like we have now?  Well, those of us who aren’t on the front lines (who I’m praying for!)?
I’ve tried to read the Word more.  One thing I’ve been doing this week is in addition to other reading, starting my day with the Ten Commandments.  One day, something stood out to me that I’ve never noticed before, though I imagine it’s been taught regarding the   fourth commandment about Sabbath.  I think I’ve always focused on the rest part and yes, to focus on the Lord and honor Him.  I personally love the benefits that our souls and bodies reap, too.  But I can’t say I’ve ever honed in on the WHY.  He tells us very clearly actually.  I’m going to quote the Message version since that’s what I was reading that particular morning, but it’s there in the ESV and the KJV too. 🙂
“Don’t ever forget that you were slaves in Egypt and GOD, your God, got you out of there in a powerful show of strength.  That’s why GOD, your God, commands you to observe the day of Sabbath rest.” Deuteronomy 5:15
Wow!  The Jewish people’s resting takes on a whole new meaning when I consider that.  It actually displayed their freedom from slavery to the rest of the world as well as themselves!  In Egypt, they were slaves and didn’t have the freedom to not work.  This would’ve stood out to others, and it would have been a beautiful freedom they had gained by God’s deliverance from 400 years of slavery.  In essence, they would be manifesting through their rest, with their bodies, what God had done to save them.  To do this on a weekly basis, not just once a year at Passover, would create a rhythm of celebrating God’s deliverance.  
As Christians, this very day, we celebrate the same exact thing: He has delivered us from the power and result of sin and death.  Our Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, shed His blood on the Cross for those who believe in Him so that we will not be destroyed by the death that we deserve for the sin we can’t escape.  I’m thankful that the Church continues to hold this tradition called Good Friday (though every day is a day to celebrate and identity with this).  I expect that as I observe the Sabbath going forward that I will keep this Fourth Commandment in mind and go beyond mere rest or worshipping the Lord with others, but specifically teach my heart to remember and celebrate His deliverance from sin and death.  This makes today and every day good indeed!

In Honor of Brad

I normally use this blog to focus on ministry, but as you can tell sometimes just share what’s going on in the adventure of life.  We’re whole beings, after all, and I think that all of life should be centered on Jesus–the mundane and epic, the trials and the victories, the day in and day out.
Today.  There was ministry stuff.  There was me videoing myself reading books to a 3-year old audience I can’t see.  But that’s not what I want to focus on in this post.  Today is my little brother’s birthday.  He would have turned 30 today.  
Still learning how to grieve, but it’s helpful to remember and celebrate life along with shedding tears.  For that reason, I‘m going to post the “family reflection” I gave at the funeral service as a way of remembering and honoring him on this day.  Once again, a big thank you to so many who continue to pray for my family.  It has truly made a difference.
Note: Couldn’t get the formatting (spacing) right.

I’m speaking on behalf of my entire family and would like to thank everyone for the overwhelming response of love that we’ve received from all of you this week.  We’ve been inundated with visits, food, flowers, phone calls, cards, texts, prayers, FB posts, and offers to do anything.  Thank you so much.  Thank you especially to St. Michael’s Church who has been incredible.  It’s really helped carry us during our time of need. 

I remember my parents telling me, Ashley, and Frederick right after Hurricane Hugo that my mom was going to have a baby.  What a surprise, but how special and exciting it was to us when Brad was born.  

When Brad was little, we would take turns trying to put him down for a nap.  My tactic was to tell incredibly long and uncreative stories to lull him to sleep by boredom.  One time when he was around 3 years old, Ashley and I were together with him on the bed.  I made up that some character was taking a very long road trip and started listing every state I could think of very slowly.  I started with SC, NC–about that speed–and went up along the coast.  His eyes were already closed, and he was drifting off by the time I got to the northern states.  When I said New York, his body jolted and eyes sprung wide open, and he said, “New York City!,” a line from the Pace Picante Sauce commercial.   

That was so Brad.  He was quick and so funny even at that age.   He had a way with words and could make everyone around him laugh.  That’s one thing I’m going to miss so much is Brad’s hearty laugh along with his sheepish smile.   

He was intelligent, way smarter than me.  He had the ability to memorize large amounts of information and then regurgitate it, even verbatim.  He was incredibly thoughtful and caring, especially in his gifts, which he often made himself, including the choker that I’m wearing right now. 

He was also protective.  The first memory I have of this particular trait was when Brad told a lifeguard at the pool that I was 16 instead of 21.  At first I was bothered that he would lie and asked him why he would say that.  In front of the guy, he said, “I didn’t want him talking to you.”  Then I knew that my little brother at age 11 had my back.  Speaking of backs, he was a sucker for back rubs.  His hugs were great, another thing I’ll miss about Brad.  

There were hard times—some really hard times—that we went through as a family, but we had some fun, special times as well.  We shared vacations when we were younger and many holidays and birthdays together.  This past Thanksgiving was especially memorable sharing childhood stories in front of the fire.  Like when Brad was on a hunting trip in Africa with Dad at age 12, and Dad got Brad to have a little fun with his fake tooth retainer.  Brad convinced the African children he had magical powers when he smiled with a mouth full of teeth, then discreetly removed the retainer so that the tooth seemed to disappear.  

Brad worked really hard to overcome the past and to be involved with family.  He loved children so much, especially his niece Grace and nephew Nicholas.  He had such an incredible heart for people and for animals.  His dogs, Gypsy and Obsidian, were everything to him.    

I’m thankful for the one-on-one times with Brad when he was younger, but especially the past few years swing dancing, the Pour House, Farmer’s Markets, and Pho Saigon, the Vietnamese restaurant on James Island.  I didn’t join him for any camping trips and music festivals he loved, but I know that many of you here have lots of memories from that. 

I knew before, and I know now that Brad loved me and my family.  He made sure to say that he was proud of me, and I made sure to let him know that I’m proud of him and love him.  I admire his endeavors to learn about greenhouses, growing different types of vegetables and herbs, owning his own businesses, but I am equally proud of his side jobs delivering wine and washing dishes because he was displaying humility and taking on responsibility. 

Within the past year, Brad shared with me how he really wanted to help people who had been in his shoes, so to speak.  He didn’t want people to have to suffer and knew firsthand the damage that addiction can do personally and relationally.  I really admire his heart to help others and try to make the world a better place.  

I wish so much that Brad could have known the peace, love, and acceptance that only Jesus can give while He was here with us on earth.  But I know God to be a God of hope and of infinite last chances.   Brad’s last week of life, he made every effort to make peace with friends, family, and God.  Brad literally reached his hands out to my parents and asked them to pray for him, which they gladly did and affirmed their love for him.  He contacted so many friends and family to settle things and make sure there were no problems with anyone.   

 When I learned what happened, I was devastated and even felt a little angry and definitely disappointed at God because I really believed in Brad and especially in God to get Brad through.  When I reread a poem I wrote for Brad in 2011, though, the Lord gently reminded me that we only truly reach our full potential when we join Jesus together with all of those He has rescued because that is the real destiny that God has for us: to be in relationship with Himself.  That is when we’re complete and the only place where we’re whole, free of pain or sorrow, full of perfect, pure love. 

While it’s so painful to lose Brad when he seemed to be okay and planning his future, let’s thank God for the good times.  Let’s thank God for Brad’s life and all who he touched during his time here.  Let’s thank God that there is hope, and let’s go to God to heal our pain.

We will love you, forever, Brad.