Happy Easter!

Easter is such a beautiful time of year and we’re excited to be spending it with our church family this year. Last night was an incredibly awesome worship/communion service that just set the tone for the entire weekend. Tonight, our church is showing Billy Graham’s video, “The Cross”, in hopes people can invite in their friends and family to see it. And then Sunday is the sunrise service, breakfast, and worship service celebrating our risen Lord. We just love the true meaning of Easter and are having a blast sharing the truth with our children.

We wish you all a blessed, joyful Easter – Resurrection Day!

“Hear the bells ringing, they’re singing that we can be born again! Hear the bells ringing, they’re singing Christ is risen from the dead! The angel up on the tombstone said He is risen just as He said! Quickly now, go tell His disciples that Jesus Christ is no longer dead! Joy to the world! He’s risen! Hallelujah! He’s risen! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

April Sunshine!

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Yeah!! Spring has finally sprung in NE PA!! Man, it feels good to be outside again. Granted, both kids have already face-planted in the driveways and Joe looks like he’s been in a fist-fight, but hey – builds character, right?! The kids could live outside constantly and thankfully, I have stocked up on stain remover, so the mud stains don’t matter much. They’re tired at night – that’s all I care about right now!

ImageBCM’s e-zine, BCM World, is out with another edition! I am BEYOND privileged to write for this every time it comes out AND to be edited by Jeanette Windle. Google her. It’s pretty sweet to have her be my editor. She is wonderful to work with and I’ve learned a lot about missions journalism already. Please read this e-zine! This time, there’s articles on the DR Congo, Kenya (mine), camping in Peru, work in France (actually,in  the city of Toulouse which just happens to be where my parents were missionaries years ago, though not with BCM), and profiles on the new BCM North America candidates (also mine). You can sign up to receive this directly to your inboxes when it comes out again in just another couple of months. Pass the link to friends and family and enjoy!

I have to tell you — Brian is the graphic designer. This involves so much more than just simply uploading a Word document. He’s worked almost non-stop on this for the past few weeks. It involves designing numerous pages and emails and links and then the actual layout – it’s a lot of work. For someone with no graphic design background, I think he does a phenomenal job. If you think so, drop him a note; I’m sure he’d appreciate the encouragement.

 

What sacrifice?

I remember sitting in my sixth grade class at school and being asked the inevitable question: What do you want to be when you grow up? I listed off, rather quickly, my top four choices:

  1. Archaeologist. I had a current obsession with Indiana Jones. It wasn’t until later in life that I discovered what an archaeologist really does and realized I did not have the patience for that.
  2. Teacher. Thanks to my Sadie Rose books (anyone else read those?) and Laura Ingals Wilder, my deepest desire was to teach in a one-room schoolhouse, even though I knew that was probably a pipe dream.
  3. Missionary. Yes, my unspiritual sixth grade self listed that goal third. 
  4. Christian author. I remember distinctly clarifying that I would be a Christian author. As if a believer would ever truly be a secular writer. Somehow I thought the clarification sounded more elaborate.

Obviously, I have never become an archaeologist, but like I said, once I found out Indiana Jones archaeology doesn’t truly exist, I gave that one up.

When I was in high school, I more fully gave my life over to the Lord for full-time ministry. I was aware that would mean future sacrifice, but I had no idea what that meant. “Sacrifice” was such an abstract concept at that point in time. I also figured that “missionary” would truly mean cross-cultural, probably in some remote part of the world, single, with a plethora of long skirts in my suitcase.

I had no idea how God would take the deep desires of my heart and transform them into something beyond what I could dream… and all because I made the conscious decision to follow Him when I was still a kid.

Point in case: I got my one-room schoolhouse. A beautiful one-room schoolhouse with the best kids on earth. They stole my heart and I will never, ever be the same thanks to those four years.

I learned Spanish – a bucket-list sort of goal I had set for myself in college.

I became a missionary. I got to do the “overseas thing” and now I get to do the “State-side thing.”

Also part of my “bucket list” was training children’s ministry workers. In case you weren’t aware of this, this is one of the main reasons we were so excited about joining BCM – the fact that they had a program specifically for training children’s ministry workers. Now, I get to do this on a fairly regular basis and I love – simply LOVE – every single second of it.

