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Proverbs 3:5

This is Nora writing today, and for those of you who don’t really know me, I am Jed’s teenage bride of one year! We have now been in Guatemala without a mission team, and I just wanted to share a little bit about this “nesting” stage.

On Saturday, as we returned from Guatemala City, I didn’t think I could be any happier to explore this new world I was going to live in. Four days later, I am bitterly homesick.

I miss my house, and I miss my church. I miss always being a part of every conversation. I miss being able to make biscuits in my cast iron. I miss having a toaster. I miss my couch, the one that sinks down and envelopes you when you sit in it. I miss knowing exactly where I fit and my role is. I miss my yogurt, granola, and chia for breakfast. I miss singing in church. I miss the sounds of crickets and frogs at night. I miss my clothes. I miss my tea kettle. I miss my electric stovetop that would heat up whenever I wanted it to.

My coffee never tastes like I want it to. Every morning, a gun goes off somewhere and reverberates through this valley and scares the living daylights out of me. Every. Time. I can hardly cook because everything is so different! I cannot think of a single one of my “usual” dinners that I could cook here; there are different foods, different spices, and different condiments. Jed makes me order my own McDonald’s, but how do you order a hamburger when you don’t know how to say, “No onions, no mayo, no cheese, and extra pickles please,”?

All of the things I did on a daily basis – crochet, watch Gilmore Girls, read, and bake goodies – are nonexistent. No more random moments of, “How about I make some rosemary shortbread with that Vietnamese cinnamon?” No longer can I run to Hobby Lobby when an artsy whim overtakes me. I can’t sit on my grandpa’s porch and drink coffee even though it’s two o’clock in July. No more crawfish boils, no more swim parties. No more rifle range with my dad. No more Tuesday nights with my house full of guys – all of who would call out, “Hey babe!” just to annoy me. No more movies in English. No more . . . anything.

And it just seems like I don’t fit here. Jed just clicks with everyone he sees – of course! He can speak Spanish! He can communicate, talk, and really get to know people, where as I can say hello, hug, and tell everyone I will see them later. It’s too difficult being in a place where I can’t just hug my best friend all the time, where I can’t find Italian Sweet Cream for my coffee. It’s tiring not being able to go anywhere or do anything because I can’t drive a standard, and I have no idea which road takes me to the mall.

But my God is a great God. I may not speak Spanish, but I know other languages: languages of the heart and soul and angels that can reach much farther than my feeble words can ever reach. I know how to love people, and I am doing it as best as I can. I have been playing a lot of volleyball with athletic Latins who are still cheering me on when I can’t get the ball over the net. I visited one of the staff members who speaks English, and although our conversation was not long or deep, the fact that I came and knocked on her door to see her brought tears to her eyes. I have accepted every invitation to dinner, and I have hugged the neck and kissed the cheek of every Don and Doña that I do not know.

The simple fact of the matter is this: being in such a place of vulnerability makes more room for God to move. To do great things. It gives all the glory to Him, for my human attempts are surely failing me. I am having to learn how to trust more in my God, leaning not on my knowledge or understanding or abilities. I am having to get rid of Nora so that God can move in. And isn’t that what this life is all about?

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Getting Settled

The fair is in town! So San Cristobal and the surrounding towns are basically shut down. This means that this week is going to be a slow, relaxing week for us at the ministry. It will be a time to recoup after seven weeks of hard, constant work with teams coming in week after week. Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE the teams that come! They are some of the best weeks of the years for us; but it is tiring, so a week off is just what we need.

Nora and I are taking advantage of this and settling ourselves in to our new home. Saturday night after church, the people we will be working closest with threw us a welcome party and placed us in our new house. They also celebrated my birthday with a delicious cake, black beans, guacamole, red sauce, chips, and some Coke. Then, Sunday morning Profe Willy and his wife, Seño Ilcy, took us shopping to get the basic necessities: eggs, milk, beans, tortilla mix, plantains, some chips, drinks, shampoo, etc.

