Leading vs taking a walk

There is a leadership adage that goes something like this

“If you are leading in something and look behind you and there is no one, then you are only taking a walk.”

For frequent readers of this blog, y’all know I struggle with my self-image (physically how I look, how I am doing with work, is everything good enough, etc). One area with this is particularly true is leadership.  My “job” is to lead the Belize Operations for Praying Pelican Missions.  I am “in charge” of and accountable for the mission trips that happen in Belize through our organization.  There is a group of people that are way more instrumental in that success than me, and that is the team that I get to work with.  But I looked at them and at me and critically asked myself am I really leading them?

I struggled with what does it even mean to lead them?  Sure we had some “success.”  Trips were good and GREAT ministry was and is happening but am I leading them?  What is leading?

I read leadership books, literally, 7 habits of highly effective people, 21 irrefutable laws of leadership, Developing the leader within you.  I know John Maxwell and am subscribed to several leadership podcasts, Andy Stanley’s and Perry Noble’s just to name a couple.  But did I really understand what “leading” meant?

Exactly a year ago, as I was sitting around with our seasonal US staff that was serving in Belize, I had prepared this lavish presentation of all the dos and don’ts.  I was going to show them pictures of where they were going to serve, speak about each community, answer every question.  The Lord gently nudged me and said “now’s not the time.” It was a dialogue in my head of “but God how can they know what to do” “Do you trust me?” the Lord answered back.  “But God I have all the answers to the questions they have.”  “So do I, and who are they Josh?” – The Lord challenged me.

In that instant, I realized that it was / is way more important about who someone is becoming in the Lord than what they can do and if they have all their questions answered.  SO I made a decision in April 2014 that I would develop the people, create opportunities for community by having the staff over for dinner at our house, and truly seek how people were doing, how they were feeling and who they were becoming.

The summer came and went and the fruit of those relationships began to come in.  Staff that didn’t even serve together; weren’t even in the same country at the same time began to talk.  There was commonality.  there was community, there was love.  I saw facebook group messages video chats, instagram posts and my heart was warmed.  The Lord showed me fruit of the investment.  I saw fruit of family.

In the fall I looked across the Gospels and asked God to reveal to me how to lead.  He reminded me gently and then showed me clearly that I was asking the wrong question.  Did Jesus lead….of course He did.  But more than that he shepherded.  The Lord was calling me this past fall to shepherd.  How had I been at shepherding those people in my life (family, staff, ministry partners).

January comes and Michelle moves in and the routine of life sets in, now with someone else.  We all wake up, we eat, we work or care for kids, we eat, we wash up, we veg-out either on our phones or watching TV.  Day after day after day.  Shepherding…..not quite.  Really I was leading my family and yes Michelle is part of my family like people say NOT to save for retirement. Just crossing my fingering and “hoping and wishing” things work out for the best.

At the end of January, the Lord (and Denny) allowed me to lead the trip to Caledonia (of which I have written many times).  On this trip, we had 9 college interns and I poured myself into them and there was fruit.  Lasting fruit.  Amazing fruit.  Fruit that resulted in revelation. The Lord said / showed me “I have equipped you to shepherd.  Look at I can do through you.  Trust me and shepherd.”

From then on, I sought God on how to shepherd our seasonal staff serving in Belize….petitioned God for them, sent encouraging notes to them, reached out to them, provided counsel to the best of my ability (really God’s words coming through me)…In short, I wanted to shepherd them.

But with my family, it was more of the same….routine followed by wasted veg-time.  I was a terrible family shepherd.  Here was my wife, my daughter, my sons, Michelle entrusting to me by The Lord and I had no intentionality, no emphasis.  Just crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.  I was literally thinking to myself…well we’re missionaries and that’s good enough to shepherd.

Then Michelle and Amy were gone for the week (women’s trip to Armenia) and I had some time to seek the Lord.  And I was convicted.  Convicted that I hadn’t done enough shepherding.  Convicted that just leading my life was not and is not good enough.  That I have to be intentional or else it’s a missed opportunity. That the Lord wants to use me to shepherd the people He has brought into my life.

