Oholiab and Bezalel….a note on preparing for what’s next

So every year I try (and try is operative word) to read through the Bible in a year.  Usually what happens is I get through Genesis and then partly through Exodus until post the exodus and crossing the Red Sea and then I get a little lost.  I mean WHY do I CARE about the building of the Tent of Meeting.  WHY do I care about the PLUNDER the Israelites brought out of Egypt?  WHY do I care WHO built anything?  What does that tell me about the Lord?  And then it hit me…..as I got all the way through Exodus, I heard from the Lord.  He revealed the answers to some of these questions as He related them to our own life, circumstances and situations.  Hindsight tends to be 20/20.  But first a 10-second review of the summer.

JUNE

  • Went and served in NICARAGUA: Awesome, heart-breaking, inspiring, fun, beautiful, life-changing, and eye-opening, never before seeing a church step-out in partnership like the Nicaragua church – a post on that coming.
  • Took Madeline to serve on her very first mission trip with just daddy in Belize- staying the whole week with the team!
  • Josh and Madeline get to see Bella and Christopher in Belize too while we are there.
  • Madeline loses her first tooth!!  – And NO we don’t do the tooth fairy…going rate on the current market was $5 / tooth based on some parent / kid research I did.  That’s more per ounce than gold!
  • June 13th – Amy discovers bed bugs in Elijah’s bed….OH NO.
  • In the middle of dealing with bed bugs, Josh / Madeline are in another country and our washing machine dies.

JULY

  • Went and served in Nicaragua AGAIN and the Lord confirmed everything I observed the first time.  Literally that country has captured my heart.
  • AMY STILL BATTLING BED BUGS…this marks – month 1 in the battle
  • A lot of time outside with our garden, the yard, the kids playing

AUGUST

  • Guess what?! – still bed bugs!!!  Amy and Josh start to go a little bit batty due to the ongoing battle.  NOTE: We have since (we think) finally gotten the treatment taken care of and found a source / home…they are really sneaky suckers.  IT didn’t involve replacing the flooring in our whole house but we were really really close!  It did involve getting rid of the boys beds (original set) and the replacement bed set.  And it involved A LOT of laundry!  AN insane amount of laundry.
  • BEACH VACATION!!!
  • Madeline starts Kindergarten
  • BOYS start preschool
  • AMY has 9 hours each week with NO KIDS!!

It’s been an eventful summer and each one of those bullet points probably deserves it’s own post.  And to be honest I’ll probably get around to it.  BUT I wanted to get back to the answers from God’s word.  WHY DO I CARE?

The Lord called on Moses to lead His people out of captivity and into the Promised Land.  Moses had NO IDEA what he was doing.  He made every excuse in the book and each time the Lord provided a solution, an answer, meeting his excuses with solutions.

The plagues happen and ultimately right before the last plague The Lord instructs the Israelites to ask for MORE stuff to carry.

that they ask, every man of his neighbor and every woman of her neighbor, for silver and gold jewelry.” And the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people” – Exodus 11:2-3

I don’t know about you.  If I was getting ready to leave my home, the LAST thing I would want is to carry all this EXTRA stuff with me.  I don’t know where I am going and you want me to carry all this gold, fine cloth, etc.  I don’t care how much it’s worth.  It does’t make sense.  But they did.

After the Lord provided direction on HOW to build the Tabernacle and what to build it with.  This is what He asks Moses to do:

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, tanned rams’ skins, goatskins,[a] acacia wood, oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it. – Exodus 25:1-9

Moses remember when I told you to get all the nice things from the Egyptians?  Remember how you thought to yourself why we have to carry this much weight?  Well here’s the answer.  We’re going to build a dwelling place for me.

Moses next question to the Lord had to be in typical Moses fashion….ummm but I can’t build anything.  Who is going to build this place for you?

The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin and its stand,10 and the finely worked garments,[a] the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests, 11 and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the Holy Place. According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do.” – Exodus 31:1-11

And God answered…”Already have that taken care of too Moses,  Just listen to me and do what I say.  I will make a way for My Will to be done.”

The story ends at the end in Exodus 39:32 32 Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished, and the people of Israel did according to all that the Lord had commanded Moses; so they did.

  • In the beginning Moses had no idea how He would lead his people out of Egypt but he listened to God and did what he said.
  • He had no idea WHY the Israelites had to take all this stuff from the Egyptians but he only saw right in front of Him.  In the moment He listened to God and did what He said, allowing God to put in motion plans down the road.
  • Oholiab and Bezalel had no idea how or why they knew how to fashion items out of fine stones, gems, gold and silver.  They had worked as brick makers.  They didn’t know that the skills they honed making bricks under slavery for the Egyptians would translate to making the Lord’s house.  They were faithful in listening to God and doing what He said in making the bricks and they became architects.
  • The people were strapped with an extra burden of carrying their neighbors fine linens, fabrics, gold and jewelry.  They could have kept it for themselves but instead they were faithful and Listened to God and did what He said, giving it all to Moses for a purpose they may not have understood.

Perhaps, perhaps this story is in here to show me, maybe to show us, that the Lord’s plans we may not understand in the moment BUT we are called to be obedient in the here and now so the Lord can move and create much further down the road.  I know at least for me, in this season of my life, that’s what Exodus has spoken to me.

