Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pray We Won't Be Moved

We're all just tired today.

I'm up with the sunrise to feed a hungry baby girl for the second or third time since I fell into my light sleep last night around 11pm. I can't remember if it was two or three times that she woke me up, announcing her empty belly.

Now I sit here rocking her bouncy chair with my foot, the only thing that will keep her content for now, guzzling a latte before our biggest little wakes, full force and full of life. And while I prepare mentally for his energy level so early in the day, I say a quick, "Thank you, Jesus", under my breath because just three days ago he lay lethargic and weak, battling a virus that stole the few ounces of fat his active body had, leaving him looking so fragile. Breaks a Mama's heart to see her baby that way.

Just as our boy recovers, though, it's Daddy's turn to take a hit. And we pray for quick healing as he is preparing to leave for the Jungle in just six short days. And I try to carry his load, too, because he needs the rest more than me right now. We pray I don't get the virus before I'm alone with two kids while Richard is away.

And we go through the motions of the day to day.

And we're all tired. We feel it in our heavy eyelids and our tense shoulders. Little man expresses it in whining and discontentment. Baby girl just sleeps away during the day. Peaceful baby dreams.

Seems like each day we get disappointing and sometimes even tragic news. So our physical exhaustion is coupled with mental and emotional exhaustion and sometimes it feels like too much. And we try to count our many blessings and "overflow with thankfulness" (Colossians 2.7) and trust that He is good. But some days it's just hard. Some days we ask why we're here. Some days we wonder if just maybe we misunderstood His calling because this doesn't "look right"....

Today I cling to the verse that we've honed in on as our "life verse" because it's the only thing that makes sense right now.

"But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God." Acts 20.24

These days we make a conscious decision that these "things", they won't move us. 

The untimely death of friends and babies taken too soon. 
The long delays in visa progress and the discouraging outlook of aviation medicals.
The lack of friends and community to build us up and to pour in to. 
The long nights and early mornings with new baby and sick baby. 
The holidays away from those we've loved the longest.
The distance from where our heart is planted on the other side of this foreign country we now call home and no clue when we will be reunited. 
The frustrations of broken toilets and cars that won't start and ATMs denying cards and hot days with no wind to refresh and broken dishes and all those little things that add up to mountains if we don't keep our perspective in check. 

But we choose. We choose that none of these things will move us and we will not count our lives dear unto ourselves because this IS our calling and we ARE where He has us and it IS worth the hardships and the tired and the loneliness if we can finish our course with joy because the Gospel is worth that. 

And we know that the trials only serve to make us more like Him (James 1.2-3; 1 Peter 1.6-7, 4.12-13).

We ask for your prayers right now, because they're needed.

Pray for strength and rest. 
Pray for wisdom and faith.
Pray for peace and perspective. 

Pray we won't be moved.

Thank you, friends.

Some of the faces that motivate us to push through.

Monday, December 24, 2012

We Are Those People

It's 5:30am on Christmas Eve and I'm wide awake. Not because of the excitement of Christmas less than 24 hours away, but because of a quirky little girl who refuses to fall back asleep unless I'm actively bouncing her rocking chair with my foot. In fact, if it weren't for the calendar telling me today's date, I probably would have forgotten what tomorrow is. It just hasn't felt like Christmas this year.

It occurred to me yesterday, in fact, that we are "those people" this year. The ones everyone says, "Let's remember the people who don't have anyone to spend the holidays with this year."

We have no family here. And the two friends we do have here left today to go on vacation.

And to top it off, it's day five of Elliott being sick. So sick he and Richard spent all day at the hospital on Saturday.

And I started to throw another pity party like I did when Richard and Elliott went to the States without me.

Poor me. Poor us.


And God said, "Really?"

"Yes, really," I said. "We are all alone here. No friends, no family. Elliott's sick. We're all tired from lack of sleep. It doesn't even feel like Christmas.... half of the Christmas lights on our tiny tree went out, for goodness sake!!"



