How did we get here?

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As many of you know, Andrew and I made the decision to move our family to the Dominican Republic at the end of October 2016.  Then in early November, Andrew officially accepted a position as the director at Caribbean Mountain Academy in the Dominican Republic.

Prior to getting married in 2008, Andrew and I had a very frank conversation about where we felt that God was leading us.  We both had a heart for people, and knew we wanted to serve in a ministry capacity but we weren’t entirely sure what that would look like.  Both of us felt that we wanted to work with youth, and I specifically wanted to pursue counseling.  I remember very distinctly having a conversation with Andrew that went something like this,

Andrew: “Do you feel called to foreign missions at all?”

Erin: “No, I never have.  There are too many hurting people here! Do you?”

Andrew: “No, not at all.”

Erin: “Okay, that’s good.”

Shortly after this conversation Andrew began working at Lifeline Youth and Family Services at a residential boys home.  He loved it!  After we got married, I worked for a year at a crisis pregnancy center while I waited to turn 21.  Once I was 21 I applied, and soon after began working at Lifeline as well.  There we have remained until now.

For about a year prior to the Dominican Republic opportunity coming up, I had begun feeling a great deal of unrest where we were.  Some of that had to do with having divided interests with family rearing and continuing at Lifeline, but I really believe God was beginning to transition my heart away from Lifeline.  In May of 2016, Andrew forwarded me a job posting for the directors position.  I emailed back and said, “Nah, I don’t want to move to the Dominican Republic”.  A few weeks later he emailed me again and told me he talked to the hiring VP, and really wanted to apply.  We talked about it that night, and  I was hesitant on the timing because I was at that point 7 months pregnant with our fourth baby, and feeling a bit overwhelmed already.  I told him if he felt strongly about it, he should apply.  He did.  He felt the interview went really well.  We started really talking about what the move would mean for our family, and what we would need to do to get there.  I even felt a little bit of excitement, and then…. Nothing.

We assumed that the hiring VP had chosen someone else, and so we moved on in every way.  Naomi was born, I began a Masters program, Malachi was enrolled in preschool, and things were moving along smoothly.  Then Andrew called and told me he was asked if he was still interested in the position.  We both sat through a second interview, and were scheduled for a trip down to see the ministry in action.  The trip was a whole six weeks away, and it seemed like an eternity.  As we prayed about it, we knew that this was likely our next step, but meeting the staff and the clients and experiencing the impact being made really confirmed it.

So, here we are.

On the way home from Pennsylvania (where our kids had stayed with family while we were gone), we listened to a few songs on repeat that repeat this concept of walking on waves, like Peter did when Jesus was approaching the boat.  Peter asked if he could walk out to Jesus, but once his feet touched the water he took his eyes off of Jesus, and looked instead at the waves.  He was immediately terrified, and cried out to Jesus in fear because he was beginning to sink.  This concept has been powerful imagery for me as I consider all of the ramifications of moving not only myself, but my four small kiddos to a country that I do not know.  Where Andrew and I will need to learn a language that we do not understand.  And seek to understand and appreciate a culture that is not our own.  I won’t say that every day is awesome, and I only feel excited because that is far from the truth.  There have been many growing pains in the process.  However, in the last few years I have been challenged and stretched in some hugely impactful ways and I have learned some very important preparatory things.

 

1.) We do not want to waste our lives.  In 2014, I lost my Mom to cancer and she was only 56.  That was (and is) hard, but through her life and death, she taught me an important thing:  lives lived faithfully for Jesus make an eternal impact.  I want my legacy to be one that points others to my Savior.

2.) Home isn’t found in places or things, but in people, and ultimately in Jesus.  As we consider what things to keep or sell/give away I am learning that those things are not home!  I love my house, but it’s not my home.

3.)  Even if.  Habakkuk 3 talks about a list of terrible things happening, and through each of those things over and over it says, “even if”… “I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in my God, my Savior.  The Sovereign LORD is my strength…”

So, Andrew and I will lift our eyes above those waves, and look to the author and perfecter of our faith.  Because these short lives we have been given, will be lived for Jesus alone.

 

Lessons from an Avocado

I have probably shared some of this before, but God is bringing some very real closure to a season that has felt like it lasted a lifetime.

I remember one morning, early in 2019, looking out across the valley from my porch.  I had been praying for God to move in a big way at CMA, but felt my prayers were going to deaf ears.  However, as I looked across, I observed that for the first time in months, what once was brown and dead, was turning to a rich shade of green.  In addition, the mango tree in front of our house was producing mangos for the first time since we had moved to CMA.  That mango tree faithfully dropped its fruit in excess all summer.  I heard God whisper that He was going to bring fruit.  I sat encouraged, expectant at what was to come.  It was nothing like I had hoped.