A note on what’s next

In 2008, the Lord called Amy and I to adoption.  We knew it separately.  We knew it together.  We knew we were called to love kids who were not our own.  And as we have shared here on a couple of occasions, we pursued in obedience to the Lord.  At the time, it wasn’t in His plans.  Life moved on….way way on.

In 2015 – the Lord called us back from Belize to the United States.  We felt it and we knew it.  We knew for some reason that we couldn’t explain that it wasn’t Raleigh, NC.  We weren’t called to go back and be the same.  We were called to Winston-Salem.  it didn’t make any sense but We listened to God and did what He said.  He provide a home for us and we are here.

In 2015 -We obeyed the Lord and purposefully placed Madeline in a school and classroom where she is the minority.  We feel called to minister to and be in community with those of different socio-economic backgrounds and racial diversity.  We don’t know why other than God told us to.

In 2016 – We begin to learn that the Lord has placed people in our church family with the same heart for adoption, fostering.  We drive past a sign every single Sunday in front of a local agency stating Foster / Adoptive parents are needed.  Josh knows this is our family’s next step and Prays for the Lord to move in Amy’s heart.

In August 2016 – the Lord moves in Amy’s heart one Sunday in church from hearing clearly what our next step was…. ADOPTION.  It’s time!

Yesterday, 2016 – Amy and Josh start our first class to become foster and adoptive parents.

In 2008 did we know that the Lord was calling us to adoption in Winston – Salem.  Nope.  In 2015 did we know that God was placing people in our lives to help support / love / and hold up our hands while we are pursuing this….NOPE.  When we placed Madeline in her school did we know that He was using that “education” to help her and the boys know how to speak to / hang out with / all different kinds of people / kids.  NOPE.  Did we know that is what Belize was preparing them for?  NOPE.

We don’t even know WHERE THIS GOES?  But here’s what we know.  In our family we listen to Jesus and do what He says.  So we are going to pursue adoption.  Would you pray with us in this journey?

  1. For our marriage – that we would seek God first and foremost.  Go to Him with our questions / concerns / challenges.  That we would get time alone and get time with each other.  That we would continue to prioritize dates with each other and special moments together.  That He would prepare our hearts to love each other well even through inevitable times of stress.
  2. For our children – that The Lord would show them His love through this process. That they would understand what it means to love big, and boldly. That our kids would live sacrificially and welcome anyone and everyone that comes into our home….now and forever.
  3. For the process – We are praying for a miracle. Given everything we know about timelines, it looks like it’ll be 2017.  We are praying for a miracle that we could have a placement BEFORE March 1st.  Essentially BEFORE I would travel to lead a trip.   SO PLACEMENT BEFORE MARCH 1st!
  4. For the child / children – Yes we are praying to see if the Lord is calling us to child or children.  We are praying for their safety, mentally, spiritually, physically, emotionally.  We are praying for our hearts and minds that The Lord would equip us with the skills as He did the craftsmen in Exodus to love any and all children placed in our home in exactly the way they needed to be loved.   Pray that the child or children the Lord places into our home would feel the presence of the Lord all around them and know and feel safety, love, and comfort.

So that’s our adventure…Like always Listen to God and do what He says.  My encouragement to you all is to do the same in your life.  Discern how is he calling you?  How can you do what He says?  And then walk confidently in it.  Our life is an adventure but there’s no one we would rather adventure with. Thanks for praying with us and for us. We are so encouraged by you all!

Lavish Blessings🙂

Edmonds Family.

It's official.  Let's walk through this adventure together.  Classes started Yesterday!

It’s official. Let’s walk through this adventure together. Classes started Yesterday!

Beach Vacations are the best!

Beach Vacations are the best!

Me with two mighty warriors.  So humbled to call both of these guys my friends.

Me with two mighty warriors. So humbled to call both of these guys my friends.

Home visits in Nicaragua

Home visits in Nicaragua

Writing her favorite Bible verse on the bunk beds with the team we served on Caye Caulker

Writing her favorite Bible verse on the bunk beds with the team we served on Caye Caulker

Hanging with Bella, Christopher and Estrella at VBS

Hanging with Bella, Christopher and Estrella at VBS

In the Shadow

It’s May 31, 2016 and I sit in the Atlanta airport for a way too long layover, heading back to Nicaragua to serve the Lord, serve our Pastor partners and further Gospel.  But first I am sitting here reflecting.  See I am in the shadows of my 35th birthday.  35 years old, and at times I feel just that way…old.  (Note: When I was 18 and getting into working out, I remember hopping up on the cardio machines and seeing the first age that popped up was 35.  I remember thinking to myself, couldn’t they put something younger as the median age.  I mean 35 was ANCIENT.

Now here we are.  And 35 is me.  SO yes I am in the shadow of my 35th birthday.  And if that wasn’t morbid enough, I just read that my life-expectancy based on American male averages is 70 years  old.  I am half-way done with my life.

Sobering that fact is.  The youth of my life is in the shadows cast by my own mortality. While only mildly depressing, it does cause for some reflection and projection.

