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!

Your grace has found me just as I am

It’s hard to believe that we have been here two weeks and that we will leave in only one. We have seen and learned so much in a short time, and we could not be more thankful. On Saturday, it was so good to visit another church. This church was much smaller, but they were so happy we were there! They were all welcoming, and after the service we stayed to chat about their ministry in the church with two men, one being the pastor. It was so sweet and refreshing to see them excited about their ministry. They shared what they were doing currently as well as what they will do in the future. They asked for prayer for their ministry and we have their contact info, so we can perhaps support them long-distance over the next couple years. This was a great opportunity for us to see God at work in Nepal!

On Sunday Jeff walked and explored the local area while I (Jenifer) was at the women’s conference that I was one of the guest speakers for. This was an amazing day! There aren’t many women’s conferences in Kathmandu, so this was quite exciting to be a part of something few and far between. It was encouraging to see so many women involved and attending. We had about 75 women attend from about 5 or 6 different churches. We also had about 6 women involved in leading this conference from leading worship, teaching, translating, making introductions, recognition of leaders, and leading the group throughout the day! I was definitely not the only one out of my comfort zone and leaning on the grace and power of Christ to get me through. I can now officially that I have finished teaching at my first ladies’ conference!

After the ladies’ conference we heading out to the Padechi (or foreigner) Fellowship. This provides a great source of encouragement and fellowship with a small group of other American missionaries to Jenn and Leah. On our way to fellowship we saw the largest Buddhist temple in the world! We also saw a large group of people who walk around the temple in one direction only praying , some of which were Buddhist monks. It was another sad reminder of how lost so many are. I saw a couple bow down to what looked like a stone statue to me, but what was probably an idol to them.

Jeff is at the Pastor’s conference until Wednesday morning, so please pray for him as he teaches as well as the other men attending.

Only one week to go! We are waiting to see and hoping to see as much as we can while we are still here.

A blast from the past…

The past couple of days have indeed been a blast from the past…It feels like we have been stuck in 1992 all over again. Between class, chapels, and small groups we have been reminded of the times we had growing up in the church. Today I had the opportunity to teach the students the game that is so “cleverly” or “cheesily” called “Sword Drills.” Yes, that’s right, I had my students waving their Bible’s in the air anxiously awaiting me to call out the next verse I was to have them look up so that they might be the first to stand and read the verse…all for a piece of candy. I haven’t done a sword drill since, yeah, like 1992. Not only that but many of the worships songs sung in the chapels and in small groups are great little diddy’s like “Thy Word,” “I Am a C-H,” “Humble Thyself in the Sight of the Lord.” Many of these songs I haven’t actually sung for years. It was kind of weird and at the same time refreshing. I had forgotten about many of these choruses, and decided they need to make a comeback in the states. We should turn back the clocks of sorts on worship.

We have been doing more walking around and exploring of the city…it’s definitely a chaotic city…stuff is always happening…on any given day you could have riots or strikes or religious ceremonies. You never know. (Note to parents: we are fine, we have only seen such things at a distance, and have been safe…if you avoid them, they avoid you.) There is very little semblance of order or control, much different than in America. But here, the people are used to unrest, and chaos, it is a part of life and culture. I (Jeff) went for my first run here in Nepal with one of the guys I met here, it was great, difficult but great. Things I learned you must consider when running in Nepal. One, hold on to a rock so if at any time you are attacked by stray dogs you can scare them off between kicking and throwing (Again, note to parents, I was not attacked, just told to do such things as precautionary measures.) two, no amount of training can really effectively prepare your lungs for the terrible air quality, the air is really rather gross, sometimes we would run right through clouds of exhaust from a truck unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Three, watch out for rocks…there is very little even ground here…many roads are dirt and have rocks jutting out all over. It was great to go on a run, I will probably do so again. It is so interesting to have to think about certain things that would never be an issue back home.

As far as teaching is going, it has been really good. The students seem to be understanding that of which is being taught, so that is a plus. I covered transcendence and immanence in detail today (thanks Dr. Willsey!!) It went well and I think they actually understood it, we’ll see when the final comes around. It has been fun and even though it took over a week many of them are much more relaxed then the first couple of days. Jenifer has been working with a number of ladies and is really enjoying getting to know them and pray with them. She will be teaching on sunday so pray for her…it’s her big day to shine! I will be preaching tomorrow morning, I will be at a different church so I will bring the same message I brought last week to the other church. I tell you what if I don’t have Philippians 3 nailed down after this I don’t think I’ll ever get it! Three times preaching the same message gets a little tedious, but that’s ok…the Gospel message never gets old!!