So I started praying….literally praying.  Every night 2 hours of prayer.  The Praying Pelican Missions conference was coming up and I HAD to seek the Lord and I HAD to shepherd. Here is an example of my prayer:

“Lord I also want to lift up the meetings.  God my prayer is great unity among the staff.  I pray for all of the Belize staff that we grow together in our understanding and love of who you are.  Jesus be with us.  God draw us collectively as a group solely radiant, be radiant. [let us] glow with your love grace and mercy because you are in us. Lord fill me up as a leader to love on, serve and speak life to those serving in Belize this summer.  In Jesus Name Amen”

Night after night, I sought the Lord, pouring myself on the altar of his grace, begging God for forgiveness, petitioning God for His mercy and asking him to fill me up.  I prayed for unity over and over and over again.  The Lord said you have to ask forgiveness from your family, from Amy, from Michelle.  And He said “You are a good shepherd. Go and shepherd”

So I went to the meetings seeking to shepherd those the Lord has entrusted to my care.  I loved boldly, shared in vulnerability, affirmed confidently.  I loved.  I guided or more appropriately The Holy Spirit guided in all things, me to shepherd the best way I know how.  The Lord used me to speak life, hope, value, worthiness into others. “You are a good shepherd Josh, He told me.”

Now we are a few days removed from the meetings and I cannot explain the movements of God that happened in our Belize team.  The Lord’s presence is so think within us that we can taste him.  His sweet sweet spirit is in our soul.  Friendships, life-long friendships were made in the presence of the Lord.  Tears shed, walls down, collectively we drew nearer to each other and sat in the presence of our Lord.

Saturday night we had worship and from there at 10:15 at night we sat and did affirmations.  Two hours later as the session wrapped up, I heard from the Lord “this is your family. love them.” I do. I love them with every part of my being. I love them with a love that wants to see each of them reach their full-potential and value in Christ. I love them in that I want to see them walk totally confident, aware, and in lock-step with the calling that the Lord has placed on their lives.  I want to see God move in that family.  Brokenness aside, He is made beautiful in each of us! It was a monumental moment.  And the Lord answered every single desire of my heart for the meetings and beyond.

“you are a good shepherd Josh, Go and shepherd” 

It starts at home.  We have a new routine now.  After the kids go to bed, Amy, Michelle and I get out the Bible and start seeking the Lord.  And he is meeting us.  We are walking towards a greater understanding of who He is and what our purpose is in Him. God is revealing His character and we are hungering for more.

Meetings have happened, we are coming down from the high but the Lord has called me to shepherd those he has entrusted to my care, my family, my friends, those serving in Belize. And I am pursuing that with all I have.

I am no longer on a walk.  I am the shepherd of a mighty flock who collectively are drawing closer and closer to the Lord’s presence desiring more of him every moment of every day.

Amanda, this mighty woman of God is the glue that holds our Belize team together!

Amanda, this mighty woman of God is the glue that holds our Belize team together!

One of the biggest blessings of my life is to shepherd this group

One of the biggest blessings of my life is to shepherd this group

Petitioning the Lord together!

Petitioning the Lord together!

God's mercy renews every morning.  His freshness I sought every morning in the sunrise

God’s mercy renews every morning. His freshness I sought every morning in the sunrise

Our Meeting theme was "mustache miami" Cory and I were babysitting a staff baby with AWESOME 'staches

Our Meeting theme was “mustache miami” Cory and I were babysitting a staff baby with AWESOME ‘staches

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What’s your dream?

Whew it’s been an AWESOME 2 weeks.  For those that were praying a sincere THANK YOU!  Your prayers powered us through some intense spiritual warfare immediately before I led Mt. Bethel.  And then Amy and Michelle went on a trip with a women’s team from Hope Community Church to Armenia, so I was at home “babysitting” the kids.

Note: I told everyone that it wasn’t babysitting because it was my own kids….then it’s called parenting!

Now I am sitting in the Belize Airport banging this blog post out before hopping a plane to Ft Lauderdale for our staff meetings!

Remember our schedule from the last post?

  • April 4 – 10 – Lead 40 of the most amazing students and adults from Mt Bethel on a trip to Western Belize – FINISHED
  • April 11 – 18 – Amy helps lead a Hope For Belize – Women’s trip to Armenia and I am HOME ALONE – AHHHH – FINISHED
  • April 19 – 27 – Fly to Miami for our Spring Staff Meetings – IN PROGRESS
  • April 28 – May 1st – Prepare for a 40 person SURGICAL TEAM serving in Northern Belize the first full-week in May!