"I thought I was all you wanted for Christmas," He said after a pause long enough to make me realize how ridiculous I am.

Well, yeah. There's that.

The past several Christmases, God has worked in our hearts about the overindulgence that Christmas has become materially. We've done a great job as a society to turn it into a self-centered, retail crazed fiasco rather than a time to remember the God who became Man to rescue a fallen world.

We've forgotten the beautiful, life-giving story behind the season.

This year He's breaking it down even further for me. Not because it's bad to be surrounded by family and friends on Christmas. No, that is in fact good. 

But because He knew my heart needed further refining. 

Because in all my efforts to eradicate the materialism from the holiday, somehow I still didn't get it.

I'm still pouting over the external when God says He wants the purify the internal. My motives, my desires, my goals, my dreams. And He loves me enough to make it hard.

So this Christmas is different. Hard even. We miss family and we long for friends. But our hearts find contentment in the one who is our all in all. The one who became flesh and dwelt among us so that we could live a life of hope and joy, glorifying Him as Creator, Sustainer, All-Sufficient One.

So, yes. We are "those people". The ones Christ died for, redeemed, and now uses every means necessary to make us more like Him. And if it takes a little home-sickness to bring me closer to Him, well, I guess I'll take it. 

"You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith--more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire--may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
1 Peter 1.6-7

Merry Christmas, everyone!! I hope this Christmas brings you closer to the One it's all about!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It's time again. The most wonderful time of the year!

That is still how we see it, right?

Despite the shopping lists and the overbooked calendars and the credit card bills and the cooking that needs to be done, it's still the most wonderful time of the year, isn't it?

Living outside of the US this year for the holidays is both a blessing and it brings a bit of sadness.

On the one hand, we would love to be spending the holidays with the fam, toting around our funny, goof-ball of a two year old and our brand new baby girl to all the get-togethers. I'd be lying if I said that we weren't going to miss the turkey and dressing and sweet potato casserole and PECAN PIE! Oh, how I will miss you pecan pie.......

But on the other hand, it's kinda peaceful here. The only sign of Christmas I've seen was when we went to the mall and let me just tell you, it's a shock to the senses when you walk in from 90 degree heat into a Winter Wonderland complete with giant Christmas tree, snow flakes galore, and Santa all decked out, waiting to hear the Christmas wishes of boys and girls. There just something weird about that....

Anyway, it's nice to be away from the hustle and bustle that the Christmas season has become in the US. I see so many FB statuses of long lines and empty shelves and stress and exhaustion... and it's only November!

No thanks.

But then again, Richard and I made a decision back a couple of years ago when we became parents to do things differently, no matter where we were on the globe. We just didn't feel right about what Christmas had turned into in the US, even among Believers. It just all seemed very.... wrong.

To take this season as a license to gorge ourselves on gifts and decorations and STUFF all in the name of "celebrating the holidays" just didn't mesh with what we found in the Bible.

Not the having fun part. Not the spending time with loved ones part. Not the enjoying part.

The gorging part.

So we decided to do things differently. Not because we're awesomely spiritual people. Not because we don't like to get new things or to give our kids new things. Not because we think Christmas trees are of the devil or that if you hang stockings and tell your kids that Santa is coming then they will grow up to be cult leaders.

But because we realized that while these things can be fun, there are things that are best. Things eternal.

So here are some things we've chosen to do differently. No guilt trip here, just some ideas to ponder and challenge you to ask, "Do I even remember what I got for Christmas last year? Do my kids even play with the toys we are still paying off? Do I need new Christmas decorations when I have 17 boxes full in our storage building? What are we teaching our kids about eternity through this season?"

