Wednesday, July 13, 2016

That Time We Moved to Mexico

I love to write. It’s something God has gifted me with and I love to use it to share what He’s doing in and through His Body in the jungle. I’m passionate about it.

But something I’ve noticed in this social-media-saturated culture is that people are overwhelmed by media. Pictures, articles, words. They are all over our phones, tablets, computers, billboards, TVs.

It’s numbing.

So in keeping with my desire to always be transparent, I’ll be honest and say I feel so often like my words are useless. Like I’m sharing my passions... with a wall. And that can be disheartening. We’ve spent nearly four years of our lives doing some crazy awesome things on this beautiful journey that God has led us on. We can hardly believe the things God is doing and I want to share those with everyone and yet... not many people care.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Some people care deeply. And there are a few people who have consistently written us and encouraged us over the last four years and several have been faithful to pray and give. And we are so thankful because at times their words and prayers have been what God has used to sustain us. 

Loneliness has been a companion these last four years. But God has been faithful to use that for His glory and our good. We’ve seen Him build up a community of people in the jungle, nearly all locals, that we now call family.

Unfortunately, we’ve had many share their opinions on our lives from afar. Most of whom have never actually visited the work that God is doing in the jungle. They don’t know the names of our Brothers and Sisters laboring and sacrificing there. They don’t write or pray or give. They don’t know us. But they comment nonetheless, making judgment calls from afar.

And that’s ok. I’ve been guilty of the same in other peoples’ lives.  It’s hard to understand something you haven’t experienced. I pray that they can see, but maybe that’s not what God has. That’s ok, too.

While I’m slowly but surely losing the desire to try to get everyone to understand something that I can’t fully grasp—the fact that God’s ways are not ours and often our plans fall flat as we follow His leading instead—I feel like I owe it to those who have been on this journey with us to tell the story of how God is moving us.

In September we are moving to Mexico.

Ok. So the reality is, it’s actually Laredo, Texas, which is on the border of Mexico ("I can see Mexico from my house!"). But if you’ve ever been there, you know that it’s a lot more like Mexico than the US of A! 

This may seem really sudden to some of you. And in some ways it is. In other ways, however, God has had this transition in the works for quite some time. The last time we had genuinely considered that God was leading us this way was in 2014. God had closed doors to aviation in Brazil. We still felt very strongly that our calling was to use aviation as a means of spreading the Gospel when God put an aviation job offer for Laredo, TX in front of us. We prayed. We fasted. We sought godly counsel. And we decided that was the direction God was leading us. It would allow us to fund Grace House as well as the other ministries much more efficiently. So, we pursued it wholeheartedly {is there any other way to do it?}. Heck, we had even told several supporters and supporting churches about it. Then God slammed that door closed through Mariclene’s inability to immigrate to the US.

We were thoroughly confused to say the absolute least.

But after a brief period of disappointment and feeling totally perplexed, we hoped right back in the saddle again and saw God do some incredible things. Grace House roots grew deeper along with the relationships He had given us in Benjamin. We moved across the border into Colombia where Richard began avidly working towards opening an air ambulance. We got to know amazing people in Leticia, where God gave us new relationships and lives to speak into as well as some of our now closest friends. It was also during that time that The Donut Company was born.

To be honest, we were feeling quite settled! We laughed about the time we thought we were moving back Stateside and we began to plan what life would look like spending the rest of it right there in Leticia. The Air Ambulance had the potential to fund all of the work, employ locals, help meet physical needs, and fulfill our calling to use aviation as a tool for the Gospel. Boom. The whole package.

Then January 2016 rolled around and God closed the door to the air ambulance. And what’s more, we had really worked ourselves out of a job. Grace House is growing and we have seen truly incredible spiritual growth among the community of believers in the small town of Benjamin. Marcos and Josi continue to rock it with the young men in their discipleship program and we simply help fund their efforts and provide encouragement and support the Javari Project. The Donut Company is growing and totally operated by locals. Of course we were heavily involved in the day to day, but we had to come to the realization that, while we could continue to work hard with our brothers and sisters, we still felt like a part of our calling was being neglected. And certainly not through lack of effort! God had divinely opened and closed doors, leading us on a crazy adventure that we never imagined.

So we just began praying. Would God have us move to another country for mission aviation? Would he reopen a door in this region? We just didn’t feel led a specific way.

Fast-forward to February when we get the news that Mariclene’s immigration was finally approved after two and a half years of waiting. We were stoked! We made plans to travel to the States for her citizenship interview and stay for about two months to raise more funds for the crazy awesome things God was doing. So much is happening and there are so many needs, that the primary need was funds.

So we came to the US and in the first week must have said to one another at least a dozen times, “I never want to live here again!” It’s just this massive reverse-culture shock. It’s hard to explain until you experience it, but it’s very real. We were still praying that God would lead us if He had a new direction for our family in aviation but we were also counting down the days to our return to Leticia {home}.

That’s when the e-mail came late one evening from the same friend from two years back, the first communication about a job since that time.

“Would you still be interested in a job in Laredo?”

I knew the look on Richard’s face when he showed me the e-mail. I immediately pushed it off and told him I had no desire to even discuss that. Absolutely not. No.

But the reality was I already knew in my heart that it was time. We had been in regular contact with our ministry partners in Benjamin and Leticia and they were doing great! Not to say they weren’t passing through trials. They were. Some pretty serious ones in fact. But they were thriving in the peace of God. They were growing, discipling, reaching out, going above and beyond, loving, giving, serving.

And they didn’t need us in the day to day. Honestly, it was a blow to realize that. Don’t get me wrong, I totally rejoiced in it, too!

That’s the point after all, right? To disciple others who disciple others and so on.

