Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tony's Entry Step 3 - A Question of Where and not If...

Following God down any road we have never been on is always scary. It shouldn't be, yet we, as fallen humans tend not to trust. I have found that almost always, my confirmations of what to do come after I take steps to follow Him. If God is not leading as I walk, it is quickly evident and when I am taking steps behind Him the signs come and prove that quickly too! I want to share a few evidences of my walk down the road to Kenya, as God has been gracious in making clear that I am on the right track.
I am a full time missionary, always raising support, everyone I know has ben hit upon to give and serve in our ministry. I came into this trip scratching my head as to how to ask, and who to ask, for money to make this trip happen finically. While this concern is not big enough to stop me from going, it is something I will have to fully rely on God to make happen. 2 days after I fully committed to Mike that I was going, I happened upon a belt pack to hold a camera and other things I thought would be great for the trip, so I brought it home. As I unzipped the many pockets the pack had, in the back, in the smallest pocket, was a $20 bill! I was overwhelmed to ay the least. I knew at that moment to stop thinking and strategizing, and to start walking faster. The next day in the mail came a note and a check for $100 for the trip from friends I would not have asked, I was overwhelmed once again. From there I began to pray about who I should send letters to, and found it easy to make a list. Along the way, several family members asked if I had sent them letters and I had not, so they requested I do, and they have helped! Last weekend I sat down and prayed and thought about if there where any other letters I ought to send. I made decision to send out 4 more. I went to church Sunday and 2 of the people I had decided to send a letter to came up to me and asked if they would be getting a letter from me because they wanted to help... again overwhelming.
Lastly, as I wrote down my list of those who I should ask for help, I put down dollar amount I felt strongly that each would give, and each person that has given so far, has given that exact amount... that is overwhelming!
So I am now moving ahead quickly down the path following God. Not to say I don't still carry a fanny pack full of fears, (I am still still a man who's flesh wants control of me!). But now I am focused more on where God is leading instead of wondering if He is leading and that is 90% of the battle. It sound's utterly ridiculous to write on paper that there ever could be a question about if He is leading... but again I am a man to often controlled by flesh that fears, hurts, and wants to feel good above all else.
So I proceed with joy, knowing that this trip is already a victory in my life as my flesh has been weakened just a little bit. I look forward to God's working to bring me closer to Him as we continue to move, even if I have those fleshly fears of the unknown!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Make a Difference

I have always wanted to make a difference. I want to know that the things I do make an impact and, hopefully, make a difference in someone’s life even for a moment. I think most people feel this way. Must be something God designed into all of us. The problem is not with the desire but the how. How does someone make difference and have an impact on the people and the world around them? I used to think I could make a difference by working harder and trying to get ahead. I think a lot of people fall into this kind of thinking. Possessions, job titles and the size of your bank account become ways of measuring the difference you are making. But no matter how well I did at work, or how many toys I could afford, I never felt like my life was having the impact that it should. Through a series of encounters with God I realized that He was the only person who could really make a difference in people’s lives, the kind of difference that brings hope, peace and life. That’s what this trip is all about. Being involved in what God is doing to make a difference in the lives of people in Kenya. I get asked by people all the time, “Why do you like going to Kenya?” There are many reasons I get excited about going to Kenya. When we are way outside our comfort zones and all our security blankets are thousands of miles away, we have to rely on God in a whole new way. When I come back and everything seems familiar I only have to think of the experiences I had on the trip to realize that the same God I rely on in Kenya is helping me here. The people in Kenya are open, accepting and seem to love everyone they meet and do everything they can to make sure you feel loved. Who wouldn’t be excited about that kind of acceptance? But the biggest reason I get excited about going to Kenya is that I get to be part of what God is doing to make a difference in the lives of people. Not just the people of Kenya but the people who go on the trip, the people who support the trip, the people of Living Hope Church – by going on the trip we have a chance to be part of what God is doing in all their lives. I also get excited about what God will do in my life. Every time we encounter God and take part in the work He has planned for us he will make a difference in us.
So, whether you are going on the trip, supporting someone who is going or just following along be prepared to make a difference because God will make a difference in you.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Don't Worry