The last few days have been humbling for me, to say the least. As the man of my home and being the one that has lived here before, I’d like to say I know what I am doing, but the truth is that I feel as helpless and clueless as a baby.

Nora has many questions, and I have to answer with “I don’t know” or “I am not sure, we should ask.” For a guy that likes to think he can lead his family and have answers for his wife, God is doing a work in my heart showing me just how much I don’t know and how much I need Him.

Cory Walker put it great in his message a few Wednesday nights ago. Right now I feel like that crippled man sitting at the gate to the Temple struggling with being defined as a cripple. But I look at God and remember that He is my healer, and that on His time I will be running, leaping, and praising God here at the Inn.

Thank you for your support, words of encouragement, and prayers. I may say this too much, but the truth is we give thanks to God every day for everyone that has helped us thus far. No sum of money or gift has been too small; no words of encouragement have gone unnoticed; and no prayers, though we may not hear them or know about them, have gone up to heaven without gratefulness and expectancy on our side. Thank you again for everything!

Mission Trip – Day 5

I am sorry that I am a day late on posting, but yesterday was a full day. We started yesterday morning off with some hard labor!

We were split up into three groups:

1. Group one was working on finishing the bleachers by the basketball/soccer court. This means they have been moving dirt to make uneven ground flat, cutting and tying rebar, sifting gravel to make cement, and carrying hundred pound bags of cement one-hundred feet across the campus.

2. Group two was at the top of a small, but extremely steep, hill building an arts and crafts building for the school. We teach the guys how to do woodwork and the like, so we are trying to build them a place where they can work indoors, no matter the weather.

3. Group three was building a wall, but it’s not an ordinary wall! This wall is being pieced together. Last year, the team busted up a concrete road that was old, and every piece that came out of the ground was carried up the mountain in a metal wheelbarrow – which is a character building job, to say the least. So this year, we are taking that same rubble and carrying it down the mountain in order to build a wall. Some of you are thinking, “I really wish I could be doing that!” I am thinking, “I would gladly let you! It would actually be a pleasure to let you wheelbarrow the rubble, sift gravel, and mix concrete!”

IMG_4532.2015-07-14_210358Anyway, we worked all morning and got a lot done! Around noon, we had lunch and some time to rest, and after that we went to an all-girls public school.

A mistake we, as humans, often make is that we think that if we are not accomplishing something tangible, then what we are doing is not worth the effort. But yesterday when we were at the public school, the kingdom of God was advanced! We weren’t building anything where we could see immediate results – well, we did make bracelets with the kids –  but there wasn’t a wall to be built or tore down; there wasn’t a class room needing to be repainted, but there were little girls that needed to be loved on.

They were about 300 third through sixth grade girls there yesterday, and the sad truth is that a lot of them have never heard their dad say, “I love you.” Many of them probably can’t grasp the idea of affection. Amongst them there are the girls that have been or will be raped, the girls that think they are ugly and worthless, and the girls whose fathers don’t make it home many nights because they are passed out drunk on some street corner.

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McGregor and the little girl

My heart broke as I watched a little girl cling to McGregor Townsend as we were leaving, and all because he took the time to sit awkwardly next to her. Because he stepped out of his comfort zone and asked her to throw a frisbee with her.

There was more done for God’s kingdom in two hours with some girls than there is in building a wall for six hours. We will be known as followers of Christ by our love toward one another, and the cool thing about love is that it does not require words; therefore, it completely breaks down language and cultural barriers.

Later, we all washed up and sat down to read our encouragement cards. We cried, we laughed, and we worshiped our God. That continued through the night as we fellowshipped in song and food with the Inn Staff. Ingrid Bol shared part of her testimony with us, and maybe I’ll write a separate blog post just about her. There is just so much to write about!