8 months later… the summer program wrapped up.  I said goodbye to many ministry partners here.  I heard murmurs around me incessantly.  From people within the ministry, from people outside.  My personal losses were heavy.  I prayed for new staff, but my heart wasn’t ready to welcome them.  I prayed for new students, but I didn’t want to engage them.  I prayed for the ministry, but I couldn’t see God really answering.  God was doing things, sure, but I was disappointed.  I wrote blogs that sounded positive.  I wrote newsletters with all the highs, and whispers of the lows… Lows so deep that I didn’t know how to verbalize them.  Highs that existed, but I was blind to the beauty.  I found myself in a place where I was walking a line between all the joys of new believers (almost our entire girls house, with so many more asking questions) and complete despair (why did it have to be SO HARD).

So I went to the mat with the Lord.  I began to really pray for Him to show me what He was doing.  I needed to see fruit!  I needed to lay eyes on something tangible.  I prayed for unity.  I prayed for joy that was unexplainable in our staff.  I prayed for those who had left heavy to find joy again.  I prayed for the students by name, and with more ferver.  I prayed for my husband to seek the Lord, and lead with peace and confidence.  Through that wrestling, I learned how to really pray.  To pray like God is actually answering.  I have also noticed some things about myself.  My back is stronger.  My knees are steady.  My heart is pumping, my lungs are burning– I’m alive.  I’m fighting, dare I say a GOOD fight.  My eyes are open.  The same voices that used to me cause me to hide, and turn inward, are pushing me forward.  Negativity doesn’t impact my confidence, because it isn’t set on MY success anymore.  It is set on a faithful God, who can produce avocados on barren trees.

A few weeks ago, I noticed an avocado tree that has never produced fruit, covered in baby avocados.  And I was reminded.  Reminded of that hope and expectation, and reminded of my faith, no bigger than a mustard seed at the beginning of 2019.  The growth in my heart is the fruit.  The growth in my man as a leader in the fruit.  A group of staff who are learning to pray are the fruit.  I have seen massive answers to prayer.

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My kids are growing in their faith, knowledge, and physical stature.  Fruit.

My husband is growing in His faith and leading out of an overflow of how He is being led.  Fruit.

The students are searching and finding answers.  Fruit.

We have three bilingual staff who are working with the students, bringing in a new mix of culture for our students.  Fruit.

We hired a chaplain who was handpicked for CMA by the Lord– he is a Dominican man, educated in the United States, and uniquely qualified to minister to ALL of the staff at CMA.  He has already attended a funeral, and spends time talking with a part of the staff body that was never ministered to well.  FRUIT.

We have a new family who know how to pray, and are quietly encouraging and praying this campus through a war.  Fruit.

We were selected to receive a HUGE fundraising grant with a major radio network in Fort Wayne.  Fruit.

Through the staff losses, he is bringing in new leaders.  Flexing their muscles in new ways.  Our new lead counselor is uniquely qualified, and I am SO excited to watch him make it his own.  Fruit.

I have felt hopeless about the United States, a continual cultural shift has discouraged me.  Then you see things like Kanye West proclaiming Jesus, and I see an avocado… fruit.

I prayed for three different situations where physical healing needed to happen… and God answered.  He answered!  Fruit.

In the individual lives of our staff, God is stretching and growing, and revealing in ways I have not seen Him work before.  Fruit.

There is fruit everywhere.  It took an avocado tree to prompt me to look with fresh eyes.

How about you?

What would it take for you to look for fruit?

Where do your eyes need redirecting?

What joys are you missing in your grumbling?

August 2019 Update

Ministry Update

I apologize in advance for the lack of pictures in the post.  Our internet is currently working on a very bare bones level as the process to get fiber in on campus continues, and so I am unable to get them to upload.  I will try to make up for the lack of pictures soon!

The month of August proved to be a busy one.  We had our closing program for the summer students, and during the same weekend said goodbye to Erin’s Dad and Step-Mom Vicky who were interning in the program, and living with us for the summer.  We were thankful to quickly have another round of visitors when Erin’s brother and Andrew’s sister, Ryan and Rachel came to visit along with their three girls.  Our kids were very excited to have KID visitors, and be able to show them their world from a kids perspective.  It was interesting to me to listen to them explain language barriers, cultural differences, and their favorite parts of living in the Dominican Republic.  Malachi seems to be convinced that he is now “Dominican”.  Oh brother.

Our week with them included the arrival of much needed school supplies that their church lovingly provided for all of the school aged kids on campus, as well as some needed winter clothing for our kids.

Why do we need winter clothing?  Because we will be making a trip stateside during the month of December, and into January.  This trip was scheduled to be an intentional rest time, so we will not be making the giant circuit that we did during our last trip, but we do hope to spend some time in Indiana, and then Pennsylvania.  More on that to come.  I will say I am concerned with Naomi who daily says, in the heat of summer that she is “frio”.  The girl doesn’t know what’s about to hit her.  Also, all of my kids hate pants and socks, so that should be fun…

After Ryan and Rachel’s visit, I officially dove into a development role to assist staff with their transition into both the work, and community life at CMA.  I had my first “guinea pigs” this week when we welcomed a new family to campus on Wednesday night/Thursday morning.  The process is still a work in progress, with many hiccups along the way, but we are really hopeful for good things ahead.