  • We don't really do the whole decorating-every-square-inch-of-the-house. First off, it's costly. And secondly, most of the items are "Made in China" where child labor is a huge problem. Last year, we had a simple Christmas tree that fit on our TV stand with some ornaments, a wreath on the door and some yummy Christmas smelling candles. We played a lot of Christmas music and it was simple and fun and inexpensive.
  • We don't tell Elliott that "Santa is coming". We don't think Santa is evil and we don't cover Elliott's eyes when we pass by Santa at the mall. Right now he is only 2.5 years old so he doesn't really care or take notice, but if and when he does ask about Santa, we'll be happy to tell him about him and what the story is. But we don't emphasize "believing" in Santa. Personally growing up, we always had presents from "Santa" under the tree and it was fun. For our kids, though, we just realize that it's a dead end road... nothing eternal to teach unless you go back to the TRUE story of Saint Nicholas. That's a good idea!
  • We don't buy Elliott a ton of presents. In fact, I think for his first Christmas (which we spent in the Amazon), we bought him two presents... neither of which he played with. Last year, I don't know that we got him anything ourselves because we knew the Grandparents would be buying him things. This year, we will probably go with the saying, "Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read"... I think that's very practical and a good way to teach balance between wants and needs.
  • In terms of gift GIVING, we are making an effort each year to give gifts in honor of our family members to organizations and ministries making an eternal impact in the world. There are SO many great organizations out there. Here are a couple of ideas from what we've done:
Last year, we bought our family members chickens. Yep. Chickens. We did it through Heifer International and it was something lasting. Heifer is a ministry that provides livestock to impoverished communities to help provide food as well as income for the families.
Check out Heifer International here:

For Elliott, we decided to sponsor a child through Amazima Ministries. So for the last twelve months (and for many months to come), we've helped provide food and education for a 9 year old little girl in Uganda. Better than any toy that he would play with for approximately 3.2 seconds before preferring his drumsticks, pots, and pans anyway.  
Check out Amazima Ministries here:

For Elliott's first birthday (but you could do this for Christmas), we asked people not to buy gifts, but to instead buy gift cards or make a cash donation to a needy family from our church. I have no doubt that there are families right in your neighborhood or church family that have real needs right now... things like food and clothing, not the newest electronic gadget or toy. Ask your Pastor or small group leader... I bet they can think of someone!
There are literally hundreds of other ministry opportunities that your family can get involved with and missionaries around the globe working to spread the Gospel. Search them out! Find little ways and big ways to give back and make a lasting impact for Christmas this year.

I don't know that I have ever heard someone regret giving generously. I know we never have.

"No one ever became poor by giving." -Anne Frank

People have, however, become poor by gorging.

Next year, you'll remember what you gave and so will your kids. And eternity might just be changed because of it. 

Some great blog posts about transforming your Christmas:

Quit Spending Money You Don't Have Just Because It's Christmas-Sheesh!- Brant Hansen

Here's a Money Tip: Be Reckless- Brant Handsen

The Christmas Conundrum- Jen Hatmaker

Some more great ministries to give to:

Buy coffee for a cause! Seeds Coffee Co. seeks to have an eternal impact from the plowing of the coffee fields to the steaming brew in your mug. Check out this awesome ministry... who doesn't love a good great cup of coffee??

Help send a Panamanian Indian to summer camp! Our good missionary friends in Panama, David and Marianella Bueno, have a vision to send 100 Panamanian Indian kiddos to summer camp where they will get the chance to swim in a real pool, meet new friends, eat good food, and most importantly hear from the Word of God. For just $40, you can pay for a life changing week for one of these kids and be part of impacting them for eternity. How's that for making a kid smile for Christmas??
For more info, contact David and Marianella at

Help reach uncontacted people groups with the Gospel! Several weeks ago, God laid on our hearts the desire to start a program to support the efforts of the Indian nationals in Brazil to reach their own people with the Gospel in areas that foreigners have no access. That's when Project Javari was formed.For just $20 a month, you can support an Indian national who is being discipled and trained to 
carry the Gospel to his own people group. In fact, next month, three of these Indian men will be traveling by canoe to share the Gospel with their people for the very first time. If you want more information on how to be a part of this effort, e-mail Richard at

