Humbled by eggs and sausage

One of the requirements for the apprenticeship that Jenifer and I are apart of here in San Diego is that we go around to some specific places in town and just listen and take in what is happening here. As we go we are to ask ourselves some questions regarding what we are experiencing. We were to ask ourselves:

  • What do you see, smell, and hear in this place?
  • How does walking through this environment make you feel and what are some of the first thoughts and emotions that came to you when you entered this space?
  • How has the story of this place affected the story and identity of San Diego?
  • What kinds of people are here?
  • Do you feel comfortable in this environment?  And Why?
  • What role does this place play in the current narrative of our city?
  • What kind of story is this place telling?

A little over two weeks ago we had the opportunity to visit one of the homeless food kitchens here in San Diego. It is planted in one of the “roughest” parts of town. My initial thought was, “ok, I’ve done this before, we’ll probably just go and serve some food for breakfast.” But then, I was corrected; nope, we’re going to partake in a meal at the kitchen. Needless to say for both Jenifer and I discomfort really set in and we both were kind of nervous about the whole thing. And so, I wanted to share with you Jenifer’s reflection of our experience at God’s Extended Hand:

“What a stretch outside of our comfort zone this was. Overall the experience was both sweet and uncomfortable. We were definitely feeling the apprehension of going to place that “isn’t for us” and intruding on what feels like a completely different culture. After we parked and walked into this new space, we immediately felt out of place and uncertain about how to navigate the room we had just entered.  Whilst stepping deeper into the room, we were soon greeted by friendly faces gushing over Emerson.  We talked babies and the impending arrival of a couple’s son, due just 19 days from now. It was almost a relief to have a conversation so quickly in this new environment.  After we found our seats, we found ourselves sitting among several single men who were all very quiet, but they too also seemed to enjoy watching Emerson. We soon learned that there would be a “service” before breakfast would be served, which gave us even more time to soak in this space. It was a warm and inviting place but it was also clear that there were rules to follow and an order to how this place flowed. There was much prayer, clapping in appreciation both for the cooks and for all that God has done for us, and several ‘Amens’ and ‘Hallelujahs’ shared during the service time. It was evident that Jesus was in this place. The meal was mostly quiet around us but Jeff did have a great conversation with two young men, Cliff and Gary. Gary shared how tolerant and positive San Diego is of the homeless and how he felt responsible to conduct himself well in response to the kindness shown him. Twice the family we had first met when we walked in reached out to take care of me, first making sure I was served a plate since I had a child and second, giving me a baby snack that was being handed out. We felt very blessed and even cared for in the midst of being in such a different place.  Not once were we treated differently or like we didn’t belong. We were welcomed and embraced and our host even invited us back this afternoon.”

It’s funny to me (Jeff) how easily we set up preconceived borders, boundaries, and ideas of the way things are without even an afterthought. What I mean by that is, I myself, and I think “we” had thought that this homeless food kitchen would be a certain way; that we wouldn’t belong there or that we don’t actually “need” anything, or even thinking that we aren’t “like” that group of people. When the reality is we were more accepted and more invited into that space than many other places we often find ourselves in. It reminds me of Colossians 3 and how Paul so well reminds the Colossians and us that in God’s kingdom there are no distinctions – we are all loved, cherished and accepted by the King. God taught us a valuable lesson that day and reminded us just how precious the reality is that we live out each day in this world as image bearers. As image bearers of God himself, we have value and a great deal at that! I need to see people as image bearers, not as rich and poor, nice or mean, Caucasian or Latino. We were accepted as is, no questions asked, the awkwardness was on our part – not theirs. If we are going to live lives on mission it has to start by seeing people as God sees them…no questions asked. That’s a heart issue we need to deal with. How do I see people and how do I love them well? We were really thankful for that humbling experience that Saturday morning at God’s Extended Hand.  

Who the heck is Franklin Pierce?

