When you get it wrong.

I get it wrong all the time!

I get it wrong in parenting, when I discipline in manner that I shouldn’t.

I get it wrong in my marriage when during a discussion I seek to get the last word instead of being humble and just listening.

I get it wrong in my friendships when I don’t reach out as often I should or disciple someone as frequently as I should.

I get it wrong in my walk with the Lord as my mind and spirit are mostly willing but my body lacks the discipline to have a consistent quiet time.

In short, I get it wrong a lot!  As a perfectionists I HATE getting it wrong.  It bothers me.  It eats at me.  I get FRUSTRATED.  But one thing I try to NEVER get wrong is my work.  Even when I was in pharmaceuticals, in an experiment with solving a problem, in writing a report, I tried to NEVER get ANYTHING wrong.  Mostly it was successful.

I applied that same logic and drive to working with PPM.  When I got to Belize I attacked getting information.  I devoured needs expressed through the leaders of the local churches and worked to translate those needs into actionable steps and ministries our teams could execute while on the ground in Belize.

Overwhelmingly, the local church leaders and other ministry partners said “food” was the number one need in their community.  Many families (families that I know personally) literally live on bread and sugar water.  What could Praying Pelican do to meet that need?  The answer I thought was food distribution.  For only a small financial investment from our teams, we could meet that need. So we did some research and for as little as 500 USD, we could package up food staples (rice, beans, sugar, flour, shortening, oil, cereal, milk, coffee, toilet paper, soap) for approximately 20 families for about a week.  BAZINGA!  Problem solved (in my mind at least).

So we started plugging that as a ministry option and our teams, our staff, the communities, and the ministry leaders LOVED IT.  I was blown away and still am blown away about the life-change that has literally occurred because of these food staples.  Literally people have entered into a personal relationship with Jesus, they have stopped lives of sin, kicked drug habits, and stopped selling themselves.  Victory through food staples.  Glory be to God!

Visiting in Armenia.  God used this woman for my own revelation from the Lord.

Visiting in Armenia. God used this woman for my own revelation from the Lord.

So the past June, I was serving in Armenia Belize, a small mayan community nestled in the Maya Mountains just as they begin to shoot up as you leave Belmopan.  I love Armenia.  It is probably my second favorite place in Belize.  So we are serving there and the team starts to deliver groceries and the stories and tears start to flow.  Story after story of intense gratitude.  We see the families return back to the church to thank those on the team who did not go to deliver the food.  We hear every team member significantly impacted, tears rolling down their faces saying I will never forget this or that.

That night during our staff meeting, I was happy.  I told our staff that it was a success.  Food distribution was awesome!  And it was then and still is now!

The next day I go with the team to do a small repair to a woman’s house (pictured above).  As the team worked on the house, I got to speak with the family.  They were an elderly couple.  The husbands eyes had gone bad and he was no longer able to work.  They used to have a farm on their land beside the house but the government had rezoned the area residential and took their farm land.  The government gave them more farm land but it was a 15 minute bicycle ride outside of the village up some very challenging mountain roads.  They had no family to help them and the villagers around them didn’t know the situation.  Pride prevented them from sharing.  She shared how their biggest need was food.  They had none.  I sat mostly quiet.  Trying to work my spanish and creole in the conversation to show them I was trying.  It turns out they only new Mopan Maya and English.  I got their language wrong!!

Anyway, I went inside the house during a break in conversation to help the construction crew and I saw the box of groceries our team delivered the day before!  I was ecstatic.  Another problem solved!

I went back to our conversation and asked what they had to eat in the morning for breakfast thinking she was going to tell me tortillas, beans, fry-jacks, coffee.  She said she boiled 1 plantain and they shared it.  I was confused.  I asked again and she mentioned the same thing.  I didn’t dare ask her a third time because I was embarrassed.  I asked about the groceries we brought and she mentioned that they had never used flour before.  Everything was done with corn.  We had provided a resource, a solution to the problem but they didn’t know how to use it.  Her husband had only used corn.  She said she could eat off of a barrel of corn for 1 month.  At 60 BZD/barrel, we could have provided a lot MORE food for this family that what we did with our basket of groceries. I was devastated.

That afternoon, I spoke to one of our Belizean staff, who happens to oversee the most strategic social programs ministry in Belize out of her church, and I shared my thoughts.  I got it wrong, I told her.

She was gracious and laughed quietly and said “Josh you got it mostly right.  We are helping and that is good.  The real question is how can we help more or help better.”

We talked for a while and I shared with her the needs for family gardens, chicken coops, ministry that can happen all the time to meet the REAL hunger problem when our teams aren’t there.  She said that’s why we do what we do at our church Josh. She then explained the vision and the process behind family gardens and chickens.  About how proceeds from the BBQ sales of the grown chickens go into purchasing more chickens for that family and then another.  She shared about how members of her church bring in first fruits from their gardens (like in the Bible..DUH!) and instead of feeding the Levites, they use it to feed those in need in her communities.  The answer!