Anyways, God has been good, we are learning a lot and it is difficult to articulate all that we are taking away from this experience, it is definitely invaluable. We are blessed to be here, and blessed to see how the other side of the world lives. What a joy it is to serve the men and women who will impact this nation for Christ…it’s really a cool thing.

On a side note…today I encounter some Rockmanites…scary, if you don’t know who these people are they are a group who believes that the KJV is doubly inspired…it is sad that even here in Nepal the issue of which translation of the Bible to use is evident (the even more sad thing is that it didn’t come out Nepal itself, but the missionaries from the states who brought the fight over). It is interesting to see the things that churches face in the states are some of the same things that happen here as well. Sin is sin, no matter where you are.

Blessings!

What’s the buzz, tell me what’s a-happening…

Quite a bit has happened since we last posted…last time we wrote we were on our way to a Buddhist temple on the top of a hill near our home. Needless to say in classic Nepali fashion, plans changed. Instead we found ourselves at a place called Poshipati (transliterated for English). Very few words could describe this place. Poshipati is a Hindu temple used for cremation.
This place is the main temple in Kathmandu for the worship of Krishna. As you walk into the temple grounds you are overwhelmed with the darkness that surrounds it, all along the river are areas for cremation, a couple of the spots were actually burning pyres of what was once a human body, out in the open for all to see. We were told by the locals that many times people there who are dying or severely injured are burned alive in hopes of being reincarnated as something better. It’s interesting thing when the things you have studied about a religion of hopelessness is there glaringly staring you in the face. Perhaps some of you have experienced such things in other parts of the world. In the US many religions and practices are not ever in your face so much as they are practiced in private. Throughout the temple grounds were many different shrines to various idols all with offerings strewn beneath the idols. As I said, words cannot discuss the feelings of being in a place of such hopelessness and despair. The more we are the more we begin to see a glimpse of Hinduism that no book could ever do justice to. Hinduism is a demonic religion…I am convinced now more than ever that the idols and “gods” worshiped in Hinduism are indeed demons. The pictures and statues of this religion are utterly horrifying. I have never been in a place where oppression seems so tangible and real. It is almost as if you can touch it and feel it. Pray for these people, pray for this area of the world, an area where Hinduism is more than religion, it is a way of life. There is little or no difference between religion and culture here…they are one in the same.

I must say being here has strengthened our faith more than ever. Against a backdrop so drastically different than our own, it is easy to see how true and real our faith is. Against the ritualism of Hinduism and Buddhism a faith so reliant on love and grace and hope is so utterly beautiful and refreshing. Our God reigns as the one true God, the creator of the universe!! Hallelujah! I could write and write and write about our experience at the temple, there are so many things that we saw, from the Hindu priests to the monkeys everywhere, this place had it all…We will more than likely be going to a temple that is the main place for sacrifices in the next couple of days…I am excited yet very disturbed at the thought.

There is much more that has happened, and God has been good, we have met wonderful people here and have had many opportunities to speak to nationals and interact with other missionaries. God is at work in this place, it is amazing to see the Gospel of Christ lived out on a daily basis, and it is so exciting to see the men and women who will be reaching this lost and utterly blinded country learning and growing in their faith. We are blessed to get a glimpse and to be able to be a part of such a work. Our hearts are broken for the people of these hopeless religions. I have learned much talking to one national in particular. His name is Raj. Please pray for him as he is trying to go to the states for a year or so to learn and grow in discipleship. He has an interview with an American counselor on Aug. 4, they will decide whether he is allowed to go or not. He has been my translator for my class and is an amazing man of faith. He shared with me many different aspects of the conflict between Hinduism and Christianity here in Nepal. I am fascinated to see how the Christian faith is looked at in this cultural context. Let me just say it is not viewed fondly. Again I could write a great deal about the way Christianity is viewed, but for now I will leave it as, Christianity is a religion of a weak god and for the lowest caste system here in Nepal. It is quite interesting.

