Sunday, June 29, 2014

Finishing the Race

Have you ever been in a place where God was telling you the same message through many sources? There has been a theme that God has brought to my mind these past few weeks. “Finish Strong.” From the teenager at football telling me to run through the pass, even if I miss it (or the tackle), to David telling the Mustangs to fight strong next season, even to the very end, to the feeling that my time in Portugal is almost complete; God has been sending me a resounding message to Finish Strong.

At the time, I did not realize that my time in Portugal was not only coming to a close, but it was coming to a close at a very rapid rate. Our plan was to spend two years, including training, as missionaries. Our return date was all set: October 14. We had begun to speak with travel agents about return tickets. Then, last Thursday, we spoke with David’s friend about a possibility of coming to coach (American) football in the fall at a high school. Before we knew it, we had two job offers that both started in August! A week after we asked our friend about a job, we resigned from our current job and signed the contract to work at a high school in Oklahoma. (Ok, David will work in the high school as a math teacher and coach, and I will be a stay at home mom.)

We really prayed hard about this decision, and feel like this is a major gift from God. A lot of our ministries were coming to a close here in Portugal, and we really feel like this is the path God wants us to take.

We are sad to leave so many friends who are here, and we will always treasure Portugal. We have so many memories here: Gideon’s first steps and first words, David’s last hoorah at football, and the birth of Ruth, just to name a few.

We still have another four weeks or so before we move to Oklahoma, which will be filled with packing and cleaning and saying goodbye. Pray for us that we will finish our time in Portugal strong, and that we have impacted the Portuguese people for the Kingdom in some way. (Also, please be in prayer for Ruth’s passport to come in on time.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Embracing the Weird

It is a little weird living in a different culture.  Okay, it is a lot of weird.  And since I am already quirky, I might as well be considered in a state of weird on steroids.  The past year and a half has been a time to put a magnifying glass on myself, or more appropriately, God showing me myself at a magnified level.  Yes! Sometimes I feel like an ant under the burning rays of God’s magnifying glass.  Really, the Lord is using these weird circumstances to stir my thoughts.

Danielle and I write these blogs to update people on our service. I think one way to update you is to explain some of thoughts God has presented to us.  Put in weird circumstances, I cannot help but to resort to thinking.  It’s against my better judgment, and against the recommendation of my close friends, but I still resort to thinking.  Recently I wonder why we do things certain ways in the church building.  This thought coincides with the ways we, as church members, go about teaching the next generation of believers…

What is the point of attending Sunday Church?

I can see heads literally convulsing and steam spewing forth from ears as theologians and traditional pew warmers go into a mental meltdown over that question.  I know meeting with believers is important (Hebrews 10:25).  Jesus had a custom of entering synagogues (Luke 4:16).  So for us to neglect meeting with believers would be a dangerous disregard of biblical teachings and Christ’s own example.  However, what is our purpose for Church on Sundays, or whenever we meet in the church building?

Isn’t it suppose to be for worship of God? So……  It’s not to impress the congregation?  It’s not to be entertained by the preacher?  It’s not to be entertained as the worship leader “wrecks shop” with the latest rendition of contemporary music (or if that’s not your thing, “make the pews shake” with an organ presentation of traditional hymn #14)? We know better than this.  But what I observe is sometimes we meet on Sundays forgetting it is primarily for worship.

Here is my biggest worry.  If we meet to worship, why do we treat it as the only day of the week that we come to learn about God?  What?! That’s what the preacher is suppose to do - teach, and for those who get up early, the Sunday school teacher, too ---- HELLO!  What do we then do with with Matthew 28:18-20? Were we not all charged with making disciples and teaching them? The thought that has been stewing while I have been in Portugal is ‘We use Sunday worship as a crutch to not accomplish what we were called to do’…  The preacher teaches on Sunday (probably a lot of other days, we just aren’t always aware). When do we teach? And when we teach, what is the expectation of our teaching? >>> I think 2nd Timothy 2:2 is our expectation. Teach in such a way that the novice believer can eventually be able to instruct novice believers.

I did things at the church every week.  I did good, right?