Now, I get to do #4 on my “what do I want to be when I grow up” list. I write. Let me clarify this: When we were first married, I was extraordinarily bored, lonely, and home way more often than Brian was, so I had time on my hands. So, I did the natural thing: I wrote. Well, I joined a gym… and THEN I wrote. A lot. I told Brian, “I don’t want to just write floopy stuff. I want to write stuff with meaning – with purpose. I want my writing to make a difference.” Then, we sold all we had, moved to South America, had two children, and writing was put on the side in the form of this blog and some newsletters.

We’re back in the States now and one of the thing I get to do is write for our mission board. Meaningful, purpose-driven material. I get to “be” a journalist even though I purposefully never got a Bachelor’s (in anything) because I knew God wanted me on the mission field immediately, so I forefeited the four-year degree. Somehow, God is using my uneducated self (similarly to how He used me to teach for four years with no teaching degree) to write articles.

Nope, they’re not the award-winning novel of my dreams. They’re not in a huge publication and my name will most certainly never be in neon lights for them.

But… they’re out there. And they’re mine. And there’s purpose behind them. I get to share with the world what our great and awesome God is doing in the world – at this very moment.

I never would’ve had this chance if I hadn’t told God to use me, take me, let me be His full-time – no matter the cost, no matter where it takes me.

When talking about missions, the word “sacrifice” is used an awful lot. I won’t deny that that’s true. We gave up literally everything to move to South America. I’ve said goodbyes before – the big, emotionally draining, life-altering, heavy-sobbing goodbyes that still make me tear up to think about. I’ve had two kids in foreign clinics with doctors I didn’t understand with no mom by my side. I’ve had shingles, gross reactions to bugs, and major illnesses. We’ve had to start over – twice – with barely any possessions to our name. We live on a tight budget and “fun shopping trips” for me consist of not just going to Aldi, but getting to go to Walmart, too!

But, honestly, when I think about our life, the word “sacrifice” isn’t even in my vocabulary. I think at least once a week for the past few months, Brian and I have looked at each other in total excitement to say, “Who gets to do this?! For their career??” So many opportunities – for both of us – that we never would’ve gotten to do (at least not the way we get to do it now) if we weren’t serving the Lord full-time.

What sacrifice? It’s much more a blessing than a sacrifice to serve the Lord!!

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. -Ephesians 3:20-21

Conference Season: Check!

We got home Sunday evening at about 10:30pm having finished the last of the missions conference at Aldan Union Church in Philadelphia. It was quite the interesting week!

The conference actually began on the 8th, but we were not able to attend since I was helping do a teacher training seminary in New Jersey at a Chinese church.

My director in the ISMT program, Stan Tyson, starting off our training day.

My director in the ISMT program, Stan Tyson, starting off our training day.

We were expecting 23 students and ended the morning with 31. Even though we did the sessions in English, many of the group assignments were done in Chinese, which I found just fascinating. We were given a tour of their church and found out more information about the church and the surrounding area. There is a large Asian immigrant population in that section of New Jersey. This particular church runs an English service, a Mandarin service, and a Cantonese service – and they are full to capacity. Their building is very large and basically nothing but classrooms. They have maxed out their facility and need more room for more classes. Their children’s class runs at least 60 kids, all second generation Asians, on a regular basis with 180 that come to VBS in the summer – again, all second-generation Asians. So neat! I was given some cultural queus and information about this particular group of immigrants and I was so thankful for what they shared with me. They were excited about the training and look forward to having us come again.

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All in all, it was a great day. Stan and I seemed to work well together and it was nice seeing how someone with more experience conducts these classes. Definitely worth my time to join him for the morning!

So then, Monday evening, we went down to Aldan for just the night. We were involved in a “Missionary Round Table” at the church. There were 11 “round tables” that each had a number and people could just sit at whatever table they so chose. Missionaries were all given a small sheet with a few questions we were to answer and then the number of a starting table. We had eight minutes to answer the questions, talk about ourselves, and answer questions from the people at the table. Then, a little bell would ring and we’d all shift and start over! The hour and a half FLEW by. We actually really enjoyed it. We got to meet such a variety of people and talk about a number of different aspects in our different ministries.