During the same week, we had our first week of Young Life on campus.  During this waiting season of figuring out church life, and what we need in a chaplain candidate, Jerry and Vini (our missions staff) have been covering the weekly “youth group” needs.  During this time, Vini decided to reach out to the local Young Life reps, and see if there would be any possibility of getting a club going on campus.  If you have never heard of Young Life, you are not alone.  None of us had either, but it has been such a perfect fit, and Andrew and I along with 4 other staff (two of whom are currently connected to CMA, but are staff at a school in town), and a Young Life staff who provides training, support and resources.  We are pretty excited about the ways God is already using this to build relationships and a different tone on Wednesday nights.

On that same note, God is doing some huge things in our students.  Although it has been a hard season for staff, as we are gap filling for a lot of losses in staff, all of the girls, and several of the boys are very interested in learning more about the Lord, or have recently trusted Him as their Lord and Savior.  The girls are working through a Bible study on the book of Joshua, and four of them are actively participating, with two always being within earshot of the study, and on their own expressing interest in the whole “Jesus thing”.

Prayer Requests

Please continue to be in prayer for our staff as they pour in to the students.  Pray for them, to be growing, and be drawn closer to Jesus.  It’s so easy to count the wins as our own if our focus is off, and just as easy to count the losses as our own. Our Papa is doing this work, in His timing, and it is such good work.  Pray for the many baby Christians being ministered to right now too.

We had a job fair yesterday, where we had a promising applicant.  Please continue to pray for staff for the campus.  We are getting a lot of structure implemented in the quiet season, but we really need additional co-laborers.

Family Update

The kids just completed week 5 of their homeschool year.  We started early, because of the anticipated furlough, and to allow for breaks as needed throughout the year.  Malachi is in 2nd grade, Levi is in 1st, and Selah is in Kindergarten.  Naomi is also all about school, but in a much less official capacity. 🙂

Andrew

High – I have enjoyed flexing my house staff muscles a little bit this month.

Low – Not really a low, but the slow progress in some areas has been forcing me to flex my patience muscles, which has been uncomfortable.

Erin

High – Seeing so much fruit condensed into such a short period of time.  It’s reassuring during a time when God’s working in the staff situation makes less sense.

Low – There have been a lot of goodbyes in the last couple months, with another one this week.  Those are never fun.

Malachi

High – Having our cousins come visit, I love them.

Low – The whole month was pretty much good.

Levi

High – When we went to the beach

Low – When we went to the movie theater to see Toy Story 4 and it was only Spanish.

Selah

High – Playing sorry with Vicky.  I am really good now!

Low – When I was sick.

Naomi

High – Coloring picture.

Low – My foot.

June/July Update – Call to Prayer

I am hoping to get back into a monthly groove with our blog posts (I promise, with lots of fun family updates, and ridiculous pictures and shenanigans) now that life has somewhat returned to “normal”.  Although, I don’t really know what that is at this period of time in the ministry here.

At the beginning of June, my Dad, Step-Mom, and brother all came to the Dominican Republic for internships.  My Dad and Step-Mom are serving as house staff during our summer program and will be here until August 11th.  My brother came for a digital marketing internship, not really through Crosswinds or CMA, but with Alyssa, the campus chaplain’s wife.  This was only a six week internship, and so he flew back to Iowa today.

In addition to the internship, Michael was also a huge part of what allowed Andrew and I to go to language school.  We left for Guatemala on June 16th for a four week chunk of time studying Spanish.  Michael cared for my kids in the evenings and on the weekends (with help from Dad and Vicky as they were able), while Clara (our house help) cared for them during the day.  It was encouraging to call in and see four small happy people, when we were so many miles away.  The kids say a lot of good things about Michael jumping on the trampoline, having movie campouts in the living room, and just in general making an effort to ensure that they were ok.

The language learning was also a really rich time of filling in a lot of blanks, adding a ton of vocabulary, and I believe steadily moving towards the ability to communicate well in Spanish.  We’re not there yet!  I have had so many people ask me “So… how’s your Spanish?!”  The truth?  We both understand a lot more of what is being said around us.  We are also both painfully slow at communicating and conjugating when it’s our turn to speak.  We did come home with additional books for continued study, and are trying to be intentional spending time reading, writing, speaking, and listening to things in Spanish to hopefully retain, and continue building on what we learned.

We are so thankful for everyone who played a part in us getting to spend intentional time learning.  It was invaluable for our learning, and also for our relationship, and our morale as we have returned to CMA.  It’s been a good, but testing two years of service at CMA for both of us.  Living life at the pace that is required in this ministry (and really probably in ALL ministry) is really trying, and it’s not sunshine and rainbows on this beautiful caribbean island.