Franklin Pierce – 14th U.S. President

About a month ago I finished reading a biography on Franklin Pierce. You know – Franklin Pierce – the 14th president of the United States. Franklin Pierce – the cause of the Republican Party’s introduction into the American political landscape. Franklin Pierce – the only president from New Hampshire. The reason the Kansas-Nebraska act came to fruition. Franklin Pierce was historically one of the worst presidents the U.S. has ever had. That’s probably why he’s not ringing a bell. That’s ok, you’re not alone. The reality is that most people have no clue who Franklin Pierce was or why he was important to the political landscape leading up to the Civil War. But he was a Northerner with a Southern sympathies and his decisions regarding slavery and newly admitted states would pave the way for the disintegration of the once lively Whig party and the introduction of the newly staunch opponents of slavery – the Republican party. His poor presidency and the decisions that came out of it, would set the North and South on collision course that would finally be realized some 20 years later. Franklin Pierce, though often forgotten, was an important cog in our nation’s history, especially as it relates to slavery in the U.S..

I write all that not because I want to write about Franklin Pierce, but rather to make a point. History is important. But so often, we (myself included) fail to understand just how much our current situation is shaped by history. History matters a great deal. And whether you enjoy the study of history or not, you’ve been undoubtedly shaped greatly by it.
Learning the history of our place while overlooking downtown San Diego
This past week we (NieuCommunities apprentices) had an awesome opportunity to learn about the history of our place. We spent a couple of hours learning how San Diego came to be the San Diego we know today. We spent time looking at some of the themes that arose from that history. Themes of “Boom and Bust,” “Partnership with Tijuana,” “Manifest Destiny,” “The Spanish Mission Movement” and the “War of Water” just to name a few. And what we found is that every one of those themes plays out one way or another within the narrative of our city and can be identified today. History has impacted this city more than I think we ever could realize. We also looked specifically at the history of our neighborhood. We learned how Golden Hill started as the premiere neighborhood within San Diego and over time changed and morphed into it’s 1990’s name “Heroin Hill” and then the metamorphosis into what San Diego magazine has just named the “Best up-and-coming” neighborhood in San Diego. 
A mural in San Diego’s Chicano Park.
An important and often forgotten part of San Diego’s history.
It’s fascinating to see how history really tells you a lot about a place. As people on mission I wonder how much more of an impact we could have if we were faithfully seeking where we’ve been and how that affects where a place is going. Knowing the history of a place allows you a window of sorts into the victories, pains, and needs of a community. But learning these things takes time. Each one of us is a product of history. Whether it’s the larger narrative of your country or culture’s history, or the the smaller more personal narrative of your life; history matters. History shapes us and history tells us a lot about people. I am thankful for our time learning the history of this place we now call home. I pray that we would be able to minister in light of what has happened in our cities, communities, neighborhoods and lives recognizing that our past shapes us, but doesn’t define us. It is our prayer that through learning the history of our place we would know how to better pray for, care for and invest in our neighbors and neighborhoods.  

Birds and their love for blueberry scones

I’m prone to worry. There I said it. I know I’m not supposed to. Scripture’s pretty clear about worry, instead of worrying I’m supposed to be characterized by peace. But it often feels like there’s a perpetual battle between worry and peace playing out in my head. The truth is I worry about a lot of different things.

