Characteristics of the Early Church – a note on unity

A few weeks back I was completing an in-depth study (or as in-depth as I could be) on Acts and then based on some conversation I was having here in Belize also dove right into 1 Corinthians.  The Lord spoke clearly and near audibly to me.  He told me I had to share the revelation with our summer staff for Belize.  So this blog is me sharing what I learned from Acts and 1 Corinthians with you all!

I just finished up about a month study of the book of Acts and specifically characteristics of the local church.  Here’s what I found….
  1. They were filled with the Holy Spirit
  2. They valued (it says they were devoted to) each other, community, meeting, praying, worshiping together.
  3. They were unified.
A note on unity – It doesn’t say that they were all the same.  Rather it says that they had unity.  Unity in a church doesn’t mean that everyone agrees on everything.  IT means that there is a love that covers everything, even differences!
Paul writes to the church in Corinth to instruct them in unity because they were in disunity.  They had placed one difference (in their case charismatic spiritual gifts) over another’s difference.  People in the church were questioning their own salvation and God’s blessing was not upon them.
Paul writes of the differences in spiritual gifts (Chapter 12) and then devotes an entire chapter 13 to love.  Contrary to what we may believe, the Lord did not prompt Paul to write 1 Corinthians 13 (the “love” chapter) so we had something to read at our weddings today.  He wrote it because the church needed to be reminded to operate in unity and the path to unity is love.  It is only after addressing the love issue that he tackles the specific dispute.
If one were to look back the church, the periods of the greatest unity and specifically verses about unity amongst believers are immediately followed by verses of church growth.  I find it interesting that for the most part (I would argue always) the Lord does not and cannot bless something that is in disunity.
Here the deal for our staff.  We must operate in unity.  We must cover each other’s differences in Love.  And when we do, because I have seen it happen, The Lord will do immeasurably more than we could possibly imagine.
Literally through all the ministry that happened last summer in Belize, all the awesome kids we saw, miracles that happened, the biggest blessing in my life from last summer is to see the deep bond our staff share that served here last summer.  Nothing has brought me greater joy from the summer!  This year our bonds will grow even deeper!
Here’s what I asked of our staff and I would ask of each one of you all…Read through 1 Corinthians 13 except where it says “Love…” substitute your name” Read it as an example Josh is patient, Josh is kind, Josh never boasts….etc Read it frequently this weekend and into next week.
My prayer is that those verses are a prayer to our Lord for our own character and may we all take great steps to operating in love in our lives in the here and now and as we move forward to into the full life that God has called us to.
Update from last week
Last week I had the awesome opportunity to lead an amazing group of 60 students from Tulsa, OK. To say that it was an amazing week would be under-selling.  It was life-changing for us as a staff, for the team and the local ministry partners.
  • We ministered to over 800 children through school ministry and VBS at 3 different locations.
  • We constructed 8 gardens for families in a new area of ministry for Paula’s church. These gardens are the launching point for healthy eating for these families, to meet and end hunger for this community, to fight Diabetes and as these families bring the first fruits of the garden, the gardens will provide for a feeding program.
  • We constructed (2) chicken coops that are the start to feeding programs for (2) different churches feeding over 200 kids combined who may not eat a “real” meal all week.
  • We constructed a fence around a primary school that was the last step in a long process for the local pastor to hire someone from the village to be the warden of the school.  A fence completed.  A family now with one parent with full-time work!  Praise God
  • We participated in the first “official” service at a new location for Paula’s church!  Now they are one church meeting in two locations!  Praise God for local ministry partners proclaiming areas of this country for The Lord!
  • On the last night we commissioned 60+ people to head back to their homes to “Go and Make Disciples”  The Lord is raising up His army and they will conquer this world!  His Kingdom is coming to Earth!