My first 35 years were filled with

  • a lot of learning
  • a lot of mistakes
  • a lot of idleness due to age but mostly due to laziness
  • a lot of wasted time due to requirements like “class” and “grades”.  So guess what at age 35 having read or not read Beowuf hasn’t impacted me one bit….there’s some time I would like to have back.
  • a lot of beating up my body
  • a lot of love placed in myself and the things of the world

My first 35 years were also filled with

  • a lot of love placed in the right things
  • a lot of firsts (love, kids, house, career change, graduations)
  • a lot of grace, mercy and love from the King
  • a lot of refinement into who He has called me to be.

It’s been a full 35 years.  But I’m not done.  I calculate that I only had about 10 years of useful time (where I was not an idiot, after 25 years old) and present.  And I calculate that by no way am I done.  So then the natural question is what’s next? What do I want to do and see and feel and have  in my next 35 years?   The answer is simple, I think.  The answer is more.

My next 35 years will be filled with:

  • More of God’s presence in me.
  • More of an understanding of who God is
  • More of me serving, loving, extending grace and mercy
  • More of Him refining me through the reading of His Word
  • More of me listening to Jesus and doing what he says
  • More….

More which really means less.  It means less wasting time.  Less selfishness.  Less pursuit of the world and more pursuit of Him and His presence in all that I do.  And it starts right now. 

As I mentioned I in the airport, heading out to Nicaragua to serve, to pursue God, to take his name proclaim His glory to the nations.  And I am so excited.  I can’t wait.  I can’t wait to hug and see the kids I hugged and saw earlier this year. I can’t wait to look Pastor Roland in the eye and tell him I was serious when I wanted to partner with him in how God has called him to his people to further the gospel in his kingdom.  I am excited to sit with Pedro Pablo in the dump community, bring him cold water and listen to his story.  I am excited to see lives transformed from encountering The Lord without all the distractions of the US.  I am excited.

I am also excited for you all to partner with me and our family as I am out on this trip.  Would you consider partnering with us in prayer.

Here are some specific ways you all can be praying for us each day!

  • Every Day More – specifically that our staff (myself, Burton, and Trent) would have the time to sit and hear from the Lord and get filled with more of His presence.
  • May 31st
    • Safe travel as Trent, Pastor Roland, Burt and I come from all the corners of the world.
    • Easy pick up from the airport
    • no problems with our hotel rooms
  • June 1st 
    • Meeting – We have meetings with a new key ministry partner in Managua reviewing lodging, transportation and just hearing his heart for his community.  Pray for clarity and that this pastor is able to meet some of our lodging needs in Managua
    • Meeting – We will be meeting with 5 potential Nicaragua staff.  Pray for the Lord’s hand of discernment and wisdom to be on Burton, Trent and myself and for warmth and immediate connections with these potential staff
    • Setting up – Pray that we are able to set up all the logistics for the upcoming trip (meals, ministry, meeting with the dump community, visit to the prayer overlook, transportation, and laying eyes on the recreation.  Pray for smooth logistics, no hiccups
  • June 2nd
    • This day we will be meeting with our host pastors for all of our other trips for the summer.  Pray for our meetings with Pastor Umberto, Pastor Edgar, and Pastor Juan.  Pray that they receive us well (they will) and that we can communicate the excitement and love that we have for them and returning to serve them and their mission.
  • June 3rd – It’s GO TIME
    • Team arrives – pray for easy travel and smooth travel for the team and immediate connections between the team and the staff and patience on our drive to the lodging facility.
  • June 4th – meet the pastor and pray
    • Today we will meet with Pastor Roland, hear his story, his heart, his call to ministry and the region of Matagalpa and spend some significant time in prayer overlooking the area of Matagalpa.  Pray this prayer time sets the tone of expectation and worship for the week.
  • June 5th – the community and church
    • Today we will be out in the community visiting everyone, seeing how the live, serve, work, and go to to school.  We will invite them to church in the evening and pray for them as needs are shared.  Pray specifically for open doors, literally to the homes, for invitations to come in and sit, and for our team to immediately feel comfortable taking the conversation from “hey my name is” to “hey how can I pray for you”
    • Pray for our church service at night that we can truly surrender all and worship as One Church in multiple languages praising and worshiping the One True King.
  • June 6th, 7th, 8th, 
    • Morning – Dump Communities – a couple of times during the mornings each of these days we will  be visiting the dump community in Matagalpa.  Pray for open hearts of the people, open conversation with Pedro Pablo and his group of guys, and for touched hearts.
    • Afternoon – This is our VBS time.  Pray for over 100 kids.  Pray for joy and opportunity for us to love kids where they are.  Pray for the Lord to break down communication barriers that the participants may be concerned with and pray that kids love deeply and participants reflect that love of the Lord to them.
    • Evenings – Our evenings will be spent visiting more homes.  We will have the opportunity to take some food staples to homes and meet a real tangible need of families that are starving.  Pray these parcels of food are opportunities to love people where they are and present the gospel to them.  Pray for open hearts and for heats to be transformed.
  • June 9th – Recreation Day
    • Today is our day to say our goodbyes to Pastor Roland and his community and go and experience some of the beauty of Nicaragua.  Pray for those “see you laters” that they are heartfelt and genuine.  Pray for our time during recreation, for fun, for joy, for laughter.  Pray most of all for our debrief time that it’s a time to reflect and celebrate on all God has done and then speak on and expect more from our lives after encountering the Lord as we have for the past week.  In short pray for lives transformed as we experienced more of the Lord.
  • June 10th – Up and at ’em
    • Flights out are around 7AM, so pray for not oversleeping and for a great trip home.  Ready and prepared with answers for “how was your trip?”