Now for things of less importance but more-so facts. Nepal has terrible drinking water…I am pretty sure it is one of the worst countries in the world as far as water quality is concerned. Many of the nationals themselves often get sick from the water. Perhaps it is because they dump anything and everything in the water…yes even the ashes of cremated bodies. Also, Nepal during the monsoon is suspiciously like Seattle most of the year…rains almost everyday, clouds over almost always, with sun breaks here and there. In that regard its like being at home. I just realized I have to go and get ready to play a little football in like 15 minutes, I must go…

While you were sleeping…

Jai-Mahcie,
Hello,

So I am absolutely fascinated by this time change…it boggles the mind that as I type this almost all of you are asleep back in the states…craziness. And as you read it, we will be sleeping. At any rate…I just think back to our plane ride and one of the screens you could look at was a view of where it was daytime and where it was nighttime as we flew…I may or may not have spent significant time watching night fall on different parts of the world as others were waking up as the darkness slowly crept around the globe. With that being said we’ll discuss things that are actually relevant to what we are doing here in Kathmandu.

I preached yesterday morning, it was quite an interesting experience. A good experience, but an interesting one. The service went two and a half hours…which wasn’t so bad, especially as I preached for almost an hour of it. But the tough part is the sitting cross legged on the floor for the entirety of the service. Preaching with a translator is quite difficult, as I have never actually done such a thing, I found it to be quite distracting, and as the Nepali language flip flops the order of their sentences some of my sentences lost a bit of meaning. But God is good, and I know that God’s word is always a blessing, and it was a joy and honor to be able to preach in their service. Within the service there was perhaps an entire hour devoted to singing…mind you it is quite difficult to stay focused on worship for an hour when you don’t know a word of what they are singing. Thank the Lord for the wonderful hymn “How Great Thou Art,” for no matter what the language one can sing along with it. Overall the service was a joy, it was so great to be able to worship alongside of so many Nepali believers.

Yesterday was a Hindu holiday…I believe it was the worship of the rain god…I can’t recall the name but they worship these two towers that look suspiciously like trees so that the rain will come. It is quite interesting as they do this during monsoon season when it rains everyday anyways. There was a huge gathering closer into town which we saw…it brings great sadness to see so many people tied up in the bondage of a lifeless religion.

Another thing of interest here in Kathmandu is that we lose power quite frequently. Last night we didn’t have power from probably 9 at night to about 10:30 this morning…with no power means there is no water…very different than home…this happens quite a bit, there are two planned power outages per week on tuesday and thursday nights…then the rest of the time it is a best guess when there will not be any power. One of the ladies we are staying with seems to think last nights power outage was a result of the festival as the towering idols get paraded around town knocking down anything and everything in their way…including power lines. This place is so interesting and so backwards…there is so much here that is do very very different from our daily lives in the states…and there is a certain beauty to the pace and speed of life here…no hurry, no rush, it’ll happen when it happens.

Please pray for us this week as we continue to teach our classes (apologetics and english). ALso pray that we will continue to get to know the people here and that we may be a blessing to them. Thanks for the support and prayers!

Now we are off to hike up to some Buddhist temple that is on the top of a hill…should take an hour and a half to get there…can’t wait!!

Teaching, Eating, and Reading

God is so good! Our first few days in Kathmandu have been amazing and full of the grace of God. We met many people who are so warm, friendly, and welcoming. Life in many ways is very different here, and our days seem to mainly consist of doing our best to teach, eating delicious food, and relaxing while reading. Jeff has taught his Apologetics class for two days now and so far it is going well. The students have said that it is very interesting. Jenifer has taught English Conversation for two days as well, and it is quite a funny and difficult experience. We have both gone to evening Bible Study and at the ladies Bible Study, one of the Nepali women, Rebecca, invited us over for dinner. Rebecca put together quite the feast for us complete with delicious Nepali tea, Nepali egg rolls, Dalbot (americanized spelling for Nepali word), and ice cream. We were so full! Dalbot is the Nepali meal with rice and lentils, and very often there are curried veggies. Most Nepalis eat this for lunch and dinner everyday, they love it!

Last night was our first night on the town and it was wonderful! Hannah, Leah, and Jenn took us out. We went out to a Thai Restaurant for dinner, shopping, Nepali tea at a very cute coffee shop, and we went to see The Dark Knight. It was 150 rupees, which I think comes out to about 2 USD maybe, we are still trying to figure out the exchange. It was a great time and the ladies are just wonderful to us.

Well we are off to church! In Nepal church is on Saturday because it’s the only day off. Jeff is preaching this morning!