A story from ministry this morning.  I literally just heard this story a few minutes ago – I just spoke to a trip leader who is serving in Belize.  His team is doing the bunk bed ministry. The local pastor asked if a bunk bed could stay at church so she could have a place for people to stay if they need to, almost like a homeless shelter.  Of course our trip leader said!  Anyway, a special needs girl comes up to a participant of ours and the local pastor and immediately wails in crying.  She shares about how she has lost her mother about 2 months ago and her father has been abusing her.  She didn’t have anywhere else to go.  Pastor said “come my child, the Lord has given you a bed to sleep in tonight”  A partnership.  A bunk bed.  A life rescued.  A life changed.

Working hard on one of the gardens for Paula's church

Working hard on one of the gardens for Paula’s church

50 chickens for one of the new feeding program locations!  I named them BBQ and fried chicken

50 chickens for one of the new feeding program locations! I named them BBQ and fried chicken

1 of the 2 completed chicken coops!

1 of the 2 completed chicken coops!

Praises and Prayer Requests – Update from the field 11-Mar

Friends!  It’s a rare two posts for 1 week.  First a brief update on what’s going on with our family.

Home: Things at home are busy! But with three kids and parents like us, it’s always going to be busy.

  • Amy’s busy putting the final touches on what she wants to pack to bring back from the states, donate to our friends here or sell.  Just the other day she sold Madeline’s dresser which was awesome.  I am not looking forward to the day she sells our bed because once she does it’s sleeping on air mattresses for us.  It’s all good because without selling some stuff here we wouldn’t have start up funds in the states.
  • Michelle  – is out on her first trip of the year and it seems to be going well.  The team is doing a large youth rally and youth ministry leadership training in Belize City so reports from her and Herman are that it’s busting at the seams!  Praise God!
  • Madeline / Jojo / Elijah – These guys are doing just what these guys do…be awesome and frustrating all at the same time.
    • I looked at Madeline yesterday after she was finished dressing herself and just shook my head atthe big girl that she is growing into.  I then watched some old videos of her on the IPAD and cried huge snot bubble tears.  This daddy isn’t necessarily ready for his baby girl to grow up!  Madeline also every night and every morning ask to read her Bible.  She says it is very important that I learn all about God. Seriously melt my heart!!  The Lord has AWESOME plans for that little one!
    • Jojo – has an AWESOME mohawk.  And he enjoys playing shooters (shooting us with anything) and being as rambuncious as he possibly can be.   Still ever the servant though, he is always sharing his food, toys, and cleaning up for his brother and sister!
    • Elijah – is putting on some serious weight!  Praise God! He literally is filling a lot and FAST!  Thanks to some well timed snacks from some great friends from NC he is pounding animal crackers and gold-fish! Also, he has observed Jojo serve by cleaning and has taken up cleaning as his favorite past time.  He sweeps multiple times a day, loses his mind if he doesn’t put his dirty dish in the sink, and ALWAYS cleans up his spills! He isn’t all rainbows and unicorns because he still wakes up around 4:15 for the day! UGH!
  • Josh – I am doing ok….struggling to keep ahead of all of our trip set up but overall doing well.  We have two teams serving right now, one in Belmopan and Michelle’s in Belize City.  Next week we’ll have 4 teams serving, with one of them being a 60+ person team I get the privilege to lead.  After that we are SLAMMED until after the first week in May!  That’s alright because Amy and I just booked another VACATION!  We are STOKED! Same place as August, Black Rock Lodge, 3 days, 2 nights!  And I just found a baller smoothie place in San Ignacio (thanks to Paula).  Guess where Amy and I are going on the way to Black Rock Lodge!?!
  • Work – Aforementioned trips going on.  Also, exciting news we have 4 more spring teams working on bunk beds (a total of almost 30 bunk bed sets for children with no bed!!) , 3 teams are working on chicken coops and/or gardens for feeding programs, resulting in over 300 kids being able to receive a healthy and nutritious meal.  We have a team ministering only to women in the village of Armenia where the pastor has promised to cook all the meals so the women can have the time off!!  And to finish out the spring we have a SURGICAL TEAM coming to provide much needed surgeries to locals who can’t afford it!  The Spring is happening.  The Lord is here!  Praise God for the use of these ministries to get more people into a close and personal relationship with Jesus!