Pastor Jerry's sermon this week really hit home for me and my thoughts and prayers about our upcoming trip to Kenya. There were many points that spoke directly to those going on the trip and all those who are supporting and encouraging the team. Just as Jerry said in his sermon, we are called to be salt to all the people around us. Salt serves two purposes that apply to those of us going on the trip. One purpose is to bring out the flavor of foods, the point Jerry focused on. The other purpose is to act as one of the ingredients in preserving food. I think both of these purposes speak directly to the reasons we, as a church body, reach out and get involved in missions. Life can be tough and people can easily get bogged down in the day to day grind of trying to make it work. Without God people lose focus on the good things in life, those experiences they should savor, and get lost in the day to day. By acting as an agent we can show people the love of God and introduce them to a new relationship and someone who can bring them into a whole new world. At the same time we can act as one part of their preservation by introducing people to their only real hope and salvation.
The other part of the sermon that stood out to me was Philipians 4:6-7. "The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." We have spent some time talking about all the things we need to do to prepare for the trip. Our families and friends are asking more questions about what we will be doing, where we will be going, were will we stay, etc. All this while most of us are still working or going to school and trying to deal with all the normal ins and outs of everyday life. What can we do? We need to pray just as we are told by the verse in Philipians. The people who are going on the trip and those who are supporting us need to remember to pray about the trip everyday. We need to pray for the people who are going on the trip, the travel and all the physical aspects of going and getting home. We also need to pray for the people we will encounter on the trip and the people we will serve while we are there. We need to pray for the church in Kenya and all the people who will be working with us. We need to pray about whatever concerns, needs or anxious thoughts we have about the trip. If we are faithful to take our requests to God he will give us peace to guard our hearts and our thoughts.
One quick personal example, the first time I went to Kenya I knew we would spend part of the trip staying with a host family. I don't really like being a guest of someone else (stubborn and independent but God is working on me). I was really uncomfortable about being a guest in the house of someone from another culture that I had never met. I prayed, thought God will never give me more than I can handle and prepared for the worst. When I go to my host family I found that the father of the family loved playing guitar, one of my hobbies, and had a job that was almost identical to mine. We had so many things in common that we stayed up late into the night discussing music, family and our work. I couldn't have been more comfortable. Why did I waste time worrying. I should have known God would take care of me. So, I encourage all of you to pray and see what God will do.

P.S. The last thing I would like to ask for is a little encouragement from all of you. It is difficult to tell who is reading the blog if you don't sign up as a follower. Creating an account is easy and, my favorite, it is free. If you create an account and sign up as follower you can get notified when the blog is updated, post comments and we can see who is reading. Thanks.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Journey

As I read Chrissy and Tony's posts tonight, my excitement for the upcoming trip to Kenya kicked up another notch. I was also reminded of how much goes into a trip like this. Eveyone who goes on a trip like this will struggle with something. We need to prepare for this struggle while we are here, otherwise we will deal with it in Kenya. My biggest struggle is the fear that I will find myself in a position where God has given me an opportunity and I will find myself unqualified or unequal to the task. Praying, reading the word, and reflecting on all that God has done to help me grow as a person and a Christian helps me to deal with this issue. I believe all our life is a journey and God uses each step to make us into what He intended us to be and to prepare us for the opportunities He provides us. I don't know what challenges you will face as we prepare and go, but I know you will be challenged - and changed - by God. Preparing for this trip, the trip itself and the challenges we will face are steps in the journey of becoming who God intended us to be. That we will be able to go through this adventure with God and each other is the exciting part. We will build relationships with people and build on our relationship with God each step of the way.

Friday, March 5, 2010

" Before you pack your bags, prepare your heart"

Chronicles from Chrissy:

Someone once asked me, "What exactly goes into preparing for a trip this size and how do you go about doing it?" I would have to say that in preparing for any kind of trip, most people spend an extraordinary amount of time planning, laying out, researching and committing to going on a trip. Whether it is a vacation with your family, a business trip, a personal get-away or a missions trip, we all will go through the process of preparing to go. Some of us may even have our bags packed way in advanced (guilty :)) and anticipation and excitement about the journey we are about to embark on.

Planning and preparing for a missions trip is no different. The biggest difference is that most often the strategies begins a year or more in advance with a more concentrated push that jumps to the next level 5-6 months prior to the actual date of departure. What many people don't see is the behind the scenes of many, many emails, phone calls, hours spent on the computer researching, and searching out everything that will enable us to plan accordingly, utilize the funds wisely and to make sure that all aspects of the trip is covered and thought about and taken into account for. One of the biggest component of a missions trip is in the details that lie in it before and during the trip. From getting passports, immunizations, visas, medical insurance, travel accommodations to and during trip, to arranging lodging, food and water and all ministry related activities.

When it comes to spending money....I am a bargain shopper at heart and I get very excited when I save money. For instance, when it came time to search out for airline tickets, I spent a lot of time working with several airline travel agents in searching for the best deal, and was insistent and persistent in looking for the best rate that would benefit and save our team money. One of the agents recently, complimented me on my "due diligence" and "perseverance". I bring that mentality into planning a missions trip with a heightened sense of responsibility that this is not just about saving money but is more importantly, being a wise steward of the funds and resources that God has entrusted us to use. (A big thanks to Mary Deckert for her assistance in our airfare travel this year...she connected us with the right people and spent hours mediating for us in getting to meet our airfare budget).