She and I then sat down and talked with the ministry partner in Armenia, Pastor Jesus.  Paula, our staff, shared about her ministry and the opportunities that could exist in Armenia should he desire to partner.  Pastor teared up a little and said that he had been wondering the same thing.  He mentioned that his children’s ministry worker wants to raise chickens but doesn’t have the facility.  He said his church has 25 acres that they can use to plant food for the community, they just need some help with workers.

So we left that meeting with some ideas and opportunities.  But it doesn’t end there.  We had someone on the team desire to see these opportunities realized and donated the money necessary to build a chicken coop.  A few weeks later, Rudy, Pastor Jesus’ children’s ministry worker, got a chicken coop, 50 chicks, and feed for about 4 months to get him started on raising his chickens!  What a blessing!  In fact this chicken coop ministry was also executed in Libertad, northern Belize this summer as well!

On the gardening front: Amy and Paula are working together to source the appropriate seeds, drawing up plans, and writing plant care for several different types of vegetables.  God is moving!  Hunger will NOT be a problem in Belize!  We will work with our ministry partners, get them the right tools to be able to erradicate this unnecessary need!

I got it wrong but Praise God for putting people like Paula and Pastor Jesus, my wife, and teams that catch vision in my path who get it right!

Together we are changing this country!

Clearing the land for a family garden

Clearing the land for a family garden

Finished Chicken coop

Finished Chicken coop

Started chicks

Starter chicks

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God knits it all together

As I sit and listen to the sweet hum of road construction outside of our my bedroom window and slap at my legs trying to get the noseums (they truly are no-see-ums) that continue to bite at me, I am thinking through what a busy and crazy month it has been.  I have led two trips and we have had over 475 people serve in Belize since my last post.  In fact as I am sitting at my desk writing this, there are 150 people on 6 different trips serving with us!  Praise God for the activity and ministry happening all over the country.

But that’s a post for another time.  A summer recap if you will…when all the activity is over, when all the praise reports are coming in.

God Knits it all together…..

Laundry: I don’t mind doing laundry.  Starting the washing machine, putting the soap in, taking the wet and clean clothes out and putting them in the dryer…all of it doesn’t bother me. I don’t like folding laundry, and what’s more I REALLY don’t like putting clothes away.  It’s an unnatural desire.  I really don’t understand it.  The other day I was putting away my t-shirts and thought to myself. I have too many t-shirts.  I crammed them all to one side of the drawer and then tried to fit in the others and it just wasn’t working.  Fed up I started taking out all the shirts, looking for the ones to give away.  They all had meaning…almost like they were part of me.

I remembered, as I looked at the heap of unfolded t-shirts, the philosophy of life one brother shared with us and it was based on his t-shirts.  My life is laid out in those shirts….I can’t give them away.

There was the old Clemmons Cougar basketball shirt that somehow still fit, (strangely nothing from high school in the t-shirt selection), the NCSU gym shirt, the “Bike seat” shirt, the Come Bare it all Founder’s shirt, the shirt Amy and I got on our honeymoon, the shirt from our first mission trip in 2007, the Starting Point Church shirt, and then all the other mission trips since.  They are me and I am them….there’s got to be a way to preserve them.

SO I called in Amy and she, in her infinite wisdom, said “I can make a quilt out of those.”  Aha. Decision-made.  Not the most practical use in Belize but it’ll do.  The shirts must be knitted together, much like those stages in life  represented by the shirts knitted me to who I am today. God knits it all together.

SO fast-forward from that revelation to last week Wednesday when I was speaking with one of our staff.  He was challenging me on the relevance and effectiveness of short-term missions, really wrestling with the value they are bringing to the local church.  I pushed back saying that the encouragement locals receive by the team just “being there” cannot be overstated.  I know I have heard the stories.  But then I said, short-term missions matter because they impact lives.  Period.  I tweeted the other day: “Mission trips change lives. Go on one.”  My life was changed by a mission trip.  My friend Judson’s life was changed by a mission trip.  My friend Tony, same story.  My friend Jeff, My friend Steve.  All of our staff at Praying Pelican Missions.  And then the thousands of participants that have served all over the world this year.  All of these people and many more have been changed because of a mission trip.

Could we be doing more to equip and encourage the local church in the locations we serve?  Yes, of course.  And God willing we are continuing to identify those opportunities to do that.  But even if we miss the mark from time to time.  God uses mission trips to change lives.  Period.

Amy asked me one time why do we measure or count or track the number of people that go on mission trips with us.  Fair point.

Here’s the answer:We measure the number of participants that come on trips with Praying Pelican Missions because like Pastor Perry Noble says:

Every Number has a Name

Every Name has a Story

Every Story matters to God.

Going on a mission trip is just part of our participants’ stories. It’s a moment, a significant moment, a moment that God uses to knit it all together.