God is in this.  This is the first step to more for my next 35 years.  Thank you for partnering with us in prayer.  Thank you for praying for the specific needs of the trip and thank you for continuing to pray for Amy, Madeline, Jojo and Elijah as they are back at home and missing daddy (and for their daddy as he misses them).  God is ahead of us.  He is with us.  God is going to give us more!

Nicaragua staff team - Representing!

Nicaragua staff team – Representing!

Goodness, my looks have come a long long way!

Goodness, my looks have come a long long way!

With Pastor Roland and Trent overlooking Matagalpa and praying for the trip that I am getting ready to lead.  We were expecting God for more, not knowing about the team and here we are asking him for more again.

With Pastor Roland and Trent overlooking Matagalpa and praying for the trip that I am getting ready to lead. We were expecting God for more, not knowing about the team and here we are asking him for more again.

Pastor Roland.  A man of God.  A brief encounter in Feb led to a great friend for life.

Pastor Roland. A man of God. A brief encounter in Feb led to a great friend for life.

We have a 6 year old?!

So it’s been a month and a half since our dearest Madeline turned 6.  Where did time ago?  How was / is our little Madeline moving from a baby through preschooler and now in a couple of weeks finishing Kindergarten.  It’s crazy!!!

The Lord brought Madeline into our life in His perfect timing.  He has saved her and brought her into His family in His perfect timing.  But sometimes I just want time to slow down and for her to always want to snuggle in my chair in the mornings, or have me rub her arm and sing her to sleep.  Sometimes (even as she was crying from a bad dream twice last night), I want her to always need / want her daddy.

I know I am limited.  I am not God.  I know that at some point she’ll leave Amy and myself and be off to get married (around the age of 47 that seems old enough…then again maybe not).  I know she’ll have kids of her own (and we will spoil the snot out of them!).

But right now as she’s our 6 year old.  Our compassionate, tender-hearted, wild and free spirited, honest, artistic and loving 6 year old.  And for just a little bit we wish time could stand still.

Happy Birthday Madeline! Here’s our prayer for Madeline this year (and every year).  We ask that you consider praying this over her as well.

Lord we praise You and thank you and know that you are in control of everything.  You knew just when to give us Madeline and you know exactly the plans you have for her.  We pray for her.  Oh how we pray.  We pray for continued passion, compassion. We pray for a continued hunger and thirst for you and your word.  We pray God that she continues to see everyone has her friends, continues to love everyone equally and passionately.  We pray God that she loves you with everything she has and that you draw her close to you.  May her story be filled with sins and temptations that she was kept from because of her closeness to you instead of those You redeemed her from.  Life with Madeline is not without challenges.  As we parent through those and honor you in how we love her and help refine her into more of your character, God give us the patience and wisdom.  Show us how to parent Madeline how she needs.  And God for her.  We KNOW you have BIG PLANS for her.  We have had many people see that in her and speak that over her.  And God we have NO IDEA what that means.  So we pray this. We pray that Madeline draws close to You, that she has the boldness to step out into your plans and obedience to follow Your calling no matter what.  And God we pray that as her parents, we have the boldness to pray her through those, wisdom to counsel as needed but most of all the obedience to get out of her way.  Madeline is Your Daughter Lord.  You loved her before we did and You love her more than we do.  We completely trust you Lord!  And we expect great things, miracles in her life.  Have your way God!  In the mighty Name of Jesus we pray!

Amen!

Also in true Josh and Amy fashion and for your enjoyment and probably for her embarrassment later on in life: Madeline’s 6 year old Interview:

  1. Favorite Color – VIOLET RED
  2. Favorite Toy – MY LITTLE PONY
  3. Favorite Fruit – GRAPES
  4. Favorite TV show – PEED and QUACK
  5. Favorite Lunch Food – CHEESY CHEF SALAD
  6. Favorite Outfit – DRESSES
  7. Favorite Game – MARIO
  8. Favorite Snack – PRETZELS
  9. Favorite Animal – TAPIR (Yay Belize!)
  10. Favorite Song – LET IT GO
  11. Favorite Book – THE BIBLE (melt my heart!!)
  12. Best Friend – MARY SCOTT
  13. Favorite Cereal – FROSTED MINI WHEATS
  14. Favorite Family Activity – CAMP FIRES
  15. Favorite Drink – JUICE
  16. Favorite Holiday – EASTER
  17. What do you take to bed each night? STUFFED ANIMALS
  18. Favorite Breakfast Food – CINNAMON TOAST
  19. Birthday Dinner – CHICKEN PARMESAN
  20. What do you want to be when you grow up? A WEATHER REPORTER
One of my favorite pictures of all time.

One of my favorite pictures of all time.

Beautiful Madeline getting ready to perform a cultural dance at school

Beautiful Madeline getting ready to perform a cultural dance at school

Winner of wacky-tacky day at school

Winner of wacky-tacky day at school

Daddy gets to be the coolest!

Daddy gets to be the coolest!

Madeline LOVES Belize and parades!

Madeline LOVES Belize and parades!

How was she ever this small?!  But she was always wild!