Some worries are probably legitimate. Like how good of a father I’ll be to Emerson. Or, if I’m loving my wife like she needs me to. Some are, I know, ridiculous. Like worrying about the 7th game of the Stanley Cup Finals and which Luongo will show up (Ok, now, to be honest, if you’re a Canucks fan, some may argue that’s legitimate). Or, if that sound outside my house at 3 am is a robber trying to break into my storage shed that’s in the back yard (oh, nevermind, it’s just my dog licking himself next to my bed – heart-rate can go down any time now).
Worry for me comes out in a number of different ways. Some are pretty common. I worry about money and finances – having to raise support brought this one into a whole new light for me. If we don’t get all the support we need, how will we pay for things? How will we live? Another common worry – I worry about the future – where is God going to take us? How are we going to get there? What if “such and such” doesn’t happen? The list goes on. For me this is the kind of worry that can induce a lot of stress if I let it, it can fog my ability to think and it can even cause me to lose sight of what’s happening right in front of me. 
Some worries are more subtle. I worry about how I am perceived by others. If I say “this,” what will people think? If I do “that,” will people respect me or think I’m a wreck? This worry can cripple my ability to be vulnerable and honest; it can hinder my ability to invest and engage with people. I can still remember the times I’ve misspoken in the midst of a group of people with vivid detail and even allow that to haunt me as I interact in other settings at times. Shoot, I even struggle to start conversations with people at Starbucks sometimes because I worry about asking the right questions or saying the “right” things. Worry causes me to over think situations. Worry causes me to second guess myself. It causes a lot of anxiety in social situations. I’m insecure – I know, I have issues. It’s something that I’ve wrestled with for a long time. But most of the time it safely plays itself out in the “friendly confines” of my head – so people won’t see my struggles as lucidly. 
Now the whole reason I’m writing this is because it feels like God has really been working on my heart in this area of worry…not to mention, I know I’m not alone. A lot of us have those same insecurities, same worries – both legitimate and crazy. For whatever it’s worth, I process better by writing things down. So here it is…thanks for bearing with me.
Over the past week or so I’ve been spending a lot time at our neighborhood Starbucks. Our Starbucks is literally two blocks from our house – I know, DANGEROUS. It’s been a great place for me to spend reading, praying, and listening. This past week or so, I’ve really been thinking and praying about the transition we’ve made into NieuCommunities. Moving to a new place causes a lot of anxiety for me. I’m a routine person, I function really well when I’m in routine and my surroundings are familiar. Take me out of that rhythm and comfort zone and I really am like the cliché “fish out of water.” Change is hard. And for me, change and transition seem to only magnify my ability to worry about things. I bring up Starbucks because last Friday morning I found myself sitting outside and sipping on my iced coffee reflecting on the various things that were weighing heavily on my mind. As I sat there I was suddenly struck by a tiny little bird right underneath my table. This little bird was just content as can be; pecking away at somebody’s fallen pastry crumb. The bird stood there eating it, not even a little bit concerned about the large ominous being overlooking it peck away at the food. “Ok God, nice work, I needed to see that.” Matthew 6 came rushing to my mind: 
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26 ESV)  
Here’s the thing, I’ve quoted this verse probably a gazillion times, reflected on it, shared it with others, but seeing that bird, in those circumstances, on that morning, it struck me differently. I watched that bird for about 5 minutes as it hopped from morsel to morsel eating without a care in the world. “Wish I could function like that.” Funny thing, the Bible speaks pretty well to the reality of God’s faithfulness. I’ve experienced that reality so many times and in so many different ways. The reality that God provides, cares for, intercedes on the behalf of, and really fights for His people plays over and over again throughout the pages of the Bible. I’ve read those stories, I’ve taught those stories, I’ve experienced the truths of those stories. And yet I still struggle. But as I sat there at Starbucks that morning it hit me just how carefree that bird really was. I want that to characterize my life. I know the pat answer is Jesus, but sometimes, if I’m honest, I need help just like anyone else connecting the dots. I need to be reminded of who I am in Christ. I need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness – repeatedly. I need to be reminded that I am living in the midst of a battle, and that the enemy LOVES to play the doubt and worry card. I need to be reminded of Romans 8, of Ephesians 1, of Matthew 6. While watching that bird, I simply began to pray. “Thank you for the reminder, please Lord, keep reminding me.”  
And God in his faithfulness, has continued to remind me of all those realities. I feel like I have been reminded a lot lately. God really has used the community down here to help remind me of those truths. See, that’s the beauty of community – no one has to go it alone. If you are wrestling with something, chances are good that someone else has wrestled with it at some time or is wrestling with it now. This past Sunday evening our community spent time working through Colossians 3 together. We spent time reading through the chapter and then began to really reflect on what this passage tells us about God, about humans, and in light of those realities what does that mean for how I’m to live. Two things kind of connected for me and a couple of others too. Low and behold I was not the only one wrestling with anxiety, there were others. In the middle of Colossians 3 Paul tells the Colossians to be thankful three times in a matter of three verses. Seems like he really wanted the Colossians to be thankful; to give thanks to God. When we as a community began to talk about how this passage should lead us to live I felt God impressing upon my heart the need to be thankful in all circumstances. I need to work on having a thankful heart. I tend to be a glass half-empty kind of guy, or as I like to put it: a realist. But this past Sunday I was convicted. I am quick to look at circumstances in front of me and see the problems, the negatives, the shortcomings and completely fail to see the positives…That’s a problem…shoot, there it is again. At any rate, I recognize that a large part of worry and anxiety stems from not being able to see or at least not acknowledging and reflecting on the areas of God’s provision and faithfulness. I need to work on this. Kind of fitting, seeing as Thanksgiving is a mere two weeks away – perfect time to put this ol’ discipline into action. That evening others began to share tangible ways that they could allow this passage to be lived out in their lives as well. And there it was, there were others, wrestling with anxiety – the battle between worry and peace. As we talked about that for a bit, Philippians 4 came to mind.