In addition to language skills, we gained a friendship (with a family also serving in the DR) that served as a great encouragement to us during our time in Guatemala.  It also served as a loving kick in the pants for us in taking this fight seriously, and not allowing our hands to continue drooping, or our knees continue to shake (Hebrews 12:12-13).

We have returned, literally, ready for battle.  To be fully transparent, we had grown discouraged and were not bringing this before the Lord faithfully.  Since we have returned, we are both intentionally spending time in prayer, and will be spending time fasting as we ask the Lord to miraculously fill all of our staffing needs for this fall (a chaplain, a clinical director, a therapist, and 6-8 house staff… that’s basically a whole new staff body, in case you miss the intensity of this need).  Will you please join us in prayer?

We want the right people, in the right time, and we need help for our unbelief, and patience, and confidence as we wait.

We believe that God is doing an incredible work here, but we also almost tangibly observe attacks from all sides.  I am not a dramatic person, but the attacks on unity, wrestlings with discouragement, depression, anxiety, physical health struggles, sicknesses, financial hardships, water struggles (yup, still going on), accidents, God’s transitioning of people, and the car troubles experienced by the staff on campus are very real distractions.  The spiritual forces that are against us would like nothing more than to make the U.S. look really alluring, to keep us from having the energy to do one-on-one mentoring, to go to church on Sunday morning, to attend Bible study, to spend time in prayer or personal reading time.  To forget why we are here.  To forget the privilege and calling that we have to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Please pray against these attempts to distract.  Pray for eyes that can see the real battle, and not the mirage that is cast before us.  Pray for renewed passion for sharing Christ’s work, and for opened ears to hear and understand.

For every discouraging thing, I have even more positives of all the things God is doing!  Our family is doing well.  CMA is doing well.  Our staff, are incredible, resilient warriors for the gospel.

Please, pray with us for God to complete a work that is undeniably His, and His alone.  So that the glory cannot possibly be shared with any human being on this earth.

He is worthy of every breath, even those hard to draw in, being taken for His honor and glory.

James 1:5-6 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let Him ask of God who gives to all liberally and without reproach and it will be given him.  But let him ask with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the see, driven and tossed by the wind.”

1 John 5:14 “And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us,  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him.”

Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Ephesians 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert, and always be in prayer for the Lord’s people.”

 

 

April/May 2019

I just recently wrote our newsletter in preparation for it to be sent out in June so I will do my best not to cross-over content a lot, but it might still happen a little bit.

We went to the beach shortly after our last post, to soak in some rays, and mostly to get away and have some family time.  The kids swam all day, pool and ocean, we ate lots of food, and we spent a lot of time thinking and praying.  It was good.

When we got back we kind of hit the ground running again.  I have started a small role of doing phone screens.  A lot of people apply to be house staff.  Very few realize that will mean moving to the Dominican Republic, and even fewer read the posts long enough to realize that they have to raise support.  This rules out a lot of potential staff, and is a frustrating, albeit sanctifying process.  Andrew and I have also started helping in the house.  Not a lot, just enough to try and help alleviate some of the pressure the staff are feeling when they are single staffed in a house.  Ratio allows this, it’s not outrageous, but it’s frustrating as a staff, and as a student to be dependent on what the whole house wants to do all the time.  It has been good for us to remember our roots, and has certainly been good for a lot of relationships with both staff and students.

In other news, there have been a lot of wins on the campus.  A painted coaster (our big bus that hauls around large groups of missions teams), new upholstery in the chapel, a new training room, radios, and a finished lower campus have been some encouraging steps of progress.

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Andrew just got back from Chicago for a 3 day Education Consultant conference.  This involved a lot of networking in order to build more sources for student referrals.  Ironically, Andrew booked this many months ago, at a point when our staffing was a bit better.  He felt a bit discouraged climbing on a plane to recruit students, when we really need to be recruiting staff.  However, the timing was the Lord’s, and I think it was encouraging for him to get away, and even have a little bit of fun with Kevin, his supervisor.

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Staff wise, we are just in a rough spot again.  Many are reaching the end of their terms here, and are preparing to transition home over the summer or in the fall.  This adds to a staffing deficit, but more than that, it’s personally really difficult to say goodbye.  We know God is sovereign, and He is working all of these things for our good, but it is easy to look at the dwindling numbers and feel discouraged.

This month God put one concept in particular very heavily on my heart.  In April, I had finished up a Bible reading plan, and when I read through 1 John, I was very deeply challenged, but also felt the need to keep moving in order to wrap up the remaining few books.  Once I did that, I have moved back to 1 John and am currently parked there.  It packs a wallop for a lot of reasons.  Specifically, I was really challenged by the reality that if we know Jesus, we should have fellowship with other believers in the same way the Father and Son have fellowship.  In addition, if that love is lacking, if we cannot have fellowship, John very pointedly tells believers to check themselves to discern whether they truly know Jesus.  It’s not just a challenge, but he communicates that those two realities (relationship with the Son, and fellowship, partnership, intimacy, with other believers) is inseparable.  Ouch.