How was she ever this small?! But she was always wild!

Why are we the ones to be obedient?

It was April 2013.  We had been in Belize about 8 months, which meant Amy was around 6 months pregnant with Elijah.  The spring had been a hard time, which really means from about Jan – April I had worked non-stop.  I was determined to prove myself to the Belizeans, the other full-time staff with Praying Pelican Missions, and really to myself that I could do this job.  I would spend most of the morning ’till supper visiting ministry partners and then post kids in bed to my own bed time ‘organizing our information.’  Work-life balance wasn’t something I was even trying to do.   Amy and 1, well we had the “talk” of “you’re working too much. You have a family.  This is really hard on us if you aren’t around, etc” And I listened or more appropriately heard what she said but my actions didn’t change.

I had led 3 trips that Spring so far (1 in Jan, 1 in Feb, 1 in Mar) and was heading into a back to back (2 trips in a row) in April.  To say that tensions in our house were escalating would be an understatement.

As I said it was early April and I was packing up my things, getting ready that Saturday morning to head out the door to lead Mt Bethel.  They were coming back and it was my first “return team”  There was new leadership, a guy named Cary who would later become a dear dear friend.  And I was extremely nervous.  I had prayed.  I had had and did have bubble guts.  I loaded the waters into the truck, the trip leader supplies (a lot of paper towels, trash bags, bathroom cleaner, toilet paper, etc) and through my backpack over my shoulder.

I was heading out of our bedroom when I looked up and saw her.  Amy was standing in our bedroom door, sobbing.  It was partly tears of anger; it was mostly tears of frustration.  But there were tears and some strong language.

Why do we have to be the ones to be obedient?  When’s the Lord going to show us, show me my ________________ blessing?  This isn’t fair.  This just isn’t fair.

I felt the same way.  When was the Lord going to show us our blessing?  It isn’t fair!  We’re missionaries.  Our lives are supposed to be sunshine, rainbows, unicorns pooping rainbows.  We’re supposed to be filled with the Holy Spirit and surrounded by angels.  We should radiate the glory of the Lord.

The truth is we didn’t.  It was hard.  We were in a season where we needed to walk in obedience and choose to follow the Lord.  I hugged Amy and told her I didn’t know.  We cried and we both prayed Proverbs 3:5-6 over and over as we stood there in our bedroom doorway.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

I knew God was going to pour His blessings over us but I had no idea how / when / where / etc?  What would it look like?  Would we see it?  And to be completely fair and honest, God did continue to pour His blessings, favor, and everything else over us again and again and again.  At times it looked like provision.  Other times it was friendship, or miracles of healing we were able to witness.  Perhaps the best blessing of all came a week ago from yesterday.

Madeline – a girl after God’s own heart.

Madeline has always longed after God, walking close Him.  Often Amy and I felt that she was walking closer to the Lord than we were.  For example, as we were searching out houses in NC, we had come up to the 3rd of 5 houses for the day.  Before we go inside, Madeline pulls on my leg (she’s 4 1/2 at the time) and says “Daddy, God says this is the house that we are going to buy.”  I remember patting her head and thinking that’s cute little girl.  She must be tired from looking at these houses and wants to be done.  But as sure as I was then, now not so much.  I am currently sitting in the basement of that house writing this blog.

Anyway, our church had baptism services a week ago Sunday and we had been talking them up for a while to all the kids.  They had already seen one service but we wanted to remind them of why we get baptized, why we celebrate like crazy, and what it means to follow Jesus.

Madeline woke up Sunday morning of Baptism services and just goes up to Amy and says “Mommy, I love Jesus, He’s my best friend.  I want to follow him for the rest of my life.  I should be baptized so everyone will know”

So I’m in Florida at our Spring Staff Meetings and Amy texts me that.  I immediately call her and tell her “NOT TODAY, I’m not there!!”  Then as I sat in our meetings and took communion reflecting on God’s goodness that conversation from April 2013 with Amy standing in the doorway came flooding back over me.  Here’s your blessing Josh, was what God was telling me.  See I am doing a work you cannot comprehend.  Just like Abraham was the father of many nations, me working through you will extend generation to generation to generation” I sobbed.

Where are you at in your obedience to what the Lord’s calling you to do?  In forgiveness of someone, in your personal pursuit of Him, in stepping out on faith and going on a mission trip or serving locally at your church.  With your finances.

Whatever it is, I know the Lord is faithful.  I do not believe that we serve to be blessed, not at all.  I do believe that the Lord’s favor rests upon us when we walk in obedience to Him and the more we have the joy and peace of Christ in us, the more the world begins to change around us.  Praise God for Amy and myself, the Lord used our time in Belize and uses our heart for the world to save our daughter and bring her into His Kingdom.  Now she is being trained up ready to be unleashed to her school, and ultimately the world!

Madeline Grace: Go Forth and Make Disciples of all Nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and teach them to obey all of God’s teachings.  Do not lose heart because you can be sure God is with you always, even until the end of time.  