We spent the night with our host family (whom we hosted in Peru in ’09). Tuesday we helped Lucho do some errands before coming back up here to Scranton in the afternoon. Brian had some work he absolutely needed to accomplish Wednesday and Thursday, so we just weren’t able to stay at the conference the entire week.

Friday morning, we headed back down to Aldan. Friday evening, we attended an International Dinner. Food from around the world was set out potluck-style. Our host family and Lucho had made Peruvian empanadas and I had brought down Peruvian alfajores (cookies) to share. It was quite the feast! Lucho and I talked for a few minutes after the meal, just about cultural thing we enjoy in Peru and some of the food we like in Peru (Brian was currently occupied with the kids so he didn’t get interviewed… I’m pretty sure he did that on purpose!).

Saturday morning, Brian and Lucho went to a men’s breakfast with about 70 men in attendance. Brian had a chance to share a little about us before introducing Lucho and translating for him as he spoke for about 20 minutes. Over lunch, we were able to see one of the girls who came to Peru in ’09 with the church, so that was nice as well.

Sunday was our complicated, busy day. The church has two services and Lucho had been invited to speak in both services. I translated both times. There was some confusion during the first service as Lucho had been asked to speak to the children about Pennies for Peru, but was given a number of different times as to when he would do so. In the end, we hung out in the youth room with the youth pastor and his wife, who also came to Peru in ’09 (and are returning this summer with a new team).

During the Sunday School hour, I translated for Lucho as he talked with the children about Pennies for Peru, then again to the combined middle and high school class as he presented his ministry and gave a short challenge:

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After Sunday School, Brian picked the kids up and took them back to our host family’s home and then Lucho and I went to the second service where he shared his testimony again and I translated.

That afternoon, the team going to Peru had a meeting and asked Lucho to attend. Someone else was able to translate for him, but they asked us to come for dinner, so we came part way through their meeting. After dinner, we were asked to share some things with the group and we were also able to talk one-on-one with some of the kids going down and encourage them as they prepare for this trip.

After dropping Lucho off in Stroudsburg and saying our “final” goodbyes, we made it home. I have to say, we enjoy doing this, but doing it with two small children is WAY different than it used to be! They did really well, though, and we’re so grateful that they are pretty good at adjusting quickly and staying with new people.

Next on the agenda is the Recognition & Training Day I will be holding for our children’s ministry at our church on April 26. The planning is going very well and we’ve had some good community interest, so now to just pull all the loose ends together and make it happen!

Brian always seems to find things to do here at MRF. He installed a new tub and shower in one of the homes two weeks ago. He pulled the plastic off the new tub after everything was set in place… and found a scratch from the factory. So, unfortunately, he will be ripping that out and replacing it in the near future. He’s also getting the snow blower set so it can be stored and ready for next winter (in faith that we won’t need it again this winter!!). This is among, of course, other odds and ends that he’s always working on as well, including the three websites he manages.

I leave you with a picture of our extroverted children. I had asked E to keep Baby J company while I was out of the room. He was in his crib… and this is how I found them when I returned:

crazy kids!

crazy kids!

Peru Night!

This week, we had the joy of having our friend, Lucho, visit from Peru. We picked him up Monday and he stayed with us through Wednesday evening. Too short, but we’ll take what we can get!

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Wednesday evening, Lucho shared in both the youth group and Pioneer Clubs and I did the translating. This was a stretch for me, but I really enjoyed it and I think it went okay! Lucho’s testimony really hit home with the youth group and I was told by the youth pastor that it set the stage for the rest of their evening, which was pretty intense.

We made our way over to the kid’s area where we had a full house. I had invited parents to stay and quite a few took us up on the offer, which was great! Lucho introduced himself and went briefly through the Wordless Book, then we played games with the kids to show them what Pennies for Peru and Peruvian camping is like. It was so different than what they’re used to and Lucho did such an awesome job – it was so much fun! The moms joined in, the cheering was super loud, and the kids had a blast.

A week ago, I had announced to the kids that we were going to take up an offering for Lucho and his family to help fix their car back in Peru. I knew they needed about $120, so that was our goal for the next two weeks. The kids did a great job bringing in their cash on Wednesday, but I haven’t had a chance to count it yet. We have one more week! But… the “stress” of raising $120 has been lifted since youth group took up a spontaneous love offering and raised OVER the projected amount! The kids begged me to tell Lucho while he was still there, so I got to tell him his car can get fixed AND he’ll have a little extra. That was a fun announcement to make. :)

It was really awesome seeing the kids relate to Lucho and listen as he spoke. He’s a BCM missionary – we work with kids! – so he was awesome with them and kept their attention really well. My hope is that this opens up a larger conversation regarding missions with the children in the upcoming weeks.