We invite people to church > Check. 
We attend the pot-luck dinner > Check.
We involve ourselves in Wednesday night youth groups, prayer meetings, and you better believe we are there to discuss the budget >>> Check, Check, Check…
Why don’t we focus our efforts on going into the community, not just bringing people to church? In all seriousness, why should our biggest victory be when we bring someone to church? When we get them there, we settle for tagging in the pastor to come off the top turn-buckle with a Spiritual Elbow Drop that wins the person to Christ? Is that our end goal? To fill up the church building?

Can we not reach people by going outside the church walls?

Why not join a softball team in order to share Christ? (Church league softball shouldn’t count Smile with tongue outfor this thought.) Join a book club to have conversations that lead to spiritual conversations where you share your testimony. How about joining a knitting, pottery, or cooking class? Surely someone has a fantasy league to join.
You might ask, “WHERE IS THE TIME FOR ALL THIS?!!!” I agree with this thought completely.  You don’t have to join umpteen things.  Find something you are interested in doing, and do it to make disciples for Christ. And then? Don’t rely on just Sunday church to disciple the new believer.  YOU start teaching him or her in a Bible study.  Crazy talk, I know. Disagree?  I challenge people to look at thriving cultures of Christianity and stagnant, dying cultures of Christianity.  I would surmise a correlation can be found between thriving churches and members of congregations actually taking up the mandate of Jesus to teach.

Why shouldn’t we start with a focus on helping the poor, prayer, and stewardship?

If we teach the next generation of believers correctly, then these acts will be natural to a believer.  If a person needs to understand the gravity of prayer, then take them through the book of Matthew and note how much Jesus prays. Confused about how to talk to God in prayer? Study through the Psalms. The same can be done for any other spiritual endeavor or good work. Do not just stop at teaching Scripture. We need to model these acts as we teach (also knows as teaching the way Jesus did, Matthew 4:19). Then we will not just be teaching a moralistic thought process, but we will actually be training for every good work. That sounds pretty profound.  It should; it is from the Bible (2nd Timothy 3:16-17).


So, you can probably come across similar thoughts in a book by Platt, Piper or Paige Patterson. No doubt they will articulate them more profoundly. But in my state of weird, I am left to resort to observing and reading my Bible in Portuguese. It just seems the Bible puts a profound emphasis on teaching and modeling.  It might sound weird to someone who has never tried it, but I think a little weird is okay.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

I Have the Right! Period?

I have the right to honk at people, don’t do stupid things.  I have the right to complain about the waitress and not tip her, she did a lousy job.  I have a right to let the football official know he is incompetent, dude is not fit to ref a little league football game. It’s my right!  I have the right to tell my co-worker her decisions are idiotic, they are.  I have the right to be curt with that old guy, life slows down for nobody pal.  I have the right to slam that guy’s views on Facebook, don’t won’t to be criticized, don’t post that garbage about government – matter of fact, just don’t post anything.

I have the right to get mad when I was the first at the bus stop, and four people cut in front of us and packed the bus to the extent that Danielle, Gideon, and I couldn’t get on it.  We had to wait another 20 minutes for the next bus, ghhh the humanity Steaming mad.  

I DID have these rights to express my opinions, unfiltered if need be. Then I made the decision to deny myself, pick up my cross daily, and follow Jesus.  The funny thing is, that if anybody professes to be a Christian, follow Jesus, have a relationship with Him, be saved, be a new creation, or to be Reborn, then he or she is stating to have made the same decision as me (at least by Jesus’ expectations in Luke 9:23).

The Lord is teaching me more lessons in Portugal then I care to admit. The glaring lesson is that my identity with Christ causes me to forfeit many of my self-entitlement claims.  When Paul mentions our ‘large cloud of witnesses,’ the guy is not kidding.  This is what I have observed. I become frustrated and react negatively at someone for trying to take advantage of some ‘right,’ and my reaction affects a relationship. It can be the relationship with that particular person, or someone who observes the interaction.  Either way, my ‘right’ puts the focus on me and not furthering God’s Kingdom. 

Let me give an example I see on FB. Let’s get into your wheelhouses Smile. I know people have a right to express their opinions on political issues.  The problem I observe is that many professing Christians become contradictions of Jesus’ mission when they indulge in their rights. Sometimes we get so upset, that we express disgust at another side’s idiocy; and we forget that the main goal as Christians is to win people to Christ, not to decimate the other’s argument on foreign policy.  Some Christians write some of the meanest posts. Why? Because we feel entitled to our opinion.  We have always been told we have the right… Other times, Christians become so passionate in their responses on issues like gay rights or abortion, that we don’t respond in love and gentleness. I have no problem with a person speaking truth.  Matter of fact, I appreciate it.  Jesus was full of truth as well, but also grace (John 1:14).  So Confused smile, when posting on FB, how do we justify looking past these words, “The Lord’s slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach,and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:24-25)?