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Praises

  • Madeline’s profession to Love the Lord with everything she has and to obey him in being baptized!  There is nothing better than that!
  • Community for Amy – followers, you know that our biggest prayer has been community for Amy and He has answered it time and time again.  Belize changed Amy so much (mostly for the better).  It is a true blossom to see Amy step out and tackle community head on and to be honest I can learn some lessons from her.
  • More on Amy – Amy has started to volunteer at Salem Pregnancy Center.  She is in the process on completing a 9 week Bible study and then will be unleashed to minister to those who come in to the Center.  She is so excited and totally at peace knowing she’s walking in obedience to how God is calling her!
  • Spring Staff Meetings – We had a great set of Spring staff meetings (it was the 2nd Annual Mustache Miami). I went with the “monkey tail beard”.  Google it if you are not familiar. But it was a great time of celebration and refreshment and preparation moving forward into how the Lord is directing us this summer and beyond.
  • Baptisms at church – we had 14 people get baptized a week ago at church.  Praise God for life-change and a church that hungers and thirsts for more people to be drawn into the family of God.

Prayer Requests

  • Nicaragua – I am preparing to lead a team of about 30 in Nicaragua at the end of this month.  I fly out the last day of the month! Pray for the team, our partner pastor, and our staff as we get ready to pour ourselves out to the Lord!
  • Community for Josh – For my whole life, friends just came naturally. Now with kids it’s harder.  Our church is awesome and bible study is phenomenal.  I think I, Josh, just need to get out of the house some more (more frequently) during the week.  Working from home does have advantages and disadvantages for sure.   Pray for more opportunities and for discipline to arrange my schedule to get out and get into community with others during the week.
  • Healing for a friend – A great friend of mine Tony had some vascular problems and infection and long long long long story really short; he had a below the knee amputation on a leg this past week.  Pray for immediate healing and pain relief for my friend and continued patience and steadfastness for his family!

Friends we love and cherish each on of you. Thank you for your prayers, your encouragement, and support.  Please please let us know how we can be praying for you all!

Thankful for our partnership in the Gospel!

 

Coming Out the Other Side

Before Josh and I ever got together God laid it on my heart to become a missionary. One of my journal entries I wrote in the fall of my junior year of college laid out the fact that I felt the calling clearly that this is what I was supposed to do and then wrote out what I thought God wanted for me in a husband. This was put on the back burner until August 2007 when Josh and I went on our first mission trip to Belize. Then after many years of praying we moved to Belize in 2012.

People would ask me all kinds of questions and I didn’t have the answers, I would just say this is where God wants us. I have no clue about much of anything but I know I will have electricity and a flush toilet and running water and I can figure out the rest. I left with a certainty that could not be shaken. God had this and I knew we had to go.

Then we got there…and everything I thought I knew wasn’t reality except that God wanted us there. But it was hard. I am a survivor so I dug my heals in and said this will work.  With every step satan was there trying his hardest to get us to leave. Josh knew how hard and every few weeks would say, “honey just say the word and we can go back, it is ok.” and I would say no we have to stay, God wants us here. God then would show off and show us why we were there. We said we both with out a doubt had to feel it was time to leave.

Staying wasn’t easy. The hardest part was being on the sidelines. If you know me I am a doer. I love a great task and love to conquer it. My task in Belize was to cook, clean, take care of the children and to pray.  For a task master it was the hardest part. My job was to pray for Josh as he went out to find new ministry partners, pray for teams coming, pray for the country and pray for guidance in what direction the ministry should take. So for 3 years I prayed and God showed up over and over. I could tell story after story of God’s goodness while in Belize but that would be a book.  But more times than I want to admit I was in the bathroom balling my eyes out yelling at God why. Why do we have to stay, why do the bugs eat me constantly, why does my husband have to be gone all the time, why me etc. Every time he would say “because I want you here because I chose you. Why do you think your ways are better?”

What is God asking you to do right now? What step is he asking you to take no matter how hard?

My encouragement to those reading is that every season of life has a purpose. Every season God is sculpting you for the next one. God showed me in those 3 years to not be scared. To not be scared to tell of his goodness and how he is in the ruler over everything and if you follow him you will not be sorry. God loves me and he loves you. So share that with everyone you meet. I am on the other side and I can say how truly thankful I am for those 3 years.

The Student Became the Teacher – He’s off in Nicaragua

About 2 years ago, as we were in Belize.  Elijah was still quite small and it was the start of the “busy” season of the year.  The trip season.  I had just finished leading a great trip to Northern Belize and some other staff were wrapping up a trip to the Belmopan area.  And we were getting ready to go on an adventure.

For some time Praying Pelican Missions, our organization, had prayed about opening up new opportunities and specifically the opportunity for ministry in Guatemala.  God had led us to this country through much prayer, fasting and lots and lots of conversations among our staff, ministry partners in Central America, oh yea and even more prayer.

For the past fall, Pastor Ed (a Belizean pastor) had been contacting a Guatemalan ministry leader explaining who we were, what we wanted to do (encourage them, equip them, serve under their authority, basically build up the local church).  All the doors seemed to be open and it was time.  After these January trips in 2014, our team was ready to fly out and see what God had prepared before us in Guatemala.  Rob (the jefe, boss in Spanish), Pastor Ed (our Belizean pastor, great friend, and translator), Ross (who studied abroad in Guatemala for some time in college) and I  (no real purpose on the trip…or so I thought) headed out for about 5 days to explore, learn, prepare, sacrifice.

