The Latest…

We have been staying very busy and it is hard to believe October is coming to an end. This month Way of the Cross has been hosting its second Missionary Training School at our base camp in Nicaragua. We have 28 students living on the camp with us as they participate in the very rigorous school. They are up at 4:30 am to pray and from there they do chores, eat breakfast and attend classes until lunch. After lunch we go out into local areas to share the Gospel.

Phillip and I taught classes on marriage and family in missions and how to know your audience when sharing the Gospel. We really enjoy getting to be a part of the students’ lives and watching them grow in the Lord throughout the month.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On Saturdays we have been going down to a very poor area where the people live in homes built of plastic tarp and old pieces of tin to hold a Bible study. I lead the kids in a Bible story, verse memorization (they get a small prize if they remember the verse from the week before), and a game or activity. We have been working to get to know the kids better and our own kids have had a blast participating as well.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We are excited that the funds have been provided to build the first house in this area. One family will no longer have to live in a make-shift house that barely provides shelter. We hope to begin building this week and our prayer is that many more houses will be built in this area in the near future (stay tuned for a post on these housing projects).

God is moving here in Nicaragua and in our family and we truly appreciate all the prayers and support for our family!

Future Presidents of the World

Sometimes working with kids can be hard. They are squirmy, loud, messy and have incredibly short attention spans. We try to teach them life lessons and all they want to talk about is pizza and the latest cartoon. It can be a challenging, up-hill battle, but it is one worth fighting.

You see, this year is election year for both Nicaragua and the United States, and a crazy one at that. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into politics, but it doesn’t take much digging to discover the crazy I’m talking about in both countries. It is in times like these that I think of children. No, I’m not talking about the way politicians act. I’m talking about the future of our country and our world.

Those dirty faces and tiny hands that so often get overlooked today will be the leaders of tomorrow. They will be the teachers, doctors, missionaries, and yes, even presidents in the not-so-distant future. What a great opportunity before us: to be able to look at the world in all it’s suffering and realize that we have the power to change that through the hearts of the little ones today.

IMG_1970At the end of April we will be holding a Kid’s Camp here in Nicaragua. We want to take the time to minister to the children here. Yes, we will play games, act silly and get messy, but we will do it all in a way that points them to Christ, who is after all, the hope this world needs. At the same time, we will be teaching around 20 of our Missionary Training School students to lead children’s ministry. It is going to be exciting and we would love for you to be a part of it. Would you join us here on the mission field for one week to minister to the future of this country? Would you sponsor a child to be able to attend?

IMG_1967IMG_1913

I encourage you, whether at home or abroad, take the time to pour the Word of God into the children around you. I promise, it is time well spent.

What’s Going On and What’s Coming Up

Well it has been much too long since my last post! God is richly blessing our family and we are so excited about what He has for us in the next few months. But before I talk about what is to come, let me give you an update on what’s been going on.

In late March our family travelled down to Aldama, Mexico to help set up for a pastors conference.

The whole family enjoying time in Aldama, Mexico.
The whole family enjoying time in Aldama, Mexico.

We had an amazing time getting away from the “norm” and leaving behind things like TV and internet. The kids loved running around the camp, playing with their bamboo sticks and helping out wherever they could. It is amazing to watch them grow in the Lord! Emma shared her testimony at a small outreach we did (she said “Hi, my name is Emma and I love Jesus”) as well as a verse she had recently memorized and Paige sang “Jesus Loves Me”. There is nothing better than watching our kids share their faith with others!

SAM_0475

It seems that God is refreshing our family and our faith. He is pouring out His blessings on us and giving us needed times of rest and time together. We are enjoying homeschooling and the girls are learning constantly. Emma has grown to love cooking and helps out whenever she can. Paige is showing a growing interest and talent for singing and baby Olivia is just lighting up our lives with her sweet smile and contagious laughter.

This summer we will be spending a lot of time in Nicaragua. We will leave June 9th and return July 29th. I will be blogging much more, keeping everyone updated as we travel and spread the Gospel message.

So what will be doing? Well, we will be travelling all across the country, staying in different cities, taking part in crusades and outreaches, visiting schools and villages from the mountains to the beaches, all with three kids in tow. Every day I feel blessed to have opportunities like this; to show my kids the world, to teach them first-hand how to love others and give of themselves, to have them grow up with adventure, family and most importantly, the Lord. Will it be easy? Probably not. Will there be times when I just want to pull my hair out or catch the next flight home? Yeah. But that is what makes it exciting. It is during the trials that God shows up and His glory shines through and how I look forward to seeing Him move in my heart, my family and in all the people we will encounter in Nicaragua.