Needless to say things are going well.  They are quite busy but they are going well!  We are so excited about everything the Lord is doing in us, in our kids, and in this country.   Join with us in celebrating what God is doing and praying with and for ministry and family.

Praises:

  • Church Growth – Praise God this spring so far we have seen 5 people that we KNOW OF give their lives to the Lord!  Praise God!
  • New Ministry Partners – We have some teams serving this week at old ministry partners with new pastors and brand new ministry partners!  These partners are better than we could have possibly imagined!  Praise God for favor and discernment with our ministry partners here in Belize.
  • The Key is turning – You all may recall that I, among others believe that Belize is the key to Central America.  Belize will raise up and be instrumental in the redeeming of the rest of the Central America The Lord.  This week we sent from Belize 13 translators to Guatemala to serve on a medical mission trip that Rob is leading.  This is the note that I got from Rob last night

“Yesterday I went into a church in Guatemala and saw a Belizean I do not know at all, helping a Guatemalan child, gently loving, hugging, being Jesus to that child. I had to walk out of the church to cry.”  I say – the key is turning indeed.

Prayer Requests

  • Basketball – Update! The court is repaired.  While there is a Hattieville village team that I am not a part of (sad panda).  I was able to play with the guys. Down side I played like dirt!  Pray that my jumper starts falling!
  • Family – Pray that we are present here in Belize.  With the transition back to the States, it’s easy to get caught up in everything but pray we are fully here and truly seek opportunities here.
  • Community – Continue praying for community for our family.  Pray specifically for community here in Belize.  It’s funny how the Lord answers prayers though.  It turns out on of our good friends may be relocating to Winston Salem as well!  Praise God for His Provision!
  • Trips – Pray for the trips coming up this week.  Pray specifically for smooth logistics for our team of 60+ and for the Glory of the Lord to shine through us as we serve in Western Belize.
  • Selling Furniture – Pray that we are able to sell (3) pieces of large furniture this month.  This would be a HUGE blessing and some much needed weight off of Amy’s shoulders.
  • Staff – We have staff coming in for trips this weekend.  Pray for Denny and Amy (not my wife Amy, his wife Amy), Andy, Leah, Josiah.  Pray that the Lord would refresh them, renew them each morning.  Pray that the Spirit would pour out fresh on them and that they would seek God’s face and that He would use each of them mightily during their time this Spring in Belize.

Thank you friends, warriors, co-laborers in the Gospel!  God is on the move! It is so exciting to be a part of that!  Praise be to God!  Truly the Best is Yet to Come!

-Edmonds Family

My chaco tan is getting AWESOME!

My chaco tan is getting AWESOME!

No big deal just asleep in the jungle!

No big deal just asleep in the jungle!

Lorelee and I thought it would be a great idea to take "Twilight pictures" So the sun was supposed to sparkle off of us.  Didn't happen to me.  I blame the fur.

Lorelee and I thought it would be a great idea to take “Twilight pictures” So the sun was supposed to sparkle off of us. Didn’t happen to me. I blame the fur.

This boy is so excited to press any button....all the time.

This boy is so excited to press any button….all the time.

Just hanging around with Madeline during some daddy /daughter time.

Just hanging around with Madeline during some daddy /daughter time.

And the cover of darkness lifted

Since Caledonia I have been filled, filled with life, love, peace, joy….The more I reflect on what happened on that river bank in Caledonia the more I get that I was baptized in the Holy Spirit! Even though my futile mind can’t really wrap my head around that.  All I know is that I want more of God, more of Him, His presence, His breath, His life.  I want to relive that experience in Caledonia.  And this is not a bad thing….necessarily.

But you see the thing is when we keep looking back at the past to relive what the Lord once did, we miss what he is doing in the here and now.  When things in the past are the “best ever” we truly miss out on the promise that the best is yet to come.

A hard lesson on just this

Last month, I had the awesome opportunity to lead some AMAZING friends from Master’s Regional Academy.  This was their schools 4th year coming to Belize serving at Ladyville Evangelical School, The Youth Hostel, and Dorothy Menzies Child Care center in Belize City.