Let me conclude with a struggle in my life with regards to forgoing rights.  I am very passionate when I play football. Sometimes, the referees in Portugal and I disagree about a call.  Sometimes, they are extremely incorrect in their understanding of the rules.  Sometimes, I feel the necessity to express my opinion on such errors (for the record, the dudes here have improved tremendously in just a year’s time. I really appreciate their growth and desire to get better).  It took a long time, and I still have the occasional moment, but I am learning to abandon my right to be upset with the refs.  It’s amazing how much my interaction with the refs and the other teams has improved since I resolved to deny myself on this issue. LOL, now I know I will be tested on this issue next game Sick smile.

CHALLENGE: Where is it that you need to focus more on denying your ‘rights’ so that you have opportunities to further God’s Kingdom?

  • See Danielle’s blogs for our prayer needs.  The Lord is starting to open doors that were previously closed. I am fired up to see what happens next, bwhahahahaha Shifty.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Raising Kids on a Football Field


This past weekend, our American football team hosted a camp with a group of American football coaches from Georgia. Jesus + Football + Southern accents = the perfect mission trip. During the camp, the coaches were able to share their faith through testimonies and devotionals in between drills and at the end of the day. They also hosted a Q&A Bible study, where two of the players were able to share their testimonies, and others were able to ask questions about the Bible and about Christianity.

This is our mission field. God has called us to Portugal to work along side an American football team to proclaim His name and to serve the team by teaching them about football and building relationships with them.  

As a mom of an active toddler, this can be difficult at times. Especially since my son is as passionate about football as the guys on the team…if not more so – it’s a challenge to keep him off the field! Add to that, the fact that I am extremely pregnant at this point (almost 8 months!), and it is getting difficult to chase him around and occasionally hold him so he won’t go play with the big boys. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Part of our ministry, as believers and as parents, is to show others how a family is supposed to function biblically. (Our first response to a non-believer’s question is always, “What does the Bible say about that?”) So, our kids play a major role in our ministry. We love doing things as a family, and that includes Gid and mommy going to daddy’s football games, practices, and camps. At DSCF4321this last camp, because of my size and diminished capacity for air and overall stamina, daddy took a larger role in watching Gideon. Mommy also learned to let go a little, and she let little man run free (within reason) among the guys.


They love Gideon. (What’s not to love?) Part of that is the Portuguese culture – they love kids. I think the second part is, he’s the coaches son. We practice with the team, go out to eat with the team, invite players over to our house, and really just try to be a part of their lives. Plus, he really likes football. And I am very grateful for them.

In American culture, so often parents are made to feel like kids should be hidden away and not involved in adult events. If you can’t get a baby sitter, you shouldn’t go. Kids are seen as a distraction and annoyance. Even in church. (Now, while I am a big fan of nurseries, and have worked in many Church nurseries and Sunday school classrooms, sometimes as a mother, you don’t feel comfortable leaving your kids with strangers. But that’s another topic.) All around the world, kids are seen as a part of life. This is something I’ve really had to adjust in my way of thinking. My current church does not have a nursery, so David and I take turns taking him out if he can’t sit still in church. Or, thankfully, we have a few women in our church who will watch him so we may enjoy the service together. I see these as mini dates. I love this part of the culture where random strangers will give your kid a banana on the bus so he won’t be fussy. Or a stranger will offer you a ride home so you don’t have to DSCF4304walk with your toddler in the rain. Or a big football player will make friends with your two year old and play with him during practice.  

As a mom, this can be difficult. As I said, this was the first time I did not hover and just let him roam during the camp. He didn’t get hurt. He didn’t get trampled. He didn’t get in anyone’s way. He got muddy. He made friends. He had a blast! Now, don’t get me wrong. This was not the first time to go to a camp or anything like that. Gideon has pretty much grown up on the football field. Last year, though, he couldn’t really walk, and was much easier to manage.

600526_10100396493725578_683877473_nAs you can see from this adorable picture taken last year.