Please keep up us in your prayers as we prepare spiritually and physically for Nicaragua. You can also follow our blog to stay updated with what we are doing as we travel and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ this summer!

Serving the Lord

We had a very productive day getting everything set up and ready for Med-Fest. There is still a lot to be done but it is great to see things coming together. There is a lot of preparation that goes into big events such as this one and it can be very exhausting, but when we get to that moment when we are preaching the Good News and seeing souls won for the Lord, it all becomes worth it.

Loading up Gospels and tracts to take to the Med-Fest grounds.
Loading up supplies at the warehouse to take to the Med-Fest grounds.

I was very proud of our girls today. Even though Emma is just 4 and Paige 2 they showed that anyone, at any age, can serve the Lord.

Paige helping Katie pack bags with toys and other prizes to give away.
Paige helping Katie pack bags with toys and other prizes to give away.
Emma, Paige, Riley and Katie working hard.
Emma, Paige, Riley and Katie working hard.

I think that a lot of people are scared to go into the mission field. They are scared they aren’t educated enough, aren’t trained enough, are too old or too young, or just don’t know what to say or do. Something I learned at a fairly young age myself, though, is that God can use anyone. Even a toddler. As long as you have a heart for the Lord and want Him to work through  you, He will do just that…if you give Him the chance.

I love being in Nicaragua. It is such a beautiful country and the people are so kind. I love telling people about Jesus and even more I love seeing the power of God’s word move in people’s hearts and give them a new life. We are constantly “making new friends” as Emma puts it, and even if I don’t have a translator around I try to use my best Spanish to get to know the people and hopefully tell them about the Saviour who died just for them.

A couple of Nicaraguan kids up in a tree.
A couple of Nicaraguan kids up in a tree.

I don’t know what we have planned for tomorrow but I know that it will begin with giving God all the honor and glory, because only He can put something like this together.

I praise God for allowing our family to serve Him.

I praise Him for using us in spite of our many flaws and weaknesses.

I praise Him for Jesus.

 

Read our other posts about our Nicaragua trip here: From Nicaragua (day 1), Getting Ready (Day 2)

From Nicaragua

Hello from Nicaragua! Our family along with much of the Way of the Cross staff travelled to Nicaragua yesterday to begin our 11 day journey to spread the Gospel and give free medical care during an event we call Med-Fest. We will be spending the next few days preparing for that event, and I’m excited to see what God has for us!

This morning I am so blessed by the Lord. Our travels started out at 3 am and I was sure the day was going to be rough (Olivia didn’t want to sleep the night before unless I held her-which she never does-and I only got about 2 hours of sleep). We got to the airport in Brownsville and our family almost missed the flight because they couldn’t figure out how to print Olivia’s boarding pass (she rode free on my lap). The lady checking in the bags kept saying “you have to go or they are going to leave you.” I went over and told her what was going on, that we didn’t have a boarding pass for Olivia yet, and asked her if she could call and have them hold the plane for us (it only seemed fair since it was their fault we couldn’t go yet.) She said no, that it cost $10,000 to hold a plane so that wasn’t an option. Thankfully Brownsville is a very small airport and nobody else was there so we whizzed through security and the security people even helped us take our carry-ons to the gate.

As it turned out, Olivia not sleeping well at night worked wonderfully for us and made the trip go very smoothly. Olivia fell asleep on the flight from Houston to Managua (thanks to her Aunt Theresa)  and I was able to get some rest as well. Both Emma and Paige did very well and had so much fun flying on the airplane.

Travelling with kids can be hard, but I think the hardest part is bed time.

Image
I think we all felt a little like this after the long day of travelling.

It is hard to have everyone in one small room, especially when the baby falls asleep and everyone else has to be very, very quiet. By the end of the day (at about 7:30) I had Olivia asleep and I just sat and prayed that God would allow her, and all of us, to sleep very well. Phillip and I had talked about what we would do if Olivia didn’t sleep well because unlike at home if Olivia had a bad night it would affect us all. I was worried that I would be up all night with her then have to struggle through the day just to stay awake, let alone be able to serve the Lord with love, joy and patience. I asked the Lord to allow her to sleep until 4:00 and if she did I would then stay up and spend a good amount of time with HIm. Our God is so good, and Olivia slept until just before 4:30! She hasn’t slept that long since before Thanksgiving.

So, I’ve been up this morning reading about the fruit of the Spirit. I love the way Galatians 5 starts out. “Stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free…do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” You see, by Christ’s death on the cross we are free from the punishment of sin, but we are still suseptable to the power of sin. We can find ourselves, even as believers, in bondage. Paul continues in Galatians to explain how the flesh and the Spirit work, and encourages us that if we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. We have freedom in Christ but we must work for it! We must make an effort daily to overcome our sinful nature with the power of the cross and the power of a relationship with God.