As a general principle, Andrew and I seek to maintain short accounts with others, and with each other.  We desire that love be genuine, and that pursuit be a part of loving others well.  We don’t sit around holding grudges, and forgive with full hearts.  What challenged me, and then as a result, us, was that in the process of being hurt by other people, we had retreated.  Not in an intentional, “we don’t love you”, OR “you’re not worth our time”, but in a very self-focused, “everything we do bites us in the butt”, “relationships are hard and we keep screwing them up”, and “it’s probably better to just hide in our house” kind of way.  It sounds so stupid, talking about it now, but in a very real way, Satan had tied us down with our fear of man and discouragement.

In the last two weeks we have had a lot of conversations.  Some together with staff.  Some separate with staff.  Many with each other.  Processing, and in turn repenting and submitting to this reality that we must love people in the same way that we have known love.  That means, full heart, willing to be hurt, pursuing love.  In the most simple of ways, it just means spending time with people again.

It hasn’t been pretty.  It’s been painful.  It’s hard to hear people pour out misunderstandings, wounds, and frustrations, that you contributed to.  However, with a lot of grace and love, God has been restoring relationships, and opening doors of communication that had long ago been shut.  We are encouraged by this!

We have direction as we move forward.  We know what to communicate better, and what to communicate less.  As much as we want to move things along in our timing, we also recognize anew that His ways really are higher.  We just have to trust His plan, and His process.  No matter what that looks like.

Highs and Lows:

Andrew

High – Being invited to play in an official soccer game with a soccer club that I have been playing with for fun for about a year.  It was a high honor!

Low – Discouragement that comes during transitions, and growing as a leader.  Wondering if there are things that I could have done to prevent some of the turnover we are facing now.

Erin

High – The small wins of good changes, good conversations that are fruitful, and experiencing community within and outside of CMA.  It’s a double edged sword.

Low – Trying to figure out how to support and encourage Andrew has been really difficult, and stretching.  Figuring out how to encourage discouraged people, when I am also discouraged.

Malachi –

High – We are done with school for the summer!

Low – Selah is always mean to me, like she ripped up my plant, and she let my lizard go, and she always wins when we play memory….

Levi

High – Winning.  I win all the games. (?)

Low – I don’t really have a bad part. (Kids man!)

Selah

High – Playing with my baby dolls, and when Clara lets me play with buckets of soap and water.

Low – When the brothers are always mean to me.

Naomi

High – Digging with the puppy outside and making sure I get as dirty as possible.  I also like to steal Selah’s buckets of water and dump them in my dirt piles.  It makes her mad, but it makes my day so much better.

Low – Mommy doesn’t let me get my own food at the pavilion.

Prayer Requests

As you pray for CMA, please pray for our staff who are remaining.  Pray for their hurting hearts.  Goodbyes are hard, and we share deep love for one another here.

Also pray for the staff who are transitioning out.  That’s certainly not easy either, and the adjustment back to life in the United States will be challenging.

Also pray for our hiring processes.  Pray for clarity and wisdom.  Pray for the right people, not just willing bodies, and for patience as we discern that.

Finally, pray for Andrew and I.  We are still growing and figuring out how to lead well.  Pray for Spirit led eyes that can see through the muddy waters of ministry, and people.

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Year Three Begins

Well, as of yesterday (April 19th), our family has officially been “on the ground” in the Dominican Republic for two years.  What a life changing time these years have been.

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Our first year was full of new things.  Lots of ministry learning (how much ground beef do you need for a group of 30-50-60?; how do you convert from Fahrenheit to Celsius in your head, while also remembering that your oven is old, inaccurate, and off balance).

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“There are some things worth fighting for. I have worked to master using my oven, have converted Fahrenheit to celsius in my head, and have learned how to pasteurize raw milk to make this moment possible.” – October 23, 2017

Lots of people learning.  Expectation of culture shock to hit. Expectation of discouragement, and rather, what we experienced was a whole lot of encouragement and energy in the ministry.  Blogs came easily.  The new culture and language were exciting.  Each stomach bug, rash, or broken foot, taken with grace and patience.

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We were told, year one was hard.  That we should anticipate culture shock to hit at month 3, month 6, month 9.  Everyone told us stories about their experiences that left us bracing for impact.  Then nothing.  Each new day felt fresh.  Our personal time with the Lord was impactful, at times painful, but he was speaking, drawing us nearer, and stretching us.

Then year two began.

Oh year two.

I (Erin) began year two with counseling sessions with a biblical counselor via Skype.  Things that I had put off for ten years (probably longer) came rushing back in, and were distorting my view of others.  All with one spiritual root.  Andrew began year two rushing, with a lot of weight on his shoulders.