And to date I believe this Guatemala trip was a catalyst for our organization.  Time and time again on our trip to Guatemala in 2014 our team experienced God’s favor.  Door after door opened for us and we walked through.  Now two years later we have had almost 900 people serve in Guatemala!  God is there and we get to be a part of bringing His Glory to that Beautiful country.

Pastor Ed and Rob in Guatemala

Pastor Ed and Rob in Guatemala

About a year and a half later, as our family made the move to relocate from Belize to Winston – Salem, I sat down with Rob and talked about what’s next.  What can I do to add value to the organization, how can I serve.  We talked about several things and he mentioned the idea of me helping to serve and lead the region of Central America.  A region that God had placed on my heart in 2007 after our first mission trip to Belize with Hope Community Church and Praying Pelican Missions.

I laughed at the possibility and Rob was silent (it’s funny he’s silent a lot and let’s me figure most things out).  And anyway here we are, with me serving the leaders of our Central America countries!  What an honor!

Around the same time of the Guatemala scouting trip in 2014, we as an organization began to pray about what’s next?  Where God are you calling us?  Where can we serve you next?  We prayed.  We fasted.  We sought out wise counsel.  Time and time again the answer came back clear….Nicaragua.  The Lord was directing us to Nicaragua.  It was time to open another location and it was in “my neck of the woods.”

As a staff team, we laid out our process, started the ministry contact process again.  And again Pastor Ed, coincidentally, made the contact and began casting vision on the phone to ministry partners in Nicaragua.  I called Rob and let him know of the ministries and he asked me a defining question:

When are you going to organize and take the scouting trip to Nicaragua?

So two years after I was on the Guatemala set-up trip, the trip where “I had no purpose” I was boarding a plane to meet Pastor Ed, our Nicaraguan ministry partner contacts and Trent another PPM staffer. To see what the Lord had before us in a land where I had never been.  I was entrusted by our organization with keys to follow God and do what he says, seeking opportunities for ministry in a country we didn’t know.  I was terrified and at peace at the same time.  Rob called right before I left and said remember that Guatemala trip, you’re now the teacher.  It hit me.  My purpose all along was to learn, experience, see so at one point I could do the teaching, sharing.  Here I was.

Before I left, I sent a note to our staff and some great friends and asked for prayer.  I shared my itinerary and asked for (3) specific prayer requests.

  1. That we are persons, like Stephen in the book of Acts, that are full of the Holy Spirit.
  2. Wisdom and Discernment – specifically that we can see what / how God is operating in Nicaragua in these communities and that He moves in us / opens our eyes / hearts / heads / hands on how we can serve the people there to further what God is doing.
  3. Persons of Peace – Pray that we are met with persons of peace in each community / with each denomination.  

Every person / ministry / leader we met had the same story – God had called them to serve the least of these, the hopeless, the marginalized.  They all had been praying for partners not support but partners in the Gospel to come alongside of them and minister with them, furthering the ministry that the Lord had given them.  It was a true blessing to sit and listen as each pastor shared his / her heart and talked about opportunities for the future.  It is true that my heart was broken from some of the things I have seen, the poverty, the devastation, the heartache.  But it is equally true that my heart is encouraged by these leaders who have accepted God’s call to meet people where they are.  God is on the move in Nicaragua.  Over the next few posts, I would like to share all He did in Nicaragua.  These stories are an attempt to share some of the people, places, things and opportunities the Lord has placed before us.

Dump (Basuero) Communities

It is not possible to discuss the “least of these” in Nicaragua without discussing the communities built around the municipal dumps.  While in Nicaragua, I had the opportunity to visit four of these communities.  In these communities, anywhere between 50 – 250 people are “working” sorting through the trash for everything they need to survive.  The workers range all ages, all genders, all demographics.  They are simply communities sifting through garbage for their food, their clothing, recycle-ables to turn in for a small income, materials to construct homes out of; they are searching / scavenging for anything.  The conditions are extremely hazardous for their prolonged exposure.  Burning trash makes the air hard to breath; broken glass makes walking difficult with the risk of cuts and infection severe as they sift through the garbage. The only food they get: restaurant left overs from the weekend’s trash .  Imagine that for a moment, opening up the trash and gnawing on half-eaten chicken, or scooping rice with a half-used napkin.  It’s hard to imagine I know.  It was for me too, until I saw it.  

When the trucks bring in the garbage on Monday and Tuesday’s the bags are immediately swarmed by dogs, birds, flies, and sometimes even cows.  It’s desperation, poverty, sadness and hopelessness at it’s peak or at least the peak that I have experienced.  Yet the thing I saw in all the communities, the commonality was unity.  These communities were not fighting against each other, they were fighting for one another.  They worked together, taking care of their own.  Adults working alongside children (many younger than 5 years old) making less than $1 / day, yet together.  

Pedro Pablo and his work crew "family"

Pedro Pablo and his work crew “family”

I stopped and met Pedro Pablo in the Matagalpa dump.  He had been working in this community for 25 years.  He comes to the dump every day at 7AM and leaves every day 5PM.  The day we met was slow, so he took some time to share with us.  We asked what would make work out there in the dump better, his answer was simple and shocking, “cold water.” He said they often don’t have enough water for them and they are sharing one bottle of “river water”.  I looked at it and immediately was horrified.  It was not in anyway clear nor safe to drink.  He said it was all they had.  He said cold (purified) water would be awesome.  I went in the car, grabbed my bottle and gave it to them.  I said that we would be back.  He saw the look in my eyes and somehow I believe knew we were serious.  I left in silence and sobs, my heart breaking for what breaks His. Pedro Pablo and his friends are now my friends. 