God is on the move. Some Updates:

  • Mt Bethel – Was another awesome week.  We were fortunate enough to continue a relationship that started last year as a new set of students and leaders were able to serve with Kebin Rosa and his ministry team.  The Lord was present in everything that we did.  Whether it was building bunk beds (7 sets) or delivering groceries (enough for 20 families) or children’s ministry, Jesus was in it!  Pastor Melgar preached Easter Sunday Jesus is HERE.  All week it was evident that Jesus was THERE WITH US!  While I was sad to see my friends from Mt Bethel go, it was AWESOME to tell them that I WILL SEE THEM THIS FALL!!! – Thank you for praying!
  • Parenting with the kids – WAS INCREDIBLE.  After the weeks of spiritual warfare and extreme busyness of work, it was so refreshing to REST and PLAY with the kids.  We did all the necessary parenting stuff like baths and school and homework.  But we got to do fun stuff too like ice-cream after the grocery store and pop corn and milkshake for dinner 2 nights!  We are so blessed with the most amazing children on earth.  They are crazy and trying at times but the focused time with them was just what I needed to rest, reset and refresh.  – Thank you for praying
  • Women’s trip – Amy and I will have to put together a separate blog post about everything that she had learned / experienced on the trip.  It was awesome and in the same manner that staying home with the kids was relaxing and refreshing for me, serving in Armenia did that for Amy.  It helped show her awesomeness in Belize AND allowed her to start critically thinking and processing what integrating back into the US will be like! – Thank you for praying!

Spring Complete

Our spring trips have wound down and we are in the transition from spring trips to prep for summer teams.  I thought it would be nice to reflect and CELEBRATE all the Lord has done from January – April.  A look at Belize by the numbers:

  • 484 participants
  • 24 groups
  • 30 unique partnerships representing churches, schools, mercy ministries in 4 of the 6 districts
  • 40 bunk bed sets built for kids who don’t have beds
  • 170 families receiving a weeks worth of groceries
  • 10 community gardens constructed
  • 5 chicken coops built
  • 3 church feeding programs started
  • 2 medical clinics
  • 1 surgical team
  • Over 4000 kids ministered to, hearing the Gospel of Jesus on THEIR LEVEL
  • 7 people HEALED
  • Over 30 people Baptized
  • Over 15 people made decisions to give their lives to the Lord
  • Over 25 Belizeans sent OUT to Guatemala on mission trips to serve with PPM

Revival is happening.  The Lord is redeeming Belize for His purpose to be a light to the nations.  God is moving mightily and we have the privilege to be on the front lines!  Take a moment and praise God for all that He has done and is doing in Belize. And let’s petition God expectantly for all He WILL DO this summer!  God is up to something big. I can’t wait to share it all with you!!

As I start to consider the summer and especially since I am heading to our spring staff meetings, I was challenged with “What’s my dream for the summer?”  What do I want to see the Lord do this summer?  What is my “sun-stand still” type prayer?  Based on that, I wrote the email below to our staff serving in Belize this summer.  I wanted to share here because I think it’s applicable to everyone not just our staff.  What’s your dream?  What do you want to see God do in your own life?  Take hold.  Ask boldly and watch him show up and show off!  Stop doubting and Believe!

………

I LOVE Dr Seuss…seriously love.  I could probably recite One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham and most of Fox in Sox.  I love everything about his books…the stories, the illustrations but most of all I love that he allowed me and allows kids now the ability to dream.  His books create some fantasy land where it’s ok to dream big things, even if they don’t make any sense.