Often times, in the course of the preparation journey, I find myself getting quickly sidetracked and focused in on the organization end of it and while we can develop the game plan, carry out the ministry and travel logistics and what it is we will do; we, myself included, fail to prepare our hearts for what God wants to do in and through us. The challenge is to prepare our hearts so that we can:

1. serve in the most God-honoring way
2. to go as a humble servant
3. to go with basic cross cultural sensitivity
4. to go ready to be a team player
5. to go expecting God to change you.

I asked several of our team members to comment on what God is "preparing" them or showing them about this trip and what He is and wanting to do with them through the process. I will add a few comments each time I blog so that we all can get a sense of what God is doing through each and every one of us.

Here is an excerpt from Becky Mandich, who is currently serving in Kenya on a 10 month internship with Agape Church:

"... God is doing such a mighty work. I feel honored to be a part of it. I am learning and changing through my experiences so much. I just got back from Northern Kenya with the Bethany Church team. It was awesome, exhausting and wonderful trip. I was a part of the adult literacy team. I spent several hours each morning learning Somali and then the afternoons went out into the marketplace with alphabet charts teaching strangers the Somali alphabet. We got very mixed reactions. Almost all were suspicious, some did not want to have anything to do with us. One particular day, we rode to an outlying village and to do literacy. We had gotten permission the day before to come and teach....but once we arrived, we were told to leave and that we were not wanted there. We rode home broken hearted and hurt. As I looked out my window, I kept thinking about how dry spiritually this place was. I prayed to God and said...if you are here among this place moving give me a sign. Before I went to bed that night, I was praying that God would pour out His Holy Spirit like rain among those people. The next morning I woke up and it started to pour out rain in the middle of our hot season in the desert!!!! There was my sign, it was also a sign that God is softening the ground and preparing the soil for the seed that we are spreading!" The next day, we were invited back to that same village and allowed to begin to teach literacy. God is so awesome!!!!".

Mike Waldrop and Tim both challenged the whole team when we met last, to prepare our hearts. To prepare ourselves to go and ready to give God our very best. We will face obstacles, we will face spiritual warfare. We will battle against our flesh. The call has gone, we know that before we pack our bags, We must prepare our hearts to go!!!"

God Bless!
Chrissy K.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tony's Entry Step 2 - The first battles of the war

I am now fully committed to going to Africa as Tim and Chrissy have bought the plane tickets and the team is in place! I have begun getting shots, my passport, etc...I am excited, yet now the reality of it all is hitting me. Over the last 6 months as I prayed, thought and wrestled with the decision to go, my main apprehension has been the Camp Daniel Team and all the needed prep time for putting on four weeks of summer camp and hosting well over 500 people during those weeks. I know I have set myself up for a grueling summer... We head to Minnesota to work at a camp for people for disabilities for a week at the end of May. I fly to Chicago from there to go to a 3 day family wedding and two days after that leave for Kenya. Ten days after getting home we start of 4 weeks of camp interrupted by a week of hosting a missions group of 30 coming from Chicago to stay and work here on the grounds with us. it will be a hard 9 week run to say the least. It has forced me already,to change, to get organized and get well ahead of things I usually do not!
Since I have known Tim, we have talked often of the reality of how we find ourselves attacked as we work where God is working. We both have faced the reality of ministry, and the obstacles that come in stepping out in faith. I have extreme faith in his leadership, as God's hand is on him and he is battle scarred because of it! Please pray for him as the one marching in the front bears the brunt of the attack.
I know that the devil will attack our ministry and the Camp Daniel Team, to try and interrupt this time of growth God has for us. In fact, it really began hitting us six months ago as I even began praying about going. Our Camp Daniel team has encountered hard issues, we have struggled, and been stretched. I have faced things as a leader I did not think I could get through. Yet,one thing I have learned through 15 years of ministry is that very often the harder the fight, the bigger the blessing, the more we encounter road blocks, the greater our growth will be on the other side.
As Tim and Mike took us through our Kenya Team Meeting yesterday, God confirmed in my heart that He is working and that I am on the right path. They spoke about the battle we will encounter, the obstacles that will come. Scott wrote a devotional that was handed out on the armor of God, for our preparation for this battle. I began reading it last night and finished this morning. It struck me how, really, the trip has already begun for us, as the battle has started, going on the trip is just part of this campaign.
At this moment I am torn, as my flesh does not want to face the fight at hand. The bad voice inside says, " It would surely have been easier for everyone if you had not have decided to do this!" But my heart says "bring it on" So I will follow what I know is right in my heart, growing closer to God, depending more on Him, and lifting the cross he has given a little higher, so I can follow Him.
So as you read this I ask for your prayer for our team, but most importantly for Tim, Chrissy, and Mike as they lead us in this battle. There are over 20 people right now who have jumped out of the foxhole and are charging the enemy behind them, many of them young, and taking a step onto the battle field for the first time. So if you see some battle worn soldiers in the halls of LHC, stop them, pray and offer encouragement, because we are in the midst of the war!