“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.” (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)

There it was, another verse I’d memorized and repeated a gazillion times. How many times have I said that verse out loud, and forgotten or mumbled over the “with thanksgiving” part. Yep. Probably too many to count. But for some reason that night God reminded me of the connection between God’s peace and the need for a thankful heart. We talked through that a little bit with others who were struggling with the same. I’m thankful for our community. I’m thankful for the people God has connected us with and their love for God, their neighbors and each other. I’m thankful that God has put people in my life to remind me of God’s truth when I need it most. I’m thankful that God hears our prayers and not only listens, but answers them. I’m thankful that God knows exactly what I need when I need it. I needed to be reminded that the answer to anxiety is God’s peace. God’s peace comes through prayer which is presented to God with a thankful heart. And there it is. Prayerful and thankful people are peaceful people. I need to be both.

This next month it is my goal to be more conscientious and thoughtful in proclaiming what I’m thankful for. God has blessed us immensely. God’s faithfulness plays out in our lives on a daily basis. God is teaching us, stretching us and changing us in this new season. For that I am thankful. Even when I struggle to fully realize and understand what God is doing in and around me God’s truth rings in my ears and eyes through others and even through little birds that eat crumbs under tables at Starbucks. For that I am thankful.

A Wise Old Owl

Finally we are settled into our new home! It’s good to be settled. It’s good to be in a place and feel like it is home (well sort of). Pictures are hung. Our fridge no longer looks like a 19 year old college bachelor’s fridge. We even have a kitchen table. The past month or so has really been one of getting settled in and adjusting to our new city. The thing is that even though our physical house is beginning to take shape into a home, we are still very much foreigners to Golden Hill. But there’s something pretty cool about finding your way around in a new place. Slowly we are beginning to get the “feel” of San Diego and Golden Hill. It’s kind of funny, but when you live in a place for a long time you almost begin to take the daily rhythms of your city and neighborhood for granted. It’s easy to look past what happens day in and day out around us because we are so consumed with our lives, our homes, our jobs, our fill-in-the-blank. I feel like the longer we are in a place the easier it is to fall into that pattern if we’re not intentional. Nowhere is this more glaring than in a new place. A new place is full of new sounds, new people, new homes, new weather, new conversations – new everything. It kind of hits you smack dab in the face when you’re used to life a certain way and your “new place” does it a little, or a lot differently. We’ve quickly re-discovered that moving and entering into a new season and a new place in life requires an ability to listen and take in what is happening all around you. If you don’t, you’ll have a hard time connecting with the people around you. Jenifer and I are becoming more and more aware of the need to listen to the world around us and begin to understand what the rhythms of our new neighborhood are telling us about it’s beliefs, it’s values, and where the gospel needs to be brought to bear in its midst. The more we listen, the more we are able to speak grace, truth, and love into our neighbors’ lives.

Praying over one of the apprentices.