I am currently reading a book about Dead CEOs and I just finished the chapter on Disney this morning.  His life was built around allowing people the opportunity for fantasy to risk so much that they may fail only in the world of disney you didn’t fail.  Fantasy.
We all know life is real.  Real life happens all around us and all the time.  My last blog post spoke to as much.  The challenges, stresses and warfare of real life.  My guess is as we sit on the cusp of Praying Pelican Missions Spring Staff Meetings spiritual warfare is going in and around you.  I know it is here.
But if you take a moment, step back, get quiet and then get intimate with God, what’s He saying?  Have you dreamed with God? Have you dreamed about this summer as you are serving in Belize what it would look like?  Have you dreamed about how He would speak to you? Use you? Move in you?  Move through you?  Have you dreamed about chains broken, freedom felt, weights lifted?  Have you dreamed about how you want to be changed?  How you will be changed?
Dream big things!  Because when we dream big things for God it’s like dreaming in Disney if we are pursuing Him and His will. He will show up!  That’s what He does!
As Easter closes I like to look at all the appearances of Jesus to His disciples.  The one besides Peter that I love the most is Thomas.  Oh Thomas with the bad wrap, doubting Thomas.  He says “if I could just see the nail marks, put my hand in his side…then I would believe”
In dreaming for the summer, I get Thomas.  I am analytically positioned by nature.  I want everything to make sense, so my dreams follow that philosophy.  I want to dream BIG for the Lord but I calculate the probability and step it back.
That’s what Thomas was doing.  I feel like Thomas WANTED to believe he just couldn’t wrap his head around it. His dream was too big, too grand, too risky.
Jesus shows up and proves that it is HE the RISEN LORD.  Thomas gets his proof but then Jesus says to Thomas “Stop Doubting and Believe.” Some people take this as a rebuke but I think it was an invitation.  Jesus was saying to Thomas stop doubting me and start believing in me and what WE can do together.
As you think about your life, your dream for this summer, for God to move in you and through you, what if we accepted Jesus’ invitation and stop doubting and started believing.  Believe He can do anything.  Believe He will show up and show off. Believe that we are in revival!  Stop Doubting and Believe!
So my question as we get ready to see each other in a few days.  If you stop doubting and start believing…..
what’s your dream?
I look forward to seeing God meet and exceed your wildest dreams this summer!

 

Our staff team (minus Lorelee, Abidias) two of the 4 people in this picture have pooped in a bag and left it for someone else to find.

Our staff team (minus Lorelee, Abidias) two of the 4 people in this picture have pooped in a bag and left it for someone else to find.

My favorites!  No other words.  Mt. Bethel you are loved, you are missed. see you soon.

My favorites! No other words. Mt. Bethel you are loved, you are missed. see you soon.

The glory of the Lord was all around us during the week.  Here he was showing us His Glory in the sunset

The glory of the Lord was all around us during the week. Here he was showing us His Glory in the sunset

It's not Mt Bethel without an Eno afternoon

It’s not Mt Bethel without an Eno afternoon

One of the Mt Bethel students became the VBS craft for the day.

One of the Mt Bethel students became the VBS craft for the day.

This family just moved from Guatemala with nothing.  They are living in a borrowed home.  We spent two days with them.  The joy of the whole family was contagious!

This family just moved from Guatemala with nothing. They are living in a borrowed home. We spent two days with them. The joy of the whole family was contagious!

Praises and Prayer Requests – Update from the Field 30-Mar-2015

We are 3 months gone, finished of 2015.  I seem to remember when I was in school months dragged on FOREVER.  Now I blink and  a month is gone.  Before I know it with everything that is happening in April, April will be finished and we will only have 2 more months as a family in Belize.  Pardon me while I freak out and then go in a corner and cry!

Check out our schedule this April

  • April 3 – Have Madeline’s 5th birthday party (Her b-day is April 6th)
  • April 4 – 10 – Lead 40 of the most amazing students and adults from Mt Bethel on a trip to Western Belize
  • April 11 – 18 – Amy helps lead a Hope For Belize – Women’s trip to Armenia and I am HOME ALONE – AHHHH
  • April 19 – 27 – Fly to Miami for our Spring Staff Meetings
  • April 28 – May 1st – Prepare for a 40 person SURGICAL TEAM serving in Northern Belize the first full-week in May!

Wowzers! (my new favorite word).  That’s a lot of stuff.  We are so excited about all the Lord is doing here in Belize and humbled that we get to be a part of it!