On our first flight from Brownsville to Houston I was sitting next to Emma. I was was tired, Olivia was wired and I just wanted to have a smooth flight. When they brought us our drinks I had a very serious talk with Emma about how I wanted her to be very careful with the drink because I didn’t want to deal with any spills. I reminded her frequently to stop sqirming or she would spill the dirnk. At the very end of the flight I went to grab her drink so I could fold her tray and I ended up spilling the rest of it on Emma’s leg. I felt terrible. I told her I was so sorry, over and over and she very lovingly said “it’s ok Mom, really. It was just an accident.” Would I have responded with such love towards her had she spilled the drink? Um, no. I would have allowed my flesh, which was already rearing its ugly head, to control my actions and I probably would have scolded her for not obeying my commands of carefullness. My little 4 year old showed me so much love, patience and undeserved grace in that moment that it reminded me that I had been failing to walk in the Spirit.

“For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfullness, gentleness and self control.”

During our time in Nicaragua I will be blogging often and giving updates about our trip. If you know anyone interested in missions, please share this page with them. I have a feeling God is up to something big here!

I pray you all have a wonderful day and remember to walk in the Spirit!

 

Check out our other Nicaragua posts here: Getting Ready Day 2

Jesus vs. Traditions: Challenge #1

In my last post I wrote about facing new challenges.

That was over a week ago…sorry! Things have been busy here and it seems like I blink and a whole week is gone.

We’ve been working hard but also enjoying this time of year. The holiday season is my favorite part of the whole year. It is always a great time of celebration and a perfect opportunity to make many family memories. I love how excited our kids get about each holiday, but how far do we allow our kids to “have fun?” Does God really care about how we celebrate different holidays?

This brings me to our first challenge. The challenge of following Christ in the midst of  common worldly traditions. To be honest, I really feel like we cheat when it comes to this challenge. We live in a place where most of the families hold the same view as us, so it isn’t really a challenge at all, but for most this one is going to be a huge challenge to face.

This challenge isn’t easy for me to write about because I know a lot of people will disagree with me. Most people, even Christians, would look at this and say that I’m extreme, even crazy (I actually thought about calling this series “Those Crazy Christians!”). That’s ok. It is also ok if you don’t personally agree with me. Like I said in my first post, these are the things God has convicted me and my family on. I only ask that you have an open mind as I share with you what God has put on my heart.

I posted a picture in the first Challenge post of my girls dressed up for Halloween. They LOVE to dress up, and we couldn’t help but indulge them. We did not, however, allow them to go out and trick-or-treat. We enjoyed a Fall Festival at a local church and bought them some new candy we found (called Unjunked…more about that coming soon!).

Emma and Paige at the Fall Festival.
Olivia dressed as a monkey.

So what’s so bad about trick-or-treating? Well, if everyone was dressed up as monkeys and Batgirls I would say nothing, but the whole point of Halloween is to incite fear. I understand people like to experience the rush of fear (I once loved watching horror movies) but the Bible teaches that God has not given us the spirit of fear. When I see kids (and adults) eagerly dressing up as monsters, ghosts, witches and the like I cringe at what we as a society are teaching our children. We are teaching them to embrace the scary things in life. We are even teaching them to like the things that terrify us. You may think this is good. You may think it gives your kid a leg-up because the world is a scary place and they need to be tough. I disagree.

The world is a scary place, but our strength does not come by befriending it, it comes from the Lord. We must learn to turn away from the things of this world, to hate the evil that lurks all around us, and rely fully on Christ.

So what about the other holidays? What about Santa and the Easter Bunny? We allow our kids to watch the movies and we even have Santa decorations in our house, but we are constantly reinforcing that they are not real. Why? For me it comes down to truth.

We live in a world where the truth is bent, misshapen, deformed and rearranged in such a way that most cannot recognize it anymore. The Word of God has been lost between the lines of political correctness and we must constantly fight to bring it to light.

I don’t tell my kids Santa isn’t real to squash childhood fun. I don’t do it because I think they will be traumatized later in life. I tell them Santa isn’t real because it’s the truth.

I’ve debated it in my own mind but I simply cannot urge my children to follow the one and only truth (the Word of God) then convince them that a magical, fictional man is real. Even more so it breaks my heart to think of my kids putting their faith in someone who is not real. After all, faith is the belief in the things we cannot see, and our faith should be reserved for Christ and Christ alone.

So, what do you do? Your friends and family will think your crazy. Your kids will probably be sad and may even get made fun of. Is it worth it?