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The ministry felt heavy.  Everyone around us voiced discouragement and discontentment that my already heavy heart didn’t know how to lean into.  Andrew faced new challenges in leadership that left him discouraged, and begging God for guidance.  The culture felt extra exhausting (who knew month 15 would be when culture weariness would set in?!), people felt extra exhausting.  What was eager anticipation of hearing new stories from missions teams, became sheer exhaustion from the effort it took emotionally to engage with my whole heart.  Relationships suffered, and so did we.

For the first time, our house in Indiana started looking really good, and everything in Jarabacoa felt really awful (probably more to me- Erin- than to Andrew).  I wanted to run back to “Egypt”.  To it’s familiarity, it’s predictability, it’s freaking English.  I missed carpet.  I missed air conditioning.  I missed the library, and Meijer, and good mexican food.  Creature comforts.  Predictability.  But God had us in the wilderness to teach us who He was, to run back would be to forsake all He wanted to do IN us, and somehow THROUGH us.

Here we are.  Year two.  He faithfully called us in 2016, and His call remains.  He has been faithful to keep us going, though many days on little sleep, and even less emotional gusto.  He has used these discouragements and wrestlings to remind us that His strength is made perfect in weakness.  He has shown us new angles of our selfish, arrogant hearts of stone.  With that, He has also shown us such depths of love, and patience.  His rod and staff, they comfort me.  He is day by day making us more into the image of His Son… and we wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Tomorrow morning, Andrew and I, along with a few other staff, are leading worship for the Easter service on campus.  One of my favorite songs, is “All I Have Is Christ”, and as we practiced tonight, I was amazed again at the beauty of verse 3.

“Now, Lord, I would be yours alone and live so all might see,

The strength to follow Your commands could never come from me.

O Father, use this ransomed life in any way you choose.

And let my song forever be, my only boast is You.

Hallelujah!  All I Have is Christ!  Hallelujah!  Jesus is my life!”

May year three be a year that we more brightly reflect His image!

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Clay Pots

Your support allows Andrew the ability to be down at the top of Goshen Mission House right now, leading his first board meeting.

It allows decisions to be made to make people’s every day life easier.

It allows us to have missions teams up to my house to play Codenames, and get to know each other.

It allows us to take our weary hearts to the chapel, and sing our hearts out with a group of teenagers leading worship during student devotions.

It allows my kids to do school at home, and be daily discipled, for better or worse, by me.

It allows Andrew the ability to hire new people to serve broken students.  To do consults with families and offer a glimpse of hope that they had long ago lost.

It allows us to go on coffee dates, and buy toilet paper.

It gives us the opportunity to have a house of students up to the house to make pizzas and have a night away from the group home.

It does so much.

But lately this has been what has stood out.  It gives me time.  To learn, and grow, and settle my heart on truth.

As I sit down to write, I have had to pause several times and just thank my Papa for so many things.  I don’t understand why he uses broken people, rebellious, stiff necked pharisees at heart, to accomplish His gospel work.  He’s doing things constantly here.  In the students.  In teams coming down.  In the staff.  In our kids.  But more specifically this last week, in Andrew and I.

At the end of January, inspired by a friend of mine who was faithfully reading through a 90-Day Bible reading plan, I decided to begin working through it as well.  It has been life-changing.  To have the full story of God’s work through the whole of Scriptures fresh in my mind has made them come alive.  The Old Testament breathing life and meaning into the new, and the New Testament bringing light to the Old.

I don’t bring this up, to gloat.  On the contrary, one of the things I am most thankful for is the fact that God has finally grown in me an appetite for His word, because I struggled for almost a decade to want to read (A decade I look back on now, with such regret!). That’s His work, not mine.  (If you are sitting in that spot, and just find scripture boring.  Pick a reading plan… any plan, and just start reading.  Not because you WANT to, because you NEED to.  Ask Him to catch your heart up to your faithful decision to obey.)

I bring this up, because in the last week I have been reading through the gospels.  To read all four gospels in the span of about a week has been incredible.  It has also been humbling.  Because we would all like to believe that if we had been able to physically walk with Jesus during his brief ministry on earth, we would have, of course, “gotten” it.   We would have condemned the Pharisees right along with Jesus.  We would have grieved over the folly of the rich young ruler.  We would of course, have been Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet.  We wouldn’t have denied him like Peter.  We certainly wouldn’t have corrected Jesus, when He said He was going to die.  No, we of course, want to believe that our voice wouldn’t have sounded like that of Bartimaeus the blind man.  We would have been the one leper who ran back to Jesus to say ‘THANK YOU!”.  We would have been the man who helped the poor Samaritan.  But here’s the deal.