Some Updates

  • Work – In addition to the 60 person team I was fortunate to lead 2 weeks ago, we have had some amazing experiences from ALL of our teams.  I am so fortunate to serve with some of the most amazing staff in this world!  All of them care so genuinely and deeply for the people of Belize and for my family specifically.  Bunk bed ministry is going strong with over 31 bunk bed sets constructed this year!  That’s beds for over 60 kids who were sleeping on FLOORS!  In fact, we just delivered (5) sets in OUR VILLAGE!  Madeline HAD to be a part of that!
  • Home – Since it’s Easter this weekend, the kids were off school this past week and next week.  Things have been good, we did some VBS hopping to a couple of teams this week and our family helped deliver bunk beds yesterday.  Amy and I are heading out on a date night tonight.  Kids are loving the time out of school but are missing their friends.
  • On the move – The BIG move is progressing smoothly.  Furniture is being sold (which is awesome!) because without selling the furniture here we don’t have start up costs when we are back in the States.  Kids are doing well and we are starting to explain to them what it means to move back to NC.  Madeline says: “That’s right mommy.  God told us to move to NC.  We will stay there until He tells us to go somewhere else.”  That little girl has BOLD FAITH!

Prayer Requests

  • Spiritual Warfare – It seems like it happens every year right before I lead Mt. Bethel – a team that I have deep, deep, deep love for.  The enemy comes at me guns blazing.  One year it was Amy standing in the doorway asking when the Lord is going to show her, her blessing for obedience.  Only the emotion and language cannot be conveyed in writing.  This year it seems like it’s the worst.  Elijah is waking up at 4AM every day.  I dealt with car problems that mechanics cannot fix or it is too expensive to fix on 3 of our 4 cars.  And I was dealing with staff conflicts.  That’s in addition to frustration in our home just from the difficulties of being here.  Last night I had a team that does not know me in Guatemala pray for me.  I know that there are staff all over the US that are praying for me, for us.  I am seeking more prayer.  I am in darkness.  There is light because my God has overcome this.  Pray that I rest in Christ Alone and give EVERYTHING over to Him.
  • Youth Hostel – Some of you are aware of the Youth Hostel, a home for at-risk, troubled, or non-violent criminals.  Anyway, in 2011 the girls burned down their dorm.  Fortunately no one was injured.  It took (5) years but a new dorm was constructed.  The girls were getting ready to move into that one – the boys were currently staying in it.  Anyway, I get a call that the girls burned down their dorm AGAIN.  Fortunately, no injuries.  I was able to give a cook from the Hostel a ride home yesterday and she was expressing the leadership just does not know what to do.  My initial response was anger.  How can they be so stupid!!?!.  Now my response is pain, deep sadness.  They are lost, like sheep without a shepherd. Pray for leadership to balance grace and mercy.  Pray for those involved to repent and for those not involved to forgive.
  • Basketball – We were asking that more opportunities to play basketball with the guys and that my jumper would start falling.  Update: Herman, one of our staff, and I were KILLING it on the court.  Draining 3s like the Splash Brothers.  Continue praying for opportunities to play
  • Family – Continue praying for us to be present here in Belize.  It is getting EXTREMELY hard, especially for Amy.  Community with Kimbell is falling apart, which was Amy’s only friend here. We are praying that the people we meet want to have genuine conversations with us and care about how we are and not always ask “what’s life like here?”  We are literally CRYING out to God for this.  We often are Josh and Amy the missionaries and don’t feel freedom or honestly don’t think people want to know Josh and Amy the people.
  • Selling Furniture – We were praying for (3) large items to be sold this past week.  PRAYER ANSWERED.  God sold the washing machine, one of the gas tanks, a desk, bookshelf, and the bunk beds.  On top of that….the buyers allowed us to keep them until we move in June! God is too faithful!!!  We are praying for a suitor for our bedroom set and the playground outside!
  • Trips – The trip of 60+ had only a few hiccups that were all smoothed out.  Logistics ran awesome and the team and the locals truly encountered the Lord.  It was a HUGE blessing to be a part of that!  PRAYER ANSWERED!  I am petitioning God for this week with Mt. Bethel that I would be able to shepherd the students into greater revelation of the Lord, of His Glory, and of who HE is.  I am praying that the students would step out in faith and take the RISK to allow the Lord to meet them.
When you're out meeting ministry partners.  Lunch sometimes looks like Yoohoo and plantain chips

When you’re out meeting ministry partners. Lunch sometimes looks like Yoohoo and plantain chips

Edmonds men favorite food: Spaghetti and Popcorn.  Elijah shows us the appropriate sized bowl.  And yes HE ate it ALL!

Edmonds men favorite food: Spaghetti and Popcorn. Elijah shows us the appropriate sized bowl. And yes HE ate it ALL!

Madeline delivering bunk beds with the team.

Madeline delivering bunk beds with the team.