A girl Madeline's age working at municipal dump near Managua

A girl Madeline’s age working at municipal dump near Managua

I stopped in another dump in Tipitapa, about 20 minutes outside of Managua and met a family of 5.  Their 7 year old daughter couldn’t go to school because of the need to work.  She had worked all day to collect some plastic bottles to sell later that evening at the local recycle center.  I asked her how much she made today.  With joy in her eye, she said $30 Cordobas or just over $1 USD.  I dug in my pockets.  Surely I had something that could bring joy.  I can’t solve nor do I want to solve any and every problem.  I felt the gum package in my pocket.  I asked Pastor Rigo if I could share.  He laughed and said of course.  So I gave what I had and saw the family sheepishly accept.  We walked away and I am almost certain as we were leaving I heard bubbles popping, gum smacking, and kids laughing.  Oh the laughing.  Overwhelmed I pulled down my hat, put on my glasses and cried.  Through my tears, I prayed for that family.  I thanked God for ministry partners like Pastor Rigo who are reaching out to these communities, who truly see through His eyes.  And I thanked God for the blessing it was to meet that family, provide joy and laughter no matter how fleeting and then know that we have a ministry partner in Pastor Rigo who is committed to breaking this cycle and providing life-change.

Finally I had the opportunity to visit Pastor Eduardo’s community of El Limonal and the feeding program at his church.  El Limonal is a community surrounding the municipal dump in Chinandega. Pastor Eduardo saw the condition of the people living there and made it his goal to change their lives.  He petitioned for support, for help, for anything.  Enter Feed My Starving Children.  FMSC began to send Pastor Eduardo food, “manna” packs.  I thought the name is quite fitting…Manna = food from heaven.  Truly this food is from heaven.  Every single day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, around 350 people in the community come to receive a meal.   The food was the vehicle for outreach.  The food allowed Pastor the opportunity to get in homes, work with other organizations, identify and meet needs.  

Now in addition to feeding, Pastor Eduardo and his ministry partners have started a home building program.  Houses once made with plastic, unsafe for most people were now being replaced with secure, sturdy and colorful cement structures.  It was as if the entire community was moving from black and white into color.   In fact the government got wind of what was going on in El Limonal and what Pastor Eduardo was doing to transform that community and they have started joining in on the building.  While I was there in El Limonal, I saw (3) new houses being constructed.  A community full of the least of these, with one pastor who has a heart for ministry.  I spoke to Pastor Eduardo and he said the people asked for a pastor but no one would come.  They knew the people couldn’t give back to the pastor, support the ministry.  Pastor Eduardo said “I came because I trust God” Now Pastor Eduardo is changing his community through the resource of food provided by FMSC and a strong vision from the Lord, one meal, one house at a time.

Young and on the way home from work

Young and on the way home from work

A girl after a meal at the feeding program, came straight from the dump.

A girl after a meal at the feeding program, came straight from the dump.

The trip was amazing, eye-opening, heart-breaking and inspiring.  I prayed and asked many to pray for the Lord to open our eyes.  Over the course of our 3 week trip, He opened my eyes again and again and again.  The Lord is in Nicaragua.  I can’t wait to partner with Him in His ministry to the least of these this summer.

Jojo Turns 4

Jojo Turns 4 today!!!

We can’t believe how big he getting.  He’s all boy and all servant.  And one day we are quite sure that he is going to break a bone or convince his brother to do something dumb and Elijah will break a bone!  His stories are animated and his heart is pure gold and pure sin…depends on the moment.

He loves all things outside and sports, soccer, basketball, and baseball are the top 3 at this point in time.  Sorry no tackle football right now.

He loves memorizing his Bible verses for school and must learn and KNOW every last detail of every Bible story.

He still is the servant in our family just like his Daddy.  He loves to please and hates to be scolded.

We can’t wait to see what God has in store for this little boy.

Every year we do an interview with the kids just to be able and look back to remember the answers to their questions.  

Here is Jojo’s 4 year old Interview

  1. What is your favorite color? blue
  2. What is your favorite toy? bow and arrow
  3. What is your favorite fruit? blueberries
  4. What is your favorite tv show? Magic School Bus
  5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? gogurts
  6. What is your favorite outfit? batman
  7. What is your favorite game? hi ho cherrio
  8. What is your favorite snack? gogurt
  9. What is your favorite animal? tapir
  10. What is your favorite song? let it go
  11. What is your favorite book? Magic school bus
  12. Who is your best friend? Turner
  13. What is your favorite cereal? Chocolate cereal
  14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? play with my bow and arrow
  15. What is your favorite drink? juice
  16. What is your favorite holiday? Easter
  17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? dog and blue striped blanket
  18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? gogurt
  19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday? chocolate cake
  20. What do you want to be when you grow up? daddy

Join us today in praying for Jojo to run towards God’s plan for His life.  To love big and serve hard and to submit to God no matter what He says. Pray for us, his parents, that we would get out of the way and allow God to guide and direct Jojo, our son, even when it doesn’t line up with our own plans for his life!