About three weeks ago now Jenifer and I began the formal training part of the NieuCommunities Apprenticeship. Each Tuesday night we, along with 10 other apprentices, gather to learn and be trained as leaders who will be sent out as salt and light to cities and neighborhoods all around the world. The apprenticeship has begun by focusing on our need to listen. Here in NieuCommunities we call this taking a “posture” of listening. We are learning more and more each week how very important it is to listen to God and hear from through His Word, through prayer, and through the counsel of others. We are learning about the need to listen and understand how we best connect with God and to be in tune with how He has created us to serve Him. Finally, we are learning how to listen to our neighborhood. This requires us to ask a number of questions. What are the rhythms of life that are happening day in and day out? What are the beliefs and values of those around us? What are the needs and hurts of our community here in Golden Hill. As we listen, it is our hope and prayer that as a community of believers we may be instruments of love, grace, and reconciliation in this neighborhood we call home and in the world around us. That is our prayer right now – that we would listen more and speak less. A little while ago I posted on facebook an old english proverb I had come across right as we began the apprenticeship – how fitting it is for us right now, I felt I should repost it here:

A Wise Old Owl
A wise old owl lived in an oak.
The more he saw, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?

That’s really where we are at right now. Speaking less allows us to learn and to hear what is happening around us. Our neighborhood is telling us a lot about itself each day; we must listen and do so well if we are going to be effective people on mission for God. We are thankful for the reminder of how important it is to learn, understand, and listen to our neighborhood. If we truly desire to see lives transformed by the gospel we should probably know as much about those lives as possible so that we may love well, serve well, and proclaim the glories of God well.

Emerson’s first baseball game!

We are thankful that as we’ve transitioned down here we have had time to simply spend together as a family exploring different areas of San Diego. One thing we got to do recently was bring Emerson to his first baseball game!! We’ve explored beaches, parks, and all the different neighborhoods around the city; it’s been great! We’re thankful for this time together as a family!

Moving forward here are a couple ways you can specifically be praying for us:

  • Pray that we continue to transition well here in San Diego (we are still learning and getting used to living down here).
  • Pray that God would provide all the finances we need for ministry. 
  • Pray that we would be good listeners as we learn from and interact with our neighbors.

-The Otts

Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen

It only took one day – apparently the sun is pretty bright here – too bad we packed the aloe away in the truck. 

It’s good to finally be here in San Diego. In a lot of ways it’s a bit surreal. It was just this past May that we first came down to visit NieuCommunities down here; in June we made the decision to join the apprenticeship for this next year; last week we actually moved. We have officially been down here for a week now. There’s something strangely exciting and terrifying about packing everything up and saying goodbye to dear friends and family – to saying goodbye to your support system, to letting go of your safety net. It’s in those times especially where your faith becomes real. It’s the place where God tends to force you (most of the time uncomfortably so) into a place of responding to the question “do you trust me?” For Jenifer and I that question rang over and over again in our ears. “Do you trust me that I will provide for you?” Do you trust me that I will protect you?” Do you trust me that I will follow through in what I’ve called you to?” 
It’s funny that even in those times of coming face to face with those questions of faith, God’s faithful to provide wisdom, guidance, and encouragement right when you need it. He doesn’t simply just let you wrestle with those questions alone. God speaks through His Word, God speaks through His people, God speaks. Both Jenifer and I were amazed that in the midst of struggle and wrestling with life shaping decisions God was faithful to speak. Over and over again God’s voice quietly nudged, “move forward.” And so we did. And so, here we are.
Our first Sunday gathering
What a crazy week it’s been. As many of you know we didn’t exactly have a place to live as we headed down here. With that little “detail” still in flux we were thrilled to be able to come down and stay with some new friends while we looked for a home. The community here has been such a huge blessing. Not only have they welcomed us with open arms, but they have welcomed us into their homes and lives and have even helped us in our house hunting endeavors. The crazy thing is God provided us with a home within 4 days of being down here! And just like that, God whispered into our hearts, “I didn’t bring you down here to fall on your faces – do you trust me?” It’s amazing that whenever we take steps of faith, God’s faithfulness shines through. We move into our new home on October 1st. In the meantime we have the privilege of staying with one of the families down here. There have graciously opened their home to us while they’re away on vacation. Jenifer and I have already been able to join with the community in our Sunday gathering times which are great times of worship through song and teaching as well as fellowship.