Up next on the agenda: Teacher Training day in New Jersey at a Chinese church on March 8! Brian will hold the fort down as I go by myself at about 5am (ugh… coffee please??) to NJ and teach a few hours with my director. Then, it’s off to a missions conference near Philly where we’ll see Lucho one last time (sadness) and do some translating for him as we share classes. Hopefully shortly after that will be SPRING! :) But… I’m not holding my breath.

Newsletter will be out soon! Not on our list yet?? Let me know! I’d love to add you!

LBC Conference

P1030294Okay, so this is a bad picture. My camera was dying and I had to take a fast shot — this is just part of the missions conference we just attended at Lancaster Bible College. There must have been close to 70 missionaries in attendance from many different organizations. Our table is there on the right.

We had such a great time at LBC. This was our first time there and we are looking forward to going back. The Conference was just wonderful – they really did a great job emphasizing missions to their students.

Some of the highlights:

  • The worship time each morning was really great. The LBC choir and worship team are amazing. Click here for a [choppy] video I took (it was dark and I was way in the back, but the music is pretty cool – take a listen). We were given the awesome opportunity to hear Paul Borthwick speak – very, very good speaker!
  • Tuesday morning, we were part of a Q&A panel with 4 other missionary men. The topic we addressed was, “Relationships Between Natives and Missionaries.” We had the least experience and were the youngest of about 30 years on this panel. We did have things to add, but let’s just say it was a good reminder that we have a long ways to go in our “missionary career”!
  • Tuesday evening, I went to a faculty member’s home and was able to speak to 22 female students. It was a wonderful evening connecting with the girls, answering questions, and encouraging them into missions.
  • Wednesday morning, we attended another panel: “How to Embrace Worship in Another Culture.” We had one other missionary lady on the panel with us and then probably 30 students, most of whom are Worship Majors. We initially weren’t sure we’d have much too offer because honestly, anymore, when we think of “worship”, “music” is not the first thing that comes to our minds. So, we weren’t thinking that these would be musicians we’d be speaking to (and Brian and I are not musicians by any stretch of the imagination!). But, as we got going, we realized we did have things to contribute. I have done a lot with music over the years and I have the unique experience of living and working in Montreal in a very multicultural church. Plus, we traveled around in Peru and saw the diversity in worship styles and music there as well. It ended up being very simple to fill our hour session and we really enjoyed it.
  • Our kids were babysat Monday evening in the hotel. The babysitter was, we thought, a friend of a friend, but when she arrived at the hotel I took one look at her and said, “Have we met before? Did you visit us in Peru?” Turns out, she DID visit us in Peru back in ’09 as part of a very large youth group! It was wonderful seeing her again and I think it was a total God-thing because it gave me that much more confidence in leaving our kids with an “unknown sitter.” And the kids did great with her!
  • Tuesday and Wednesday during the days, the kids were watched by some other friends in the area – who were part of that same missions team in ’09. When we last saw them, neither of us had kids and now they have 3 and we have 2! They were so generous in offering their time and their home and our kids had a blast and didn’t want to leave either day.

Every time we get to represent BCM, especially at a college, we are reminded how much we just love encouraging young people into missions. Sometimes, they just need someone to push them out of their comfort zone and offer them an opportunity they didn’t even realize existed. We love sharing our stories and encouraging people to use the talents they have, even if they’re not the “traditional missionary” talents. We had one young man telling us how disappointed he is that he doesn’t have the finances to do more than an Associates degree and he was wondering how he could be an effective missionary with only an Associates; he was just convinced he didn’t have the qualifications or experience to serve the Lord. Brian looked at him and said, “We only have an Associates and we served overseas for 4 years and are full-time missionaries. God can use whatever!” He left encouraged and excited about what God has in store for him.

Now comes the fun part of follow-up! Pray with us for these young people we contacted this week, that they wouldn’t lose the momentum of missions conference and that they would follow the Lord’s leading, even if it’s not with BCM.