For 4 years, Master’s Regional has been LIVING our pillars of ministry.  The genuine partnership they have with Ladyville Evangelical School is truly amazing.  Through the years, they have brought books down to start a library, started a scholarship fund to pay for Standard 6 students to someone from Master’s speaking at Ladyville Evangelical school.

Here’s how deep the relationships are between Master’s Regional and everyone they met.  One evening, I was sitting down and they brought me a stack of letters and asked who these kids were.  The letters were addressed past participants to children / teens they had met and ministered to and with in Belize. I was BLOWN away at how heart-felt and emotion-filled these letters were.  One past participant wrote 5 letters to different people!  They truly have a long-term relationship indeed!

To say that this week was a great week is an extreme understatement!

Anyway, for one of our ministry times, we headed to the Youth Hostel.  I had set up this time weeks in advance with my dear friends at the Youth Hostel and knew we were on the schedule.  For those that don’t know the Youth Hostel is a home for non-violent teenage criminals and those with bad behavioral issues.  To say that this place is a challenging and hardened ministry soil would also be an extreme understatement.

However, I knew the team was prayed up and ready for a Holy Spirit encounter.  I had envisioned girls crying, huge sobs, snot bubble tears. I pictured guys breaking down as well.  I pictured revival, real and tangible.  In short, I pictured an event. I had one in my head.

So I get there a little bit later than the team because I was busy with some other stuff and right away I noticed the whole team just sort of standing outside of the girls dormitory.  Undeterred, I marched up to Lorelee and asked what’s going on and she explained that the girls couldn’t come out and they didn’t know where the guys were.  At this point my blood started to boil.  “We were going to have a spiritual experience dammit!” “This place is ruining my trip!” Those were the thoughts running through my head.

I go and talk to the cooks to find out where the guys are, grab my guys from the team I am leading and head up stairs into one of the classrooms. I am dumbfounded when I see that the guys are with another team, scheduled at the same time as MINE!  Blood pressure climbing. Anger building inside.  I get the leader of the other mission team to step out and ask what’s going on. He says he scheduled through the director.  I told him thank you through gritted teeth and went back down stairs stewing.  “Who does that team think they are, etc?” Not my finest hour for sure. I

I thought if I just get the girls to come out of the dorm then this is salvagable.  I go to the dorm and am promptly stopped at the door.  The supervisor tells me that no one is coming out of there and none of us are going in.  Hmpf!

I get my phone out and call the director, thinking to myself that I am literally on the board of directors here, what I say goes.  She says she was sorry that she doubled booked and really wanted us to minister to the girls because she is having a hard time with them.  No problem I say but they wont let us in there or the girls out.  She asks to speak to the supervisor of the girls dorm and I am telling my team no problem, we’re in!

Ha! A few minutes later I am handed back my phone and through tears the director told me of the troubles she was having with the girls and fighting and trying to run away and well just about everything.  “Pray Josh.  Just pray.  Can y’all do that?” “of course I answered”

So the one super athlete that was so excited for his time to shine on the basketball court with the guys from the orphanage, picks up his guitar and leads us in worship.  We sing.  We pray.  We proclaim.  All the while, the enemy and his demons through those girls are shouting the most terrible, horrible, offensive, and awful things imaginable.  During that time, it was a true war!  We were fighting on planes unseen.  4 songs, 5 songs, 10 songs.  War still happening.  You could feel the darkness around and I realized THAT was the source of my anger.  I had given the enemy a foothold and I was missing what the Lord was going to do.  I had almost taken my team away and then I saw it happen.  One by one girls came out to sing with us.  Two of the leaders started walking around praying for each girl that came out of the building.  We stood side by side and prayed and sang and worshiped.

And darkness lifted.  Literally the screams vanished and they were replaced by praises.  People with one heart and one mind, literally in the Spirit, worshiping one God.

That day at the Hostel, the Holy Spirit was there, and miracles happened.  And I would have missed it because I was too concerned about re-living a God moment than living in the moment God had me in.

My prayer for you all is just that.  Stop trying to relive God moments that happened in the past and pursue God in the present.  He is revealing Himself each day, we must search for Him, wait on Him, and realize He is a creative God.  The same God that designed you me and the whole earth will do miracles in a variety of ways.