Thank you guys for sharing these posts and for taking the time to read them. I only hope that you can feel a little of what God is doing! Again thank you for all your support!

Missions Trip – Day 4

So by now I hope you have noticed that we are spending a lot of time with kids. Today we toured the property and halfway through, we spent a few hours playing with the students. But first let me tell you what happened to Douglas Ganey.

We were playing soccer yesterday morning with the neighborhood kids on a concrete court when Doug missed the soccer ball and hit the ground! By hit the ground, I mean the shoe and sock now have a gaping hole, and his toe is a nice, deep purple. We dug a hole in his toenail with a knife last night to help relieve some of the pressure, and this morning it was feeling better.

So now that you know what happened, know this: Doug is a trooper! We were out playing with the kids and he told me, “I need to find kids that don’t play soccer.” I laughed because its Guatemala, and everyone plays soccer! So, he went to playing. He was running, kicking the balls, and worst of all, the kids were stepping on his beat up toe! He hasn’t complained one time and remains his good old, fun self.

The whole group has been that way though. Not once have I heard anyone complaining, despite the fact that we are tired, sore, and sun burnt.

After our tour and fun time with the kids, we ate some lunch and then headed out to do some work. We mixed up some cement, started on a wall, cleaned out an area so that we could work, and prepared rebar frames so that we can finish some bleachers tomorrow morning. Hopefully, I will have pictures tomorrow of our work!

Right now the team is scattered around town eating in different homes of different people from our church, school, and staff. When they get back they will have stories of how translation went wrong, the different foods they ate, and how God touched them. Tonight is often the highlight of the week for so many because of the relationships that are made.

We can never forget that God is a God of relationship. He created to need relationships with others and especially with Him.

Hope you have enjoyed the update. Thank you so much for your prayers. They have kept us in good health, bonded us together, and brought us much life.

Mission Trip – Day 3

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The Skit

Another day in paradise! Today we were blessed with cool 80 degree weather and sunshine. It is rainy season so the fact that we haven’t felt a drop of rain today has been impressive.

We have been going non-stop all day. Breakfast was relaxing, but then we had about 50 kids from the area come to the Inn. In the Latin culture, people are always 30 minutes late to everything, so we spent the first little bit playing with the early kids while waiting on the stragglers to come in. Then Mrs. Flo, Kristian, Gracie, and Brooke did a skit for the kids. It was a simple and funny depiction of how our lives can be emotionally crazy, but there is alway the “director of our lives” just like there was a director in the skit. The kids laughed and had a grand time. Then Brooke got up and shared with them how God’s Word has helped her through life, and she did a fantastic job!

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Pato. Pato. Ganso. = Duck. Duck. Goose.

After the skit, we played a few games of soccer, threw a frisbee, and colored with the kids. It was a really a great time with the children from our neighborhood.

For lunch we had Caldo. It is a soup they make here for special occasions, and it consists of a red broth, rice, tamales, and some chicken . . . it really is quite amazing!

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Our hike!

After lunch we had an amazing idea – we walked up a mountain. This wouldn’t have been that bad of an idea, only we had just got done running around for 2 hours with a bunch of kids, ate lunch, and we were planning on playing games with the staff this afternoon. Needless to say, as I write this I am falling asleep of pure exhaustion and it is barely 5:30. But, the view from the top of the mountain was pretty nice!

We are now preparing to eat dinner and hopefully read encouragement cards. Encouragement cards are usually the highlight of the week. Throughout the week, we take time to write little notes to each other that say how they saw Christ in them. It begins as a short, “Your laughter is contagious. Thank you for sharing it with the team.” As the week progresses, it becomes more in depth and more personal; anything from watching someone struggle and push through to a Christ-like spirit that someone notices. These notes start off simply an evolve into sincere perceptions of our characters and attitudes and actions. They build us all up in so many ways.