Help build a school in Haiti! Blogger Jen Hatmaker has teamed up with Help One Now and Pure Charity to build a school in Yaveh Shamma, an orphanage in Petionville, Haiti, to benefit the 30 orphans and 120 vulnerable children that currently attend a tent school. Click here to find out how you could get involved:

(I see this picture circling Facebook, and maybe we're becoming desensitized. Maybe it's becoming cliche. I don't care. It makes me physically sick to my stomach when I picture Elliott's little bitty face and arms stretched out like that. God have mercy on us.)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Marcos' Testimony

A few weeks ago, many of you will remember reading about my trip to the jungle to get a program started. This program is a national missionary support program that helps get funds to young men who want to reach their own families with the Gospel, most of whom have NEVER heard the Gospel. These young men also live in an area with many, many uncontacted people groups. They speak similar languages and have similar cultures as these young men that are being discipled by Marcos.

I have known Marcos for a few years now and have heard his testimony a couple of times. I had always heard the version that started at his redemption in Christ. It was December 24, 1999 when Eli Ticuna took the Gospel to him in his village. I had always assumed (which we all know is a bad idea) that Marcos had a "standard" Javari childhood. I had never really thought about the fact that he had family members that were a huge part of his upbringing. Well, that changed the other night as I heard Marcos' testimony from the early years. It has humbled me even more. As I share his testimony below, please know that I cannot make this up. This is something ONLY the Sovereign God of the universe could orchestrate for His glory. Here it is. Put yourself in his shoes - what would you do?

Marcos was born in a Mayoruna village, within their culture and beliefs. He also happened to be born as a twin. He and a twin brother were both born into a culture were twins are considered demonic. Even though he was a twin, his family loved him and hid the fact that there were 2 of them.
It wasn't long, however, before it was discovered that an "evil" set of twins was living among the village. You see, in most of these tribes, a twin represents an evil that cannot be overcome without the death of one or both of the children. Most tribes believe these are not actually babies but evil spirits that cause most of the bad that befalls the tribe. (By the way, as an intermission here, there is a reason why these beliefs are held strongly--his name is satan.) So, once it was discovered that Marcos was a twin, the chief made the proclamation that there had to be a death. By the time this all took place Marcos was a 9-10 year old boy. This is were the story takes a very sad turn.

Marcos father, intent on saving his sons, put himself up to die for them (sound familiar?). Marcos did not realize what was going on because his mother hid it from him. Soon he found out that there was going to be a murder in the village. Without going into too much detail, Marcos, as a young boy, watched his people burn his father and twin brother alive. His fathers departing words were, "I love you and my spirit will always be with you." He watched his father and twin brother be burned alive. Do you realize that? This young boy watched his family die because a chief said it had to happen because of their belief system.

After that, his mother saved his life by getting him out of the village so he would not have to try and defend himself. He grew up for several years in a Brazilian town, and at the age of 18, now a man able to defend himself, Marcos returned. Just a short while after that is when the Lord sent Eli to give the Gospel to him. Because he had lived in a Brazilian town, he spoke good portuguese and readily accepted the Gospel. After that, he was discipled and spent 4 years at a Brazilian seminary.

Now, Marcos sole passion in life is to get the Gospel to the people of the Javari. He has started a discipleship program and is teaching several different tribes the Gospel. He has learned 3 other languages to teach them in their OWN language. In less than one month, 2 young Matis men (one is the son of a Witchdoctor) will be traveling with Marcos to give the Gospel for the first time to their people.