Snow Days

[written yesterday, feb. 5, just didn't have internet to be able to post it!]

Can everyone say, “Snow Day”?? We were slammed with almost a foot of snow overnight and haven’t left the property today.

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My usual Wednesday evening program was canceled at church since schools were closed today. Brian spent the morning helping shovel everyone on the property out and now he’s out doing some basic repairs in someone’s home. The sleet keeps coming; it’s probably a good thing I didn’t have to go out tonight!

We are gearing up for our first road trip since August! We’re headed to Lancaster on Monday for Lancaster Bible College’s missions conference. This will be an experience and we ask for your prayers, specifically as we juggle children, our booth, and other responsibilities. Thankfully, we have babysitters lined up for the majority of our time there, but please do pray that the kids will adjust well to strangers!

We are definitely looking forward to the time at LBC, though. BCM has been working for awhile to create a partnership with LBC. It will be good to network and mingle with students and hopefully encourage some into missions, be it with BCM or elsewhere. We are both involved in Q&A panels on Tuesday and Wednesday and although it bothers me a bit because I like to be prepared and you can’t prepare for Q&A panels, it also intrigues us because of the topics we’ll be discussing! I know I will be answering questions on “Married Women in Missions.” We’re signed up for four others; we’ll know when we arrive which ones specifically we’ll be attending.

I am doing my own preparations for teacher training conferences. Even though they’re both a ways away, I want to be well-prepared since I will be doing two sessions that I haven’t taught yet. The more I use BCM’s teacher training material, the more I genuinely love it and am so glad I am a part of this ministry! I am ecstatic about helping present a seminar at our church in April! I hope everyone enjoys the day as much as I think they will!

The kids are sound asleep at the moment and the silence is wonderful!

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Elena talks incessantly, not really about anything in particular, just talks to talk. Very typical girl. Joseph sings. Or screeches or just generally makes a lot of noise in whatever it is he happens to be doing. His new thing is to make little “mm mm mm” noises while he eats. Apparently he appreciates his food! But, it’s loud enough that we can’t get a conversation in very easily anymore!

We are so pleased that just during the month of January, we have noticed a change in Elena’s behavior. We were able to move her up to the 4’s and 5’s Sunday School class because of her maturity and she absolutely loves it. We still keep her in nursery simply because she can’t sit through the service yet, but the higher level Sunday School has really done her good. It’s funny – she really ended up there by accident. I got her checked in for class and was sidetracked by someone needing to speak with me, so I told Elena to go ahead and go to her classroom. I went to check on her later and she wasn’t there! She was in the other room, happily joining in with the big kids. Her teachers said she’d waltzed in and made herself at home! I tried to move her, but her teachers were so sweet and said they love having her and would like for her to stay. It’s a blast hearing her say her memory verse in the van on the way home and finding out what she’s learned that morning.

She also got her first haircut last week! We were pleased to see that it's no baby curls she has - those are full-on, forever curls that are so beautiful!

She also got her first haircut last week! We were pleased to see that it’s no baby curls she has – those are full-on, forever curls that are so beautiful!

Only one home here at the MRF property is currently vacant, which is really great news! We welcomed a family of five who serve in Japan as well as a family of four who serve in Kenya within the last two weeks. Brian asked our new “Kenyan” neighbors if the snow reminds them of home. Shockingly, it does not. J We have loads of children on the property right now and so if our schedules ever coincide with the travels of everyone else, Elena will have plenty of playmates! I can see two little boys bundled in layers of snow gear out my window at the moment. It’s so refreshing to hear voices at the playground these days.

We are SO EXCITED that in about a week and a half one of our Peruvian co-workers, and Brian’s closest Peruvian friend, will be coming to the States for a month! Lucho Bailly, whom many of you know, will be visiting churches in the area (and us!).

Tio Lucho with our kids, a month before we left Peru. Elena really did love her, I promise!

Tio Lucho with our kids, a month before we left Peru. Elena really did love him, I promise!

We’re sad that the rest of the family were not granted visas, but very excited to at least see Lucho. We’re not sure how often we’ll get to spend time with him as he won’t be staying with us, but we are still looking forward to it!

Thanks for praying for us next week! We’ll get some pictures and update you when we get back.