The Master's Team serving for the 4th year in a row

The Master’s Team serving for the 4th year in a row

getting her hair did

getting her hair did

Pastor Nate talking with Vashni, Eustace's son

Pastor Nate talking with Vashni, Eustace’s son

The library at Ladyville Evangelical School that Master's has partnered with.

The library at Ladyville Evangelical School that Master’s has partnered with.

The letters

The letters

The team with some students

The team with some students

Dancing away.

Dancing away.

Exciting Times Ahead!!??!!

I pray that all is well.  I literally thank my God each time I think of every one of you.  Our partnership in the Gospel across the world is truly the most special thing our family has ever been a part of.  We are truly blessed.
When Amy and I obeyed the Lord and moved to Belize, we knew that it was that simple.  We would obey the Lord and his prompting no matter what.
Amy and I (and the kids) have been praying for some time about our time in Belize.  The Lord began speaking to us clearly this fall and we have been seeking His face for some time regarding the time table in Belize.  
 
As we sought Him, the answer became clearer and clearer.  Therefore, our family will be relocating from residing in Belize back to residing in the United States, specifically North Carolina (sorry MN is just too cold) this year, 2015.
 
There are many factors, tears, screams, etc that have gone into this decision and one we have not taken lightly in the slightest.   We are however at a total place of peace regarding this heavy decision.
 
The Factors:
  • Community – The number one factor that has influenced this decision for our family is community. Those regular readers of these updates are no stranger to the strong need and desire for community, specifically for Amy. Unfortunately, that community has not come despite multiple efforts on multiple fronts.  Amy for the most part has been doing life, except for Kimbell (occassionally) and Michelle and our staff coming in and out, she has been doing life alone for the last almost 3 years.  That is unhealthy for anyone and needs to change.
  • School – As you recall we had a TREMENDOUS struggle with schooling this past fall. We do feel the school in the village is not the best place for our kids’ education. However, we also feel that Amy cannot drive to take and/or pick up kids from school 3 separate times in one day….that’s 3 hours of driving. That’s not fair to Amy nor is it fair to Elijah. 
  • Family – I was speaking to a good pastor friend of mine and he said if you forsake your own family’s well-being for the ministry then you are in an adulterous relationship with ministry. I know that I know that this is the best decision for our family, one we have not taken lightly.
 