This is what Marcos says, "After I returned, the drug traffickers had given us a lot of things, especially guns. Many people thought that I would kill chief Jose because he had killed my dad. At this point he was about 100 years old. But because of the forgiveness that Christ had shown me, I was able to forget my anger and hate, I was able to look at him like a dad. Many indians are not brave when it comes to dealing with authority, but authority needs the Gospel too! I am ready to die for the Gospel of Jesus. If that time comes, I will not have any difficulty."

People, this is a man that watched his father and brother BURNED alive over a STUPID belief, and he understands that this man was just a sinner acting as a sinner and does NOT harbor hate in his heart towards him.

Marcos passion is Christ, he is teaching the young men who Christ is and how to follow him. He is simply doing what the Lord has called him to do. He watched his earthly father give his life for him, and then the Lord brought someone to share how his heavenly Father did the same - and now his whole life revolves around getting that news to people like the chief that murdered his father.

If you would like more information on how to support Marcos and his ministry, please email me at

(Marcos is on the far left.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

When Dreams Become Realities

I don't know how many times it happens in a lifetime, or even if it happens more than once or even once at all for everyone.

But, in the midst of the change and tears and fears and doubts and anger and stubbornness and discontentment and the hard over the last almost three months here, something happened.

Something beautiful.

For the longest I couldn't see it. I was too busy sulking in my selfish desire for what was and what will be that I didn't even realize that all the things I had prayed for were actually coming to pass here in the now.

I think part of the reason that this beautiful transformation escaped my sight was because it hasn't looked like I imagined it would when I prayed.

What I mean is, in my prayers it looked easy.

When I asked God to change me, to make me like Him, to bring me to the place where He wanted me, I pictured peace and ease. Isn't that what Jesus said, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light"?

I wanted the end product without the process. And in the process I have found that there is no such thing.

Today, I hold in my arms a tiny, big piece of that dream. Her name is Raegan Piper Grey and she is more perfect than I could ever have dreamed.

And I think back at the process of bringing her into this world with the nausea and the sleeplessness and the tired exhaustion and the aches and pains and emotions and fears and longing for family to walk this with me but knowing they were thousands of miles away.

I think back on those nine months now and remember that it seemed like an eternity. Days seemed like weeks sometimes when factored in with all of the other life changes going on.

At times it was hard.

But somehow now as I hold this baby girl, I see that without that long, difficult process, there is no beautiful end result. And I find myself thankful for process that leaves me with a scar to remind me of this journey that was necessary to bring this life into the world.

And I realize it's in the process that we find God is true to His promises.

The past three months have been a roller coaster of emotions as we walk this dream of a journey that God placed in our hearts over five years ago now.

Now as I look back at the process that brought us here, I bow my head and lift my hands in awe that the Creator God would count us worthy of this calling. Would take the time to work out in our lives a beautiful masterpiece of His will and, what's more, He would care enough to make it hard.

If it were easy, we would never see Him.

But just as gold is refined in the fire and diamonds are made by pressure, we are made more like Him as we engage in what is uncomfortable and trying and even downright painful at times. It's in that process that not only are dreams given, but they are made into reality as we walk by faith, trusting His pathway though we can't see the next step.

This time last year I remember sharing with so many the desire of our heart to have another baby, to be in Brazil, to begin the process of getting permanent residency so we could work freely with the beautiful people God has given us a burning passion for. Back then it seemed so distant if not an impossible goal.

I sit here now, in Brazil with our baby girl as Richard is driving to register her birth so that we can begin our permanent residency process and my heart rejoices for the journey that we have been on and I humbly ask Him to continue to make us more like Him.

Even when it isn't easy.

"Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing." James 1.2-4


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Alone in the City: Day Eight (Election Edition)

Being out of the country during election season was quite the blessing. No commercials, no campaign ads, no daily banter. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.... sweet peace.

Yesterday being election day, however, I wanted to keep up with what was going on. But there is a two hour time difference here so by midnight my time I was spent and off to bed I went, knowing that me staying up til 3am to find out the results would not, in fact, make any difference whatsoever in the outcome but me losing more sleep would make for a long day today.