Being a mom on the mission field, or anywhere for that matter, is tough. Juggling ministry with raising your kids is something that I struggle with daily. I sometimes envy moms in the states who have Mother’s Day Outs available and Bible studies with other moms and have grandparents nearby or friends who will watch your kids at the drop of a hat so you and hubby can go on a date. (If you have these luxuries, don’t take them for granted!) I have asked many moms on the mission field, “How do you do it? How do you raise your children while doing ministry full time?” The answer is always the same. “Only by the grace of God.” I am so thankful that my God loves children. I am also so thankful that He has called us to the mission field, and that that mission field (right now) involves football.

Would you pray for us in these areas:

- That we would raise our kids to know and love Jesus.

- That we would show others Jesus through not only our words, but through our family life and how we love each other.

- For the people of Portugal to hear the Word and trust in Jesus as their Savior.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Joys and Frustrations–The Rollercoaster of a First Year

Wow! It has already been a year since we arrived in Portugal! It really does not seem that long, yet, when I look at all we have done and all we have missed, it seems longer than a year!

We have said goodbye to family and friends. We have missed the births of a niece and a nephew, but facebooked stalked them both! We missed all the holidays this year with family, but were able to skype with everyone during them. Thankfully, there have not been any major illnesses in either of our families this year. We have really been blessed by that fact! But through all of this, as much as I’ve missed family and hated missing the major events, God has given me a peace that only He can give, and it has not been as difficult to be away as I thought it would be.

We would appreciate your prayers as we continue serving Him in Portugal.

- For our relationships with local churches and local believers. Pray that they will see the vision to reach the lost in their communities and start new churches and Bible studies.
- For the football team and our relationship with them.
- For our friendships with non-believers. Pray that God will use us as instruments in His salvific work in their lives.
- For our relationship with each other. Pray that God unites us as a family and brings us closer together as a unit.
- And most importantly, for our relationship with the Father. Pray that we keep seeking His after Him and draw closer to Him in everything we do.

God has taught us so much this first year. Not only have we learned (or attempted to learn) another language, we have learned another culture and way of life that has opened our eyes to our own ethnocentrisms and total American way of thinking. We all like to think that we are open minded and can adjust easily to other cultures, after all, America is the melting pot of cultures, right? That is really not the case. We are learning to view the world through the eyes of the Creator and His Word, and not through our own cultural ideals and norms.

We have also learned to rely on each other and draw closer to one another through all the frustrations and joys we experience. Quite often David and I experience culture shock – not being able to communicate effectively, not being able to quite fit in, just not enjoying being in an unfamiliar place… – and our first reaction is to lash out at each other. We find ourselves angry at each other for the silliest of reasons. I also feel myself growing angry and frustrated and totally lacking patience with my toddler (especially during this pregnancy). But, as we’ve been here longer and we’ve gotten more reliant on Jesus and more in depth in the Bible, we have learned that instead of lashing out at one another, we should be leaning on one another. So often overseas, the husband and wife team only has each other and their children. There are no other teammates near on whom they can rely. We are not in that situation, as we have teammates in the same city, and others who are not far away. But at the same time, even with others so close, sometimes you feel so alone. And your spouse is the only one who is there with you, experiencing the same situations at the same time as you. God has given us partners (those of us who are married) for life; I am David’s help-mate and he is my leader and often times my strength, reminding me that we rely on God when we are down and we praise Him through everything. That dynamic will never change, no matter what country we are in. But it has gotten stronger this past year as we’ve been through some pretty difficult times…in another country…away from family and friends.

The most important thing God has been teaching us through this year is to be totally reliant on Him. Let me be totally honest, this year has been the toughest year of my life. When God wants to mold you and shape you to be more like Him and to be totally reliant on Him, it hurts! I have never been as depressed as I have been this year. There were days, and even weeks, when I did not want to get out of bed each day. And only by His grace (and a very needy toddler) that I was able to get up. Some days (especially in the early stages of pregnancy when I was so very sick), I went from bed to couch. But, it was movement. There were other days when I needed someone to help me out of the funk, and nobody, not even David, was there to do that. I learned that I had to totally rely on Jesus, and not my husband or anyone else, for comfort. I was so lonely throughout this year. And in that, He taught me reliance on Him.