So what does this mean for our family?
  • Work – I will continue to be employed by Praying Pelican Missions. I will continue to oversee Belize Operations as well as empower more of our fantastic Belizean staff to take on ownership of activities as well. I will asl advocate for our additional missionaries in the field and be responsible for some new country launches. I also will be resposible for a work category called “Rob’s projects”, which is basically anything Rob needs me to do that he didn’t ask me to do because we were living in Belize.
  • When– Amy and the kids will relocate (with me) at the end of June 2015. I will then be back in Belize for 3 weeks in July and then back to the States before August. I will continue travelling to and from Belize leading great mission trips for Praying Pelican Missions and meeting with and encouraging our local ministry partners.  Other opportunities for travel and ministry open up now which I am excited about, Those could include Guatemala, Nicaragua, Haiti, Costa Rica…..Speaking of travel, all you who said we are welcome to come there any time….just wait Edmonds family tour of teams we have led, is coming to your back door!
  • Where – We are going to relocate to Winston-Salem, NC. We prayerfully considered many places (Triangle peeps….we considered there too). But we felt called to be close to my family and to start “over” expand our network of ministry and continue ministering to those who are marginalized.  Plus in all honesty, cost of living is cheaper in Winston than the Triangle.
  • Why PPM – Two things.  Jesus Christ is the Hope of the World – through the local church.  Praying Pelican Missions exists exclusively to encourage and equip the local church. I believe in the mission / vision of our organization and I deeply desire to see His Bride prepared for the day of the Great Wedding. I guess that’s only one thing….good enough
  • Prayer – We WILL NEED A LOT of prayers.  We have been rolling this out to our family, work family, supporters, Belize Ministry partners, and outside world (in that order).  Those conversations will be challenging, exciting, and nervous all at the same time.  We need prayers.  Prayers to be present in Belize and prayers to ease the transition and reentry.  
  • How we feel – We are excited!  We are excited about this opportunity.  We are called to be close to our family right now and are excited to help lead our siblings to the Lord. 
So what does this mean for you?
  • Financial Supporters – Friends who has sacrificed financially once or over the past few years regularly. Our family will live on Support until Sep. 2015.  We will then be brought on to a full time salary with Praying Pelican Missions!  Praise GOD! Therefore, we ask that you keep your financial support until Sep. 2015.  If you have any specific questions about this, please reach out to me directly, joshua.m.edmonds@gmail.com
  • Please pray.  Our family is different (in a good way) since being in Belize.  Pray for community for Amy and our family.  Much of our time in Belize has been spent doing life alone, community is the most challenging aspect of our life.  Pray your hearts out for community for our family back in the States.  We already have an awesome church family to plug into, etc. So the Lord is on the move.
The Lord has gone before us – a story….maybe 2 
  1. Community– Amy and I were having dinner with one of the pastors at our church in Winston – Salem, REVO. I was talking with the pastor about community and the challenges associated with it. What I wanted to say was “will you be my friend?”  What I wanted to say is man I would love to hang out with you the other pastors on staff and whoever, else you know.  But they’re pastors. They’re in ministry. They’re busy.  He noticed the hesitation in my voice and He looked me dead in the eye and said “that crap stops here. We will not allow you to do life alone. We are your community” I didn’t cry then but later that night after getting in the car with the family, I wiped tears from my eyes and thanked God for setting this up. Note: We started going to this church in June 2012 because a friend from when Amy was in elementary / middle school is on staff and she was sharing on Facebook about planting REVO in Winston. Anyway, Amy encourages her and shares our own church planting stories from helping start The Point in the Triangle.  And we start attending, fall in love with the church and now that’s our church in NC!
  2. House – Amy and I were just messing around looking on the internet during the late fall.  We scheduled an appointment with an agent to look at some areas.  SO we go to this one house and Madeline says before we even go in “We are going to buy this house.”  Anyway, we go inside and it is awesome.  Just what we are looking for.  Ranch with basement (so I can work from home).  We leave and start praying.  After some conversations with our agent, we put an offer on the house…seemingly low.  Only the women accepts.  Amy headed back in January and closed! Praise God!  We have a place to live and don’t have to worry about that this summer! 
  3. House Continued – the story gets better.  We cannot afford to take any of our furniture back to the States.  So we are going to sell what we can here and then give away the rest. In fact we can only take back what we can fit in our suitcases. So no beds, no pillows, no anything (except clothes, toys, books, pictures).  Anyway, so we ask the woman who is selling the house if she wants to leave anything in it she can.  AND SHE LEAVES EVERYTHING.  All the furniture we have to buy is our own bed and a dinning room table! God is sooooo amazing!!
  4. Community – an answered prayer – So we were sharing with Amy’s friend at REVO about the house…and SHE LIVES 4 HOUSES DOWN.  You think the Lord isn’t moving ahead and making community for us!  Praise God!
 
There is so much more to share and I am happy to do so.  If you have questions, let me know.  Our family continues to be anywhere ready, willing, and able to serve the Lord, to advance The Gospel, and spread God’s Kingdom.  We are honored and blessed to do that with Praying Pelican Missions.  We believe the Best is Yet to come.
 
Richest Blessings,
 
Josh, Amy, Madeline, Jojo, Elijah Edmonds
My heroes!

My heroes!

Look who has learned to work a remote like daddy.  This will come in handy during March maddness

Look who has learned to work a remote like daddy. This will come in handy during March maddness

Best buds hanging out early in the morning.  morning time is boy time in our house.

Best buds hanging out early in the morning. morning time is boy time in our house.

With this beauty at Pastor Ed's training this past weekend!

With this beauty at Pastor Ed’s training this past weekend!

Just hanging around

Just hanging around