Being 8.5 months pregnant, there are only about a million and one middle-of-the-night bathroom wake-ups so about 2:45 I woke up to go and thought I'd check Facebook for the results.

It was very clear right away that Obama had won the gold.

What was my reaction? I turned over and immediately fell back to sleep. (Cut be a break, the sun comes up at 4:45 am here!)

When I woke up again this morning, I began to feel the tinge of disappointment. But it wasn't actually disappointment that Obama won and Romney lost. It was a disappointment with the response of Believers to the outcome. Hear me out.

Some of the status updates I've seen have been so gloom and doom, so hopeless and depressing.

I can't help but think that last night as America awaited the results, Jesus was in fact NOT pacing the floors of Heaven, updating his FB and Twitter feeds every 30 seconds and watching FOX News to see the latest poll closings.

He knew this would be the outcome a while back.... like, before He created the world. And what's even more is He planned it that way.

While we sit back thinking that if more people would have just voted, things could have been different, Jesus sits comfortably at the right hand of God knowing that is actually not true. He controlled the polls yesterday, not us.

As much as we like to think we have a say in things, the fact of the matter is, we don't. And most of us like to say that we know God is sovereign and in control.... until His sovereignty and control look a little bit different than what we thought they should looke like.

Jesus isn't disappointed with the election results. In fact, I think He's waiting for His Body to step up and be the hands and feet we were called to be. And He's giving us all the opportunity in the world.

So here's what I say:

Instead of fearing the next four years, praise the Lord that He is in control and that we aren't!

It's time for us, as believers, to stop standing up for these big-time events like Chick-fil-a rallies and Presidential elections and start working out our roles as Believers in the day-to-day.

Don't want to see more abortions? Romney wouldn't eliminate abortion. So, instead, if you're really passionate about it like we all like to say during election season, get in touch with your local crisis pregnancy center and donate your time like my friend Shannon Conner did after the last election. She says:

"Another positive (for me) about this Obama administration is...I can't stand his views on abortion! So instead of being mad about it for 4-years (or 4 more) I started volunteering at Sav-a-Life in my community and have met some wonderful godly women who can pray the house down if they have to!"

Can't volunteer? I bet you can give sacrificially to provide diapers, formula, clothing, and other essentials to new moms who have made the scary choice to keep their babies, despite pressure to do otherwise. Don't have a crisis pregnancy center? Start one! Or at least get on your knees and beg God to lay it on someone's heart to do so.


Upset about the unemployment rate? Romney wouldn't eliminate unemployment. Get in touch with your local homeless shelter and start volunteering to serve. Search out families in your area who have lost their homes and take them in. Start regularly donating to the local food bank. Participate in fundraisers to fund these organizations.

Before we moved to Brazil, I had met a homeless lady in downtown Chattanooga on night as Richard and I walked back to our car after dinner and a movie. Her name was Angela. God laid it on my heart to begin meeting with her one day a week for Bible study and we did just that for about six months. I assure you that she impacted my life much more than I impacted hers! Was it hard? Yes. Were there days I didn't want to do it? Yes. Was it totally worth the time and money we invested in her? Absolutely!


Upset about public school underfunding? Romney wouldn't fix our problems in the schools. Instead, find out if your local schools have tutoring programs that you can volunteer for. If there are children in your neighborhood who come home to an empty house every afternoon, invite them over for snacks and games. See if you can donate school supplies to kids in need during the year.

My friend Shannon also says:

"I really don't care for how the administration wants people to be dependant on the government so I'm going to check out volunteering at a youth detention center and hopefully inspire at least one person to pull themselves up and better their life and NOT depend on the government for a handout. I can't save the world but I'm just looking for one."

I know of a couple who sold their big house in the suburbs and moved to the inner city to reach at-risk youth. Sound radical? Sounds like Jesus to me.