I am the prodigal son, wallowing in pig poop.  I am doubting Thomas, wanting to believe, but holding back because I don’t want to be disappointed.  I am a Pharisee, wanting other people’s lives to fit my mold, but also embittered by the emptiness of morality.  I am Martha, busy doing, unwilling to sit and be still.  I am the rich young ruler, loving my stuff, and blind to what it is costing me.  I am Peter sinking in the waves because they look so big, and I can’t take my eyes off of them.  I am the woman caught in adultery covering my nakedness in shame before the embodiment of HOLINESS.  I am the woman at the well, living a life of sin that I don’t want anyone to know about, and being held hostage as a result.  I’m the woman that has been bleeding for twelve years, and has spent everything on doctors, and supplements hoping to be made well, but coming up short, still plagued by my sin.

We aren’t these pillars of faith that we want to believe we are.  We are deceived and helpless.  Thinking that we can satisfy our hearts on our terms.  We fail to see our desperate, moment by moment need for the Holy Spirit to embolden our faith.  To open our eyes.  To seal us in righteous standing.  To give us peace.  To fill us with all hope.  To teach us what love is.  To give us the confidence to do what we know we should do, when it makes no sense to our flesh, and earthly wisdom.  To transform us, day by day, into the image of the Son.

Something else.  Probably more relevant to where I was in my life, was that I didn’t relate, or think I would have “gotten” it.  I have felt significant amounts of inadequacy.  So this has been the powerful truth that has consumed me.

In the gospels, I am not Bartimaeus the blind man, I am Bartimaeus who has been given his sight.  I am prone to be drawn away by business like Martha, but I can also repent, and choose to sit and listen like Mary.  I might be the prodigal son, but I can run home to my Papa anytime, because Jesus has paved the way.  I might be the woman caught in adultery covering her nakedness in shame, but Jesus has clothed me with His righteousness.  I might be Peter sinking in the waves, but if I choose to trust, and fix my eyes every time those waves start looking ominous, I will trust him enough to die for His cause… upside down because I cannot be identified so closely with the sacrifice of my Lord.  I might be a woman who spent too many years looking for my healing elsewhere, but my story is that I have been healed by the only one who can heal.

Jesus takes us where we are, as we are.  Through His Spirit, and the sacrifice of Himself, He enters us into right relationship with the Father.  And with daily decisions to get to know Him.  With a commitment to read His words, and talk to Him even when we foolishly want to do anything but.  If we commit, repent, and pursue Him, He will grow in us a faith that we cannot contain.  We will be like Jeremiah, suffering greatly for the truth He is called to share, but unable to keep from speaking the truth because it is like a fire in His bones.

He did all of that.  He does all of that.  He is DOING all of that.  Day in, day out.  The cool thing is, during that process, while we are still in the midst of Him doing His work in us, we get to be a part of Him doing that work in others too.  It is too much!  My heart is just overwhelmed.  He lets us see His Spirit at work.  To discern spiritual things, that eyes not in tune with the Holy Spirit, cannot see.  I am not a worthy vessel.  Yet, he puts His power in clay pots, for His glory.  I am undone.

As you look towards the upcoming week of Easter, and you reflect on His life, death, and resurrection.  Remember, that it’s not just a story.  It is a daily, life-changing reality that requires you to die to yourself, but in turn it allows you, it sets you FREE to LIVE.  With purpose.  Passion.  Hope.  Peace. Joy.

In Indiana.  Pennsylvania.  Iowa.  Michigan.  The Dominican Republic.

Wherever you are.

His work is being done, and if you are willing, you can be a part.

 

 

February 17, 2019 Update

Funding Update

First things first.  We are fully funded for language school and then some!  Any remaining funding we have received has been set aside to cover our monthly expenses for 2019, so we are also fully funded for the remainder of this year through one-time gifts!  Meaning, we still need your monthly gifts, but the $200 per month we were UNDER Budget is now covered.  Any funding we receive, over and above our regular monthly giving, will be applied towards our flights to Guatemala, which will spare our flight credit from Crosswinds for a potential furlough towards the end of 2019.  We are so encouraged, and so thankful for God’s provision through you!  We have made arrangements with the school (Christian Spanish Academy) in Guatemala to begin classes on June 17th, and complete classes July 12th.

Personal Update:

January 23rd-27th, I was able to sneak away for a few days, and attend a biblical counseling conference.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect, as God usually does more to wreck me than He does as far as equipping… although, I will say that His best methods of equipping are those very experiences that wreck us.  This conference proved no different.  One of the richest blessings of that conference was the fact that three dear friends from Indiana hopped on a plane to attend a two day long conference with me.  Tears still come to my eyes as I consider the pure love, and intentionality of those women.  It was also an encouragement to have Alyssa, the campus pastor’s wife, with me.  Very early into their time on the campus, I felt very strongly that I was supposed to attend this conference and I threw out an invite to Alyssa to tag along.  The free-spirited soul that she is took me up on it almost immediately, because she had also felt that she needed a similar conference.  I barely knew her at the time, but since then our relationship grew and I was so thankful to have her with me for that week.  We both walked away incredibly encouraged.  I also felt like God gave me a much needed kick in the pants to stop feeling sorry for myself, and get my hiney back to work.  There’s always so many layers to every experience with the Lord, but He reset my heart in some very specific ways.