In my opinion, following Christ is always worth it. It is worth the pain, the ridicule, the looks of pity for your poor, poor kids. It is worth it because He is our truth and He deserves our obedience.

A lot of people will say I’m stretching it, making a big deal out of a little fun. A lot will even look back at their own childhood and remember trick-or-treating or putting cookies out for Santa and think it didn’t harm them any so it won’t harm their children, but Satan is tricky. He is a deceiver and he will do whatever he can to convince you that one little innocent, fun-for-the-kids lie won’t hurt.

Satan will slip through the cracks of childhood fun and begin to take root in our families. He will nudge his way in via Santa and a giant bunny and plant the seeds of dishonesty and compromise in the hearts of our kids.

Yes, it is just a little thing. Yes, most kids enjoy these things, but I don’t want my family and my kids to be like most people. I want them to be like Christ. I don’t want us to drift into a sea of compromise and complacency only to wake up one day and realize we are drowning.

I challenge you to take this topic to the Lord. If your kids already believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny, I challenge you to tell them the truth. I know it will be hard, but you can never go wrong by turning their focus to Christ and there are a lot of fun ideas of how to start new traditions that do just that. Last year we had our girls “write” letters to Jesus to let Him know what they want to give Him in the coming year. This year I think we are going to do the Truth in the Tinsel book and crafts as well. You can find a lot of other really great ideas here.

Emma and Paige “writing” their letters to Jesus, Dec. 2011. Of course, they wern’t actually old enough to write so they had a little help.

A matter of fact, a lot of the ideas listed on the page linked above sound like so much fun, and are so meaningful, they make Santa look downright boring.

Challenge

I’ve recently found myself taking a new perspective on challenges.

I kind of like them.

I even get excited about them.

I’m  not talking about an especially hard math problem or a hard-to-beat game. I’m talking about some big, life-altering challenges.

I’ve heard it said that people are creatures of habit, that we don’t really like change. Though this may be true, I can’t say that I really fit into this category. I enjoy change. I like things to be different than they once were. I like to do new things, go new places, and re-arrange my living room quite often. But, despite all that, it can be hard to bring new changes, and new challenges, into our lives. We get set in what we believe and how we live and to even think of another possibility sounds, well, exhausting.

So why bother?

Conviction. I have found that a challenge born out of conviction is worth tackling. It is worth getting up earlier or going to bed later. It is worth changing the way you think or the way you live. It is worth the weird looks and whispered remarks of people who don’t understand. It is worth it all, because Christ has called me to do it.

I can remember in the past when I felt a twinge of conviction on a subject that I wasn’t very fond of, and I just ignored that conviction. Surely God would understand that I cannot make such a drastic change in my life. I would even avoid articles and conversations on such topics so that I could stay “ignorant” on the issue.

Not anymore.

I believe that the best place to be is in obedience to God. I read in another blog the other day (sorry, I didn’t save it and I don’t know who wrote it) that any motive that isn’t obedience to God is a sin. So if God is calling me or my family to something and we ignore it, even for a “good reason”, we are still in sin.

So when I feel that twinge of conviction, I work hard not to ignore it. I pray about it and instead of saying “I could never do that” I say “with Christ ALL things are possible.”

My next few posts will be about some of the challenges and changes we are facing these days. Please understand that my heart is not to offend anyone. These things are what God has convicted our hearts on and I do not judge you for not making the same decisions. I do, however, want to encourage you to have an open mind. Don’t be so quick to assume that you can’t do something just because it is difficult or unpopular.

Many of the things we are still working on, or just beginning to work on, and I know the challenges before us will be hard and we may even falter in our convictions.

I also know that there are bound to be many more challenges come our way and I pray that I will always have an open mind, and open heart, to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Even as I write this I struggle with the conviction to even talk about some issues. It would be easier, after all, to not talk and not risk offending or hurting my friends. Yet it was through other people’s testimonies that God brought conviction to my heart on many of these issues, and so I feel I too should share what God has taught me.

I know your minds are reeling to know what challenges I could possibly be talking about.

Well, I’m not going to tell you…just yet.

Ok, I’ll give you a short preview of my next post.

It is on the challenge of being fully “Christ-like” during holiday celebrations (like the most recent, Halloween).

And just so you don’t think I’m going to tell you we never celebrate anything of the sort…

Emma and Paige dressed as bat girls and Olivia as a monkey.

So, are you ready to face some ideas that may challenge you? Do you feel up to some thought-provoking, life-changing convictions? If so, stay tuned! I’m excited (and nervous) about writing this Challenge Series.

Oh, and one more thing. These are my convictions, my thoughts, my words. If you want a more reliable source to base your decisions on, read the Bible and talk to God.