The next two weeks really are adjustment weeks for us. Getting used to living down here, exploring some areas of San Diego, taking a deep breath and enjoying the rest before the apprenticeship actually begins and finding good coffee in San Diego (which I liken to trying to find Waldo in the midst of all the fake Waldo’s…it’s not so easy).
We are thankful for your prayers and encouragement. Please continue to pray for us as we enter into the apprenticeship at the end of the month.
Here are some specific ways you can be praying for us:
Pray that we would get settled into our new home quickly come October.
Pray that God would continue to provide the financial support that we need.
Pray that we would be connected quickly to our community and be able to build relationships with those who are far from Jesus.
Peace, Love and I guess Baz Luhrmann was right, we really should have used the sunscreen.
-The Otts

Prayer, Learning and Encouragement in Tijuana

Gathering for worship through music.

     This past week Jenifer, Emerson and I had the wonderful opportunity to head down to Tijuana for the first ever Missional Communities Collective gathering (that’s a mouthful). For the first time ever all six NieuCommunities locations gathered together in one location. Communities from Long Beach, San Diego, Dallas, Omaha, Malaga, Spain and Pretoria, South Africa came together to learn, pray, and swap ministry stories and experiences. In all there were over 75 people gathered together and God was definitely moving! This was an amazing time for Jenifer and I to learn and connect with other leaders from around the world. The conference’s theme was set around one word: “Embedded.” As we prayed and learned together our desire was to see each community continue to implant themselves into the Creator so that they would become more and more embedded into the very fabric of their “place.” For each community the desire was to be so embedded that the kingdom of God may become a reality within their neighborhoods.

Hearing stories from community leaders

     As Jenifer and I continue our transition into the San Diego community we continue to be amazed and humbled at how we have been welcomed with open hearts and arms. For us, this conference was a time of encouragement and further confirmation that we were indeed moving in the right direction. Both Jenifer and I sensed the Spirit moving in our hearts affirming our desire to join NieuCommunities and beginning to see how our giftings could possibly serve the community we are entering in. It is humbling to see God’s work in the world around us through the numerous communities represented in this collective. We heard the stories of hardened hearts softened to the touch of Jesus in Dallas and the stories of indigenous leaders being raised up in South Africa to take over the reigns of that very community to the point that young South Africans are carrying the NieuCommunities banner so that that very community will be led entirely by indigenous leaders within the next year or two! God is doing some amazing things through the ministry of NieuCommunities. Leaders are being raised up and people are meeting Jesus! That is our heart – that is our desire.

Overlooking the Pacific
     Part of the gathering for Jenifer and I was continued learning in the support raising realm. We were able to glean much wisdom from seasoned support raising veterans and are thankful for the help and training we were able to receive. We also had the opportunity to sit in on some breakout sessions that both challenged us and stretched us. And of course, there was much community building through shared meals and time to play together on the beaches of Tijuana. Overall we are thankful for the time we had there and came back with a sense of excitement as we move forward.
A great time of prayer for married couples

It is kind of crazy to think that we will be down in San Diego in about a month. This summer has flown by. We are so thankful for the support both through prayer and finances of so many. We are so excited and ready to learn and grow this next year through the apprenticeship. At this point we estimate that we are at about 55% of the support we need! Praise God! We would ask that if God is stirring you to partner with us financially now is the time to do so. You can do that simply by clicking on the donations link on the right hand side of this blog. If you have any questions feel free to ask.

In the meantime here are some specific ways you could be praying for us:
  • Pray that we would be able to take care of all the logistics of moving in these next couple of weeks.
  • Pray that God would supply all that we need for this next year.
  • Pray for much grace in the midst of this transition.
  • Pray for our neighbors, that as we move into the neighborhood we would find favor from them.

     We look forward to seeing God working in us and through us. This weekend I have the privilege of preaching from my favorite book Habakkuk. In that book we see how important faith rooted in God’s character truly is. Habakkuk 2:4 says that the righteous shall live by their faith. Jenifer and I are learning that each and every day and we are thankful for this process that is drawing us further and further into the arms of the Lord.