Everyone on the team is still healthy. Mrs. Flo had a bad headache, and there were a few minor bruises, sunburns, tummy aches, and sunburns. But all in all, we are being blessed by God that no one is dangerously sick. Thank you for your prayers, and I look forward to keeping everyone up to date on our daily lives here at the Inn!

 

 

 

Mission Trip – Day 2

So day one has its own stories, most of which involve flying, hunting for food, a five hour layover, and finally arriving at our destination around midnight.

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Here we are at Pollo Campero for Lunch

Today, well its been a little more adventurous. A lot of the time was spent on two busses trying to get to Inn Ministries, but adventures happen everywhere. There was nothing too crazy that happened until we got about an hour and a half from the Inn . . . at th
is point some says, “I really need to use the bathroom.”

Now you have to understand, there really isn’t anywhere to stop at this point and we need to get to the Inn ASAP because there is a church service that starts within the hour of our arrival.

IMG_4416So after about twenty minutes the plea for a bathroom goesfrom nonchalant to a little less than a fervent pl
ea. By this time all of us are laughing, making jokes, and making water sounds which did not help the situatin. Another twenty minutes go by and he is begging the driver to stop and his response is, “Estamos a veinte minutos de la casa.” Which means we are only twenty more minutes from the house . . . Needles to say we all erupted laughing!! The laughing and the bumps in the road did not help the pee situation, but he made it and his bladder is still in one piece.

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We had incredible worship tonight! It always is neat to see how though we don’t speak the same language we serve the same God!

We are all safe at Inn Ministries! Mrs. Flo and Mrs. Ginger shared tonight in the service and they rocked it!!

Mrs. Flo shared on us being like sponges and if we let the Holy Spirit pour over us and we sack up the Bible, when hard times come and we are squeezed we will pour out God on those we come in contact with every day. Mrs. Ginger painted a wonderful depiction of what Mrs. Flo spoke on. They made a great team!

Thank you for all of your prayers and encouragement!

 

Mission Trip 2015

I love short-term missions! I really do. This year we have a great group going! There will be about 19 of us going this year, and many of them are returning for their second and third times; one of our veterans has been making the trip to San Cristobal each year for the past eight years.

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Our first car-wash fundraiser!

I have the honor of taking a team each year to Inn Ministries from Family Church, and every time we return, the team members come back transformed. Even the ones that have gone on this same trip seven times. They return with a greater picture of God, a freshness of peace and joy, and with new-found brothers in the faith.

Our shirts this year say, “I Need Guatemala More Than Guatemala Needs Me.” The reason for this is because every time I have talked to people who have done short-term missions, they all eventually say the same thing: “I was going to serve and save people, but I didn’t realize how much I needed them. Those people will never know how much they ministered to me.”

This year’s trip is right around the corner. We leave July 10, going from a predicted hot and sweaty 98 degrees in West Monroe to a nice, cool 77 degrees in Guatemala City.

I ask you to please keep this team in your prayers. As we encounter God, it can become an exhausting experience, while at the same time renewing. So please pray:

  • IMG_4292For health in our bodies.
  • For us to encounter God like we never have before.
  • For us to be servant leaders to one another and the community we are going to serve.
  •  Most importantly, that we love “not in word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” 1 John 3:18.

Thank you to everyone for your encouragement, your support, and your prayers leading up to this trip. May God’s grace and mercy be with you!

 

“What will y’all do?”

I have been asked some pretty good questions and they merit answers. Some of those questions are:

  • “What exactly will y’all be doing in Guatemala?”
  • “Where will y’all stay?”
  • “What if the money doesn’t come in? Will you still go?”

So, I will do my best to answer those questions:

Please don’t take offense to this, but the truth is we are not one-hundred percent sure we know what we will be doing; however, we do know we are going to the Inn to win the heart of the ministry. This does not mean we will be running the ministry – praise God – but we will be learning the ministry.