God is definitely teaching us and molding us to be more like Him in all facets of our lives. And it’s not just frustrations or sadness over here. We have celebrated many firsts – a birthday, steps, words – and are now expecting a baby girl! (Only 16 weeks! And, yes, we are planning on giving birth in Portugal.) God has brought so many people in our lives that encourage and challenge us and who have befriended us through this process. We are very grateful for all God has done in our lives during this journey.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Season of Thanksgiving

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.  For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. Psalm 95:2-3

This Thanksgiving season is so easy to say things for which you are thankful. I mean, everyone is doing it. But what if you don’t have the food you are used to? What if your living situation is not what you are accustomed? What if you were separated from your family and friends, for whom everyone says they are thankful?

Would you still offer thanks to the Lord? Would you still have a thankful spirit?

(Some missionaries have shared their Thanksgivings overseas…)

Many times, it is so easy for me to focus on the negative aspects of my life. But, that is not what God has called us to do. In fact He calls us to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

I am truly thankful for those of you who pray for us and over us. This past year (man, have we been with the company for a whole year, already?!!) has not been very easy for us. We’ve said goodbye to family and friends and the lives that we’ve always known. We’ve lost a sister. We moved to a foreign land, and we are in the process of learning a foreign language and customs (I don’t think you fully ever learn either). We got pregnant again. And on and on. But the one thing we have always relied on, besides Jesus, is our family and friends who keep us in their prayers AND who specifically pray for us by name and pray for the ministry opportunities that we are a part.

SO, what are some of our ministry opportunities that you may be praying over?

- David is in Vila d’Este (a suburb of Gaia with over 17 thousand people!) He is helping with an English homework group two days per week. Pray that a church be planted in Vila d’Este!
- This week David and I (and Gideon) have gone with a lady from our church (a Brazilian missionary) to visit people in their homes. These people have shown interest in God or church or anything spiritual on this site. It has been an interesting experience that has definitely taken me out of my comfort zone!  Pray that we would be able to share the love of Jesus boldly with those who need Him.
- We have also been more active in church activities. Pray that the local church would see the vision for planting churches throughout Gaia.  
- And, as always, we love throwing parties and getting together with friends! Pray that we would be able to build Bible studies with those who attend.

God is doing some really amazing things in Portugal! Please be in prayer for us, as we try to lead people to HIM. And let us know when you pray for us! That is really what has been keeping us going this year. Smile

If you need more ways to pray for us, or for any missionary, this website lists ten things to pray for missionaries. It is pretty accurate, too.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Doing Work, Work for the Lord


This past Sunday I was able to give a sermon over The Great Commission, Matthew 28:16-20.  I have now talked people to sleep in 3 languages (English, Spanish, and now Portuguese).  Seriously.  The worst part about that truth is the first person to ever fall asleep in my sermons was my brother, Confused smile.  LOL, They say family will let you know the truth.  However, I hope the Lord will bless the purpose of the sermon.  I tried to focus on application regarding the process of Going and Making Disciples.  If you could see all these apartment buildings, how they roll across the hills in waves that are unending, then you might have the daunting feeling ‘how can I reach all these Portuguese.’  The truth is I can’t.  However, I am not going to throw Jesus in a box and say He can’t.  So my hope in the sermon was the listeners would get the church planting mojo.  Having a 100 national-born missionaries going around Vila Nova de Gaia and trying to plant churches is my vision. 

Dream big people, pray bigger than my dreamsIn love

LOL, I know some people want to read this blog and see all the wonderful results we are having in spreading the gospel.  You want to hear about long lines of people heading into the water for baptisms.  You want to use a calculator to decipher all the spiritual numbers I am throwing on this blog. People, it’s not happening at this moment.  It’s a spiritual struggle.  That is why I am begging for prayer. 

So this blog is going to be short, and I think it’s pretty simple.  My holiday request from you is to pray specifically for Danielle’s and my ministries.  Pray that we can form more relationships.  Pray that the Lord will give the church in Gaia a unique heart to spread His message.  It can be discouraging to work for an entire year and not see much fruit from your labors.  A guy named William Carry was the first Baptist Missionary sent out.  He toiled for 7 years in India before someone believed the gospel.  I can’t imagine the difficulties that man must have endured, the loneliness, the frustrations.  I do know this, The Great Commission ends with a promise from Jesus. So however small my work might seem, however small the spiritual numbers I am able to present, I believe there is a purpose.  I hope you ladies and gentlemen will share with me in this work by praying.