Amy and I will be married 9 years in December and we were talking one night about did we ever imagine we would be here, living in Belize.  The answer was absolutely not, of course, but God was using our life events to knit it all together.  I can trace actions in my life from middle school that directly impacted and resulted in us moving here.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”

God knitting it all together:

  • 8th grade I decide to take band in high school and join marching band, which led to…
  • 9/10th grade befriending Catherine and Steve, among others. in marching band, which led to….
  • 11th grade – dating Steve’s sister and then us breaking up and me being “devastated” (I am talking HUGE snot bubble tears, seriously the worst), which led to….
  • 12th grade – a lot of free time on AOL instant messenger, talking through a mutual marching band friend to Rachel and we start to date, which led to….
  • Sophomore year – Rachel convincing me to join a fraternity for a resume booster which led to…
  • Senior year – meeting Amy through that fraternity which led to….
  • Amy being at a one of my parties when we had a friend going through some suicidal thoughts at the party which led to….
  • Amy and I talking over AOL Instant Messenger, which led to…
  • Amy falling into my web of suaveness at a New Years party or my own dumb luck, which led to…
  • Amy and I dating, the Lord redeeming and rescuing me from my life of sin which led to….
  • God knitting our stories together….which led to…

Sitting in church one day and seeing the bulletin say “Belize mission trip meeting.” Belize might as well have been in Africa. We had no idea.  We knew it fell during one of Amy’s 3-week breaks from teaching and they spoke English and played basketball / futbol.  Why not?  We went and there was a Category 4 hurricane that passed through Northern Belize.  Instead of doing what we planned to do, we did Hurricane disaster relief.  We had to go back; God knits it all together.

2008 – we have a miscarriage and Amy is able to return to Belize that summer.  It was this trip that gave her the confidence later to move to Belize.  God knits it all together.

2011 – I meet a new to me employee at Praying Pelican Missions and he becomes my advocate, friend, boss, and mentor

The rest you guys know.  God knits our story all together.

Literally, I can trace back how God used moments of my life and moments of Amy’s life separately to get us together and then used moments in our life together to get us here.  God is knitting, always.

As I look at our participants, our staff serving this summer all over Belize, I can’t help but think what moments has God used to get them here for this time.  And I can’t help but pray for them as God uses the moments of Belize this summer to knit together His perfect plan for their lives.

As you look at your own life, take a second and look back.  Look back to how the Lord knitted it all together to get you where you are.  And then get excited and don’t miss the opportunities for how the Lord is knitting together these moments for where you are going.  He truly does work all things for the good of those who love him.  God knits it all together.

Praises / Prayer Requests:

  • Praise: We had over 15 people come to know the Lord on a trip that I led to Armenia Belize!
  • Praise: We have introduced chicken cooping and gardening as two new ministries for our mission teams serving in 3 different locations in Belize.  These are HUGE steps to maintaining sustainable ministries for these villages.
  • Prayer Request: HEALTH – Madeline has been dealing with SEVERE constipation and in return poop fright for the last 5 days.  Pray that this is taken away from her IMMEDIATELY and Pray she poops!!
  • Prayer Request: HEALTH – I, Josh, woke up this morning with significant back pain.  I am in bed and cannot look to the right or left.  UGH!  Pray for healing
  • Prayer Request: Community – Amy and I are still struggling with how to minister to our local community.  We are doing a Vacation Bible School next Monday – Friday, so be praying for 100 kids per day.  Be praying how we can develop greater community with moms for Amy.
  • Prayer Request – Marriage and Rest – Pray for our marriage.  We don’t ask because it alarms people that “y’all are in trouble.” We aren’t in trouble.  We are just asking for our marriage to be richer, more fulfilling and realize it’s full calling to be the example of Christ’s love to others around us.  Pray for that please!
  • Prayer Request – Financial Support – We are in need of 3 more individuals to support us monthly.  If you have questions about how to contribute, please ask and I would love to get information in your hands.

You are loved by our family and The Lord has knitted you all to our story, and us to yours.  Seek the Lord and watch how He knits it all together for you.

Richest Blessings,

We had a bonfire ministry  where we roasted marshmallows and made smores.  I just wanted to flex my Eagle Scout skillz!!

We had a bonfire ministry where we roasted marshmallows and made smores. I just wanted to flex my Eagle Scout skillz!!

Awesome staff are a HUGE blessing.  It's been a great summer leading great people.

Awesome staff are a HUGE blessing. It’s been a great summer leading great people.

This team carries a burden for the people of Armenia.  Here they are praying over food boxes to be delivered into homes.

This team carries a burden for the people of Armenia. Here they are praying over food boxes to be delivered into homes.

This is Abner.  He decided to follow Jesus the week we were serving in Armenia

This is Abner. He decided to follow Jesus the week we were serving in Armenia

Visiting in Armenia.  God used this woman to reveal something to me about how we do ministry.  More on that in a later blog post.

Visiting in Armenia. God used this woman to reveal something to me about how we do ministry. More on that in a later blog post.

Madeline and her best friend Keara at preschool graduation

Madeline and her best friend Keara at preschool graduation