We will be learning the ministry through different ways:

  • We will sit in meetings to see how they make decisions and learn why they make those decisions.
  • We will be learning how the finances work, where money comes from, and where it is going.
  • We will be learning about the school. What kind of heart do the teachers have? What do they do in their personal lives to be certain they are setting righteous examples for their students?
  • For Nora she will be learning a new culture; for me, I will be re-learning the culture. But for both of us, we will be adapting our lives to a new world.
  • Nora will be learning how to shop in an open market, cook from scratch, and speak a whole new language.
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This is the property. The blue roof is the main house. We will be staying up the hill to the left (our house is not in this picture).

We will be staying on the Inn property right up the hill from the main house. It is the house of my childhood best friend so there are many memories that live in that home . . . Like the time my friend had just had a heart operation, and we lay in his bed and watched Walker Texas Ranger for hours. Or when we were shooting air-soft guns at each other, and I ended up shooting my brother in the eye. There are good memories in that house, and I can say, with much joy, that it will be an honor to dwell in it!

Now to answer the tougher question, “What if the money doesn’t come in? Will you still go?” The answer is tough, because as I write this my stomach is knotting up at the possibility of not being able to support my wife. It is a burden that all of us men carry even when we don’t want to, but for me it is more real today than it ever has been.

God makes many promises to us, and they are all contingent on our obedience to Him. I believe God told us to go to Guatemala, and so we are going. If we didn’t go, we would be in disobedience, and I for one don’t want to be where God was – I want to be where He is. He says in Matthew that if we seek His kingdom above all else, He will be faithful to give us what we need. In our fight to seek first His Kingdom, I am doing my very best to become okay with the difference between what I think we need and what He knows we need.

So if the money doesn’t come, I still believe God is in control, and we are still going. I just pray that our hearts remain like my sister Kimmy’s did in the face of the death of her husband Ryan: “God, you are sovereign.” I pray we don’t ask God “Why?” through this chapter of our lives, but instead ask Him “What are you accomplishing?” The future is scary, and our boat is rocking, but we serve the one that commands the waves, so we keep our focus on Him.

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YOU CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH, AND STILL YOU KNOW MY NAME…

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“I Don’t Want To Go”

As the time for our departure to Inn Ministries draws near, the feeling of “I am going to miss SO much” just gets stronger. Nora and I both knew the day would come when we would be called away from our home in West Monroe, but neither one of us anticipated the pain of uprooting and anxiety toward the unknown. Though we both know it is God who ordains our steps and believe it is He who is sending us we can’t help but say, “I don’t want to go.” The list of reasons for not wanting to, range from missing the cat and the house to missing friends and family and those fears are no longer monsters hiding in the closet.

ca728cd4e06d172efc19b4f4164fdb44We sat last night in our tiny living room on the big love seat and shared with one another our fears. Nora would say, “What if I clam up and hide in the house or can’t learn Spanish?” As tears rolled down her cheek, only to be made worse when our cat would sit in her lap. “What if it’s too much? What if I’m not as adventurous as I thought? What if you leave me behind, Jed? I mean, we won’t have anything of home…no pine trees in the morning, or frogs and crickets at night, or birds singing in the morning. I am scared, Jed. And you don’t act scared so I feel alone…” The truth is, we are in the same boat my fears just look a little different. I wonder if I am going to be able to pick up the language again, or maybe I’ll make a fool of my self. I wonder if I have enough faith to provide for my wife. I wonder if my dear friends will still be dear when we return, or will they have moved on? I wonder if…

After about an hour of us going back and forth and doing our best to encourage one another the conclusion was still – God said go. It was Jesus last command before He ascended and it was what God told me the morning of April 9th. So in obedience we trust our Father.

Though our fear is great, our fear of God is even greater and our faith is growing stronger. Isaiah 6:8 says, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” We believe God is still asking this question of His people, and we desire to answer it. We just never expected it to be so hard. But in the end our hearts cry out, “it will be my joy to say, Your will, Your way.” 


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