A New Phase of Life

It’s kind of fitting that we have this blog – the whole reason we created this space is because back in 2008 God had brought us to a place of saying “yes.” God had presented us with an opportunity to go to Nepal in late April of 2008, and in late July we were on our way to a foreign country unlike anything we’d ever experienced. Unbeknownst to us this would be more than a trip to Nepal, it would be a starting point in many ways, down a road that would lead us to a life on mission. 4 years later we are at a transition point in our lives. We sense God calling us to minister as missionaries. We are preparing to join NieuCommunities down in San Diego to grow, to develop, and prepare for ministry overseas. God has brought us a long way.
The past five years have been especially exciting for us!  I’ve graduated from Corban University School of Ministry with a Masters of Divinity, while Jenifer taught Kindergarten and 2nd grade in the Tacoma Public School District.  All the while both of us served in various roles at our church; I as Pastor of Ministry and Discipleship and Jenifer as Children’s Ministry Director.  It has been a period of much growth and stretching as well as preparation, capped off by the birth of our first child, Emerson this past April!!  When we look back at this past season in our lives we are overwhelmed by God’s provision and faithfulness in our lives.

As God developed us and prepared us for this next phase in our lives one thing both Jenifer and I became increasingly more aware of is the reality that more than half of all Christian teens and twentysomethings leave active involvement in church.  The reality is that today more than ever there is an urgent need for young leaders to be raised up and trained to impact their world for Jesus.  That’s where NieuCommunities comes in.

Through much prayer and exploration God directed us to a mission organization called Church Resource Ministries.  This organization’s mission is to develop leaders who will strengthen and multiply the Church around the world.  As both Jenifer and I have developed as leaders over the past five years at our home church CenterPoint, God has really impassioned us to develop young leaders who will go on to lead churches and communities all around the world.  NieuCommunities is one of many ministries under the CRM umbrella. NieuCommunities is a collection of mentoring and sending communities, exclusively focused on the development of younger leaders and communities.  The whole purpose of NieuCommunities is to train leaders who hunger to bring the gospel to their communities and beyond. These young people need someone to invest in them and help them step into their God-given calling. We will have the opportunity to come alongside these potential leaders in order that they might be sent out to minister with depth, wholeness, and power.

The next step in that process for us to go on staff with CRM is to enter into what they call an apprenticeship.  This apprenticeship is a year long process of learning, serving, and being stretched so as to be prepared to eventually lead our own Community.  It begins in October and it takes place in San Diego, which means we will head down there in September.  There we will be personally mentored, trained and developed as a Nieucommunity leader as well as have multiple opportunities to serve within our community.  The community we will live in in San Diego is shaped by many elements: a vibrant arts culture, a transient military population, large refugee neighborhoods from all over the world, a large homeless and recovering addict-community, and a rich heritage of those who represent several generations of life.  Needless to say there are many ways we can serve our community throughout the time of training and learning there.  This will give us a very thorough understanding and preparation for future ministry overseas with Nieucommunities, as part of the training is to discover where God has specifically gifted us and where we can best put those giftings to use.  Through much prayer and many discussions with CenterPoint leadership, our friends, and families, we feel this is the next step that we need to take.

And so we look back with great joy and thankful hearts for how God has used these past few years to shape us for ministry and we look forward with great eagerness and anticipation to see how God will use us and continue to grow us so that we may be faithful to what he is called us to. This morning I was reading through Matthew and was reminded yet again of what God has called each one of us to:
“’You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’” (Mt 5:13–16)
May that ring true of us – wherever we find ourselves.