Our dreams have actually come true.

But these are my people. They have walked through the valleys of darkness and suffered with us. We’ve cried and laughed together for going on four years. I wanted to be there, enjoying the fruits of our labor. After so many years of loneliness and isolation, we finally have a community that is on fire!

And now, it is time to move on to the next location.

I’m not going to lie. I’ve fought God on this one. I’ve cried until my heart physically aches and there aren’t any more tears. This is all my kids have known. This is all we have worked for for the last seven years, to love and reach the lost in the Amazon region.

So what does this mean now? Why would He take us from the Jungle to the Desert?

Well, I can assure you it’s not because we are wishy-washy as some accuse. It’s not because we don’t know what we really want as others have said. In fact, we could technically be flying in Brazil OR Colombia right now had we been willing to compromise some really strong convictions (but that’s another story). It isn’t because we couldn’t handle it. (Although, I will say that NO ONE can handle it. Absolutely no one. Only Christ in us and in others can sustain in such a difficult place.) No, it’s none of those things.

The reality is, our calling is apostolic in nature. That means that by nature we equip and move on, much like Paul did. We’ve seen that has been the course that God has led us on our whole life. (If that confuses you, join the club. We are learning this role.)

We’ve spent the last few months “rearranging” a bit with the Amazon Network. We are learning our new role in the Body as advocate for the jungle and we are praying hard and looking with anticipation as to what God has for us in Laredo.

One of the most beautiful things about it is that by us coming off of support, those funds can now go directly to the work in the jungle. Grace House, The Donut Company, the Javari Project can now be funded more efficiently which means there is more opportunity for growth. We’ve already seen new outreaches being launched from the network and more Brothers and Sisters join our family--your family.

It’s incredible how God works in the most organic of ways when we truly allow His Spirit to guide.

We want it to be clear that we are not leaving the network or the work there. We will continue to visit frequently and we have daily communication. We are advocates for our Brothers and Sisters there and continue to fund-raise and raise awareness. But now the funds will be liberated and we can start again in Laredo, trusting the Holy Spirit to lead us as we seek to serve the least of these there.

Pray for us all as we make this transition. We sold everything before we moved nearly four years ago so it’s very much like starting over physically as well as mentally. It’s a strange thing to be back in the city you grew up in and yet feel like you know no one. You miss a lot in four years and reverse culture shock is a doozie.

If you have questions, feel free to ask us. We have always strived to be transparent so we welcome feedback and dialogue.


Thank you to all of you who are walking this journey with us. We greatly appreciate each of you and we look forward to the adventures ahead!


This is not the end of the book, just a new chapter... I hope you’ll continue reading.




A little recap of our life for the last four years....


16 comments:

  1. Bittersweet, friend. So grateful for you!

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    1. Bittersweet, indeed. Thanks for walking this journey with me!

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  2. Excited for you guys and this new phase the Lord has for you. My prayer is for you and your kids as you re adjust to life in the US... I know it's hard.

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    1. I know you personally understand this. Thanks for the prayers! It's much harder than I would've dreamed.

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  3. Excited for you guys and this new phase the Lord has for you. My prayer is for you and your kids as you re adjust to life in the US... I know it's hard.

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  4. WOW!!!! WOW! and WOW! God's ways are not our ways, are they? I am excited for you! But I totally understand the reverse culture thing; we've been back 18 months and I still feel it. My heart is still in two places. I miss so much about the DR, but we have no doubt that this is what God has planned for us now. It's strange when God plants something in your heart and you feel it's forever; then He says, "Nope, that was just to get you going. Now, this is the next step..." So glad to see you following HIM! We will be praying for you as you make some major changes and adjustments. (Wish you could totally ignore the naysayers; but sadly, they never seem to go away.)

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  5. Thank you, Anna!! You have been one of the few constant encouragers on this journey. Thank you for that. Your words have brought life many times!!

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    1. Thankful that the LORD has used me to be an encouragement. :)

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  6. God has led you guys on an incredible journey in your 30 years! I'm excited to see what he continues to do in your lives! Love you guys! Keep up the writing. You have a great gift!

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    1. Thanks, Rach! I'm grateful for the time we had working together. You've inspired me so much over the years!

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  7. Well said! Praying for you all in this next God adventure!

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  8. Praying for ya'll as you transition. Keep doing what you are doing...trusting God and leaving the consequences to Him.

    Kandi

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  9. Oh man, I can't believe I missed this post. Friends, dear friends. My heart goes out to you. God does work in crazy ways and it's difficult when He leads you down a path and then changes the trajectory. Kyle and I have been on this type of journey ourselves. The last 8 months and most recent 4 have been full of anxiety, depression, conflict, and tears. It's so hard to let go of a path that He led you on and then you cling to, not wanting to let go. But His new direction can't be ignored. I really understand this. I would really love to talk with you, Ashley. I would love to talk and pray for you because Kyle and I love you both and support you both. We want to be with you as much as we can, even if separated by distance. Please let me know when I can call you. Love, Steph

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  10. Well, maybe I missed it but after reading the post above I still have no idea what you guys will be doing in Laredo! Is this just a move back to the states with a job or is there a ministry involved? Sorry!
    Keith Wheatley

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  11. Mary Beth sent this on to me. You are a gifted writer, Ashley. The Lord be with both of you as you make another major transition. Sometimes I wish God would reveal the future, but generally looking back I'm glad He didn't! If your travels bring you through Waxhaw, stop in and stay with us.

    Jeff Johnson
    JAARS

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  12. When I originally commented I clicked the "Notify me when new comments are added" checkbox and
    now each time a comment is added I get four e-mails with the same comment.

    Is there any way you can remove me from that service? Cheers!

    ReplyDelete

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