Upon arriving back at CMA He has let up on the correction a bit, and has given so much rich encouragement.  I am so thankful He allows us to struggle so specifically and doesn’t just alleviate our discomfort.  We need His discipline.  We need discomfort to grow!  In the last year, He has been so intense, but also so very tender with me.  He needed to weed out a lot of junk.  Finally, I feel like he has finally set me in an open place (2 Samuel 22:20).  I am confident many things lie ahead, but the Shepherd is nearer, and sweeter than ever before.  So my encouragement to you, if you are in the middle of that intense weeding process, no matter what that looks like, stick with Him.  Keep praying for spiritual eyes to see through the flying dirt.  He does beautiful things, and who are we, as the lump of clay, to question his methods?  He knows what He is doing.  Be patient.  Trust Him.  He loves you, He delights in you, and your ultimate good motivates everything He allows you to experience.

Also, the growth in Andrew.  I told you that I was sick and tired of feeling like I had to cover because of “leadership”.  I understand the whole wisdom thing, but I also understand the benefit of a leader who is willing to be vulnerable.  My husband is a great example of this.  He led music this morning, and as he prayed before our practice this morning, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the growth I have seen in him.  He prays real prayers.  He patiently deals with an unending number of difficult situations with boldness.  He tenderly loves me and his kids.  He leads the ministry with vulnerability ,and probably over shares, but the amount of transparency he has in his interactions is amazing to me.  As we were wrapping up lunch today, he was wiping down tables, and washing dishes quietly, off by himself.  He didn’t call attention to it, it’s just who he is.  I’m so grateful.

Ministry Update: 

Ok, now, I’ll move on from personal stuff to CMA Stuff. 🙂  God is doing so much.   So, so much.  The staff have pushed through the funk we were all sitting in.  There is more passion in our prayers.  More intentional time spent in prayer.  There are still struggles, and I beg that you pray on our behalf, for growth, for discernment, and for encouragement, but God is so clearly working.

There is growth in the students.  Several students are asking good spiritual questions.  Baby Christians are being discipled.  God is doing good things.  Recently, a student who has been especially difficult expressed, “I have never felt safe before.  I feel safe here.”  Baby steps.

We had our first missions team of 2019.  What an encouragement they were.  We were sad to see them load into the van to go back to the airport, because some of them had grown near to my kids, and to us.

Our second team is here, and they are doing so much good on this campus.  With such tender hearts of service to the Lord.

Today, we had our first “family Sunday”, well technically, our second, but this one was so rich.  No preaching, just prayer, singing, and communion, and it was rich.  As I listened to the prayers around me there were Spanish and English prayers inter-mingled.  Genuine tears, and even the students shared openly where they were as far as prayer is concerned, but offered what they had from where they sit with the Lord.  It was beautiful.  Then we enjoyed fellowship over lunch.  Our little CMA Church is growing, and some Sunday’s, bursting at the seams.  Our unity under the gospel of Jesus Christ, in many different ministries in the surrounding communities is beautiful.

Our hearts are full, and we are just in awe of what the Holy Spirit is doing with His church here.

Highs and Lows:

Andrew

High – The landscaping in lower campus is finally making rapid progress thanks to the current missions team!  It’s nice when your vision comes to fruition… and it looks good! 🙂

Low – My wife makes cookies, and so I get excited, and then informs me that they are for our kids snacks during the week.  What is this non-sense?

Erin

High – I was able to buy all of the kids homeschool curriculum for the coming school year for half of what I usually pay using various buy sell trade pages, and ebay.

Low – There is an obnoxious, potentially demon-possessed cat that wanders up to our house at night, and loudly announces it’s presence wherever it goes.  It’s making sleep difficult, and my only way to scare it off is shooting it with an airsoft gun.  I wish I had something bigger.

Malachi

High – I finally caught Gerard (one of our cats who is not a big fan of the children), and he let me snuggle with him.

Low – I dropped my toy frog in the toilet when I was helping Naomi go potty.

Levi

High – Pizza Pep has a new playground (one of the restaurants in town) and we got to go there this week!

Low – I had to clean my room last night and it took forever.

Selah

High – I got a new notebook to draw in!

Low – I painted Pedo’s nose (the cat), but then I couldn’t get the paint off and so I got in trouble.  I was trying to make him beautiful.

Naomi

High – Cookies.

Low – When Mommy doesn’t let me play “Bimble” (Kindle).

Prayer Requests:

Please, pray for the water situation on campus.  The property next to us is where our cisterns are.  Recently the land transitioned ownership, and the current owner is pretty hostile towards us.  We have legal rights to the water, but because of his hostility we are seeking other options for water sourcing.

Pray for continued growth on campus spiritually.

Pray for us to find the right renters for our home in Warsaw.  We have had a lot of interest, but haven’t found the right person just yet.  We are hoping to have it rented by March 1st.