We’re Back…

It is strange to think that we haven’t been home for even a week. It seems like we left Kathmandu a long time ago. It has been difficult to formulate and gather all of the thoughts of what we experienced and saw there. It is difficult to completely understand what that means for us. I don’t think we know quite yet what we think. People ask, “did you have a good trip?” Yeah, it was good, but it was so much more than just good. There are sights, sounds, smells, feelings that we will never forget. It saddens me to some degree that many of those things are lost to all who have never ventured to Nepal. That is the nature of missions I guess. A lot happened the last week we were in Kathmandu. We saw our time of teaching come to an end; which for me was much more emotional than I thought it would be. I was quite sad to be done. Something that I poured so much into all came to an abrupt end. I can only hope and pray that God uses that class in some way. I recognize that one can’t change the world in three weeks, and also one little class in the course of three years is seemingly small and inconsequential. But as they often say about short term mission trips: “they are often more for the person going rather than the people there.” That is true. I learned so much about myself, my insecurities, my strengths, and things I like and don’t like. Teaching was a joy, one I never thought I would really care for. I only did it because it needed to be done, but I realized the value that it has. (Dr. Willsey you were right!) Even though I myself probably didn’t really impact the lives of those students all that much in the grand scheme of things, there is something amazing about teaching the native Nepali’s things that will help them be more effective in reaching their neighbors. They are the ones that will change Nepal by God’s grace. They are the ones that will impact the nation for God’s glory. It was humbling to be able to be a part of their lives and see the faces and hear the stories of the many who sacrificed seemingly everything to follow God. What a stark contrast to our culture. Faith is strengthened in the midst of trials and suffering. Sometimes I think our churches would do well to encounter sufferings. I am thankful beyond words for this opportunity. We are thankful beyond words. To see our God, the God of creation, the Alpha and Omega, the Great IAM, in light of the bondage and fear that resounds from Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam is like nothing else. Our God is the true God. Our God is the REAL thing. Our God will never fail. I am struck by the awesomeness of our God. I am saddened to see the increasing amount of people here in the states buying into the Eastern religions. If they could only see these religions for what they really are. They are not some hollywood fad, they are not some great beliefs on compassion. They are faithless, there is no grace, no love, and no compassion. They are religions steeped in bondage and oppression rooted in fear rather than love. It is my prayer for these Hindu nations, may God shake them at their very core. May he break the bondage that enslaves millions. May our God, the one true God be glorified, and may the nations rejoice and turn to Him.

Many other things happened the last week of our trip, we both enjoyed Singapore very much…swimming in the South China Sea was so much fun. It was a wonderful time, a time of growth and reliance upon God like no other. And through it all, God was and is faithful…always. Thank you to everyone for your prayers and encouragement over the past month and even before that. We are truly blessed to serve such an awesome God!

To Infinity and Beyond

I already typed this entry once, but as accustom in Nepal, nothing ever goes as planned and the power went out right before I was about to post it. The power goes out quite often here. It’s a way of life really, but the nationals assure us this is nothing compared to the winter months where most nights are without power.

So unfortunately I will only post a little bit tonight, and tomorrow will post a little more.

This week has been a busy one. The beginning of the week I (Jeff) spent three days at a pastor’s conference in a little city to the north called Nagrokot. I taught four sessions on apologetics to 18 pastors. I’ll be honest, it was a little intimidating, but by the grace of God it went well. The conference was wonderful to be at. It was a huge blessing to see so many pastors come together and put differences aside to glorify God through prayer and teaching. The vision cast by these leaders for this country was so encouraging to see. There are many parts of this country that have little or no Christian influence. There are districts of this country that have no churches and/or Christians themselves. This is still a very unreached country and in need of leadership and vision. It was so refreshing to see so many pastors from the same area come together in unity rather than fighting over territory. God is moving among the leaders of Kathmandu and this conference was the start of something big. What a blessing it was to be a part of. So many times pastors say they want to reach their areas but when it comes down to it they would all rather do it alone than together, and this was a great reminder that unity in Christ brings glory and honor to Christ’s name! For pastor’s to say its not about numbers but rather, where can each of us be most effective…that’s something we all need to take a look at!

The city of Nagrokot was at about 6,000 ft. and utterly beautiful. It was so green and the air was a bit cleaner than down in the valley. We were in the foothills of the Himalayas. We even took a nice hike to a little peak that was at 7,500 ft.. It had a beautiful view…unfortunately we didn’t get to see the Himalayas still due to the monsoon season. At any rate, it was a great time of fellowship, prayer, and learning.

I will write more tomorrow. I had more, but that whole power thing left me not wanting to retype it all again. We have learned a lot…it will take a while to process through all that God has taught us throughout this trip. Our faith has been strengthened, that much is true. God is good, always and forever. Good night for us, good morning for you!