Upset about the Health Care crisis? Romney wouldn't make it all better. Start making healthier life choices and living simpler to save money and improve your health, decreasing the need for health care and preparing for the future. Take up an exercise routine. Participate in walk/run fundraisers for cancer, diabetes, March of Dimes, etc. Eat real foods. Research medicines before just taking them because the doctor prescribed it. Look for natural alternatives.

We live in a society that has quickly put their faith in a health system that doesn't have us as its best interest. Start taking charge of what you do to your own body!


Just don't like Obama for his lack of principles, lies, and corruption? Let's not forget Romney is a politician, too. And a Mormon.... doesn't stand for our core beliefs either. So make it a point to pray for him. Every single day. How much did we pray for Obama over the last four years? Do we not think God is big enough to change him? If we really do think God is that big, let's pray like it.

In other words, stop fearing and dreading and being depressed. Do something!

Live simpler to give more to what REALLY matters: spreading the Gospel around the world. Sponsor a child. Volunteer at a school, homeless shelter, or pregnancy center. Pray for our leaders and teach our children to pray for our leaders. Adopt. Foster a child. Simplify your life so you can serve and give more. Start a program for at-risk youth. Write encouraging e-mails and letters to people you know are struggling. Buy groceries for the family whose husband just lost his job. Cook meals for the sick. Visit the nursing homes.

Give. Go. Serve. Do. Pray.

The people I know who are doing these things, don't have much time on their hands to complain about what isn't happening....

Let's take this election result as a hint from God that it's about time we step up our game.

The world isn't going to know us by who we vote for, they are going know us by how we love.

"By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13.35

Monday, November 5, 2012

Alone in the City: Day Six

"I just feel like I don't have any control at all!"

I said it with anger, through tears while Richard listened patiently.

Then he calmly said the words that were oh so true, but not what I wanted to hear: "Maybe that's the point."

"Of course that's the point, but I don't want that. I want to be able to control something in my life!" That's what I told God. The irony of the arrogance doesn't escape me. I see it for what it is, but I know God sees it in my heart anyway. May as well just say it.

The more I ask God to show me my heart, the uglier things get.

Today, I spent most of the day working on our ministry stuff and was confronted with more arrogance and irony in my heart.

We recently transitioned mission boards and somewhere in the transition we lost some supporters along the way for one reason or another.

And I worry.

I worry as I adjust the spreadsheet to reflect the new numbers and it's less than what it was before. Money has always been a struggle for me. I don't like crunching numbers, paying bills... I don't even like to know what's in our account. It's a source of stress.

And that's wrong.

The irony is found in the fact that I know that God has never NOT provided a need. Even now I sit here with food in my belly, internet at my fingertips, a glass of clean water next to me, and even a list of people who have said in just the last few days, "Let me know if you need anything!"

Meanwhile, in the Jungle, babies are dying from dirty water, malaria, and yellow fever. Tribes remain hopeless because the Gospel hasn't arrived and they watch as their people die daily from preventable disease. Indigenous missionaries long to go into the depths of the Jungle to reach their own people, but the funds aren't there. Marcos (who you can read about here, here, and here) supports himself, his wife, their 2 year old son and 11 Indian students on $250 a month.

Here, we still have more money coming in each month than 98% of the world will see in a year.

And I have the audacity to ask God to let me have control of something in my life. What a mess I would make!

My American heart is so scarred from a culture of excess and greed and I ask God to forgive me, deliver me. I want to see clearly.

"Create in me a clean heart, oh God. And renew a right spirit within me..." (Psalm 51.10)

I pray this, knowing that it will hurt.  After all, "pressure creates diamonds and fire refines the gold" (Tripp Lee).

But it would be oh so very worth it to have the faith of these Christian Indians in the Jung|e who daily fall before a holy God, begging Him, not for money or things or even security and certainly NOT to have control, but for strength to endure so that their families can know the Truth.

God forgive my faithless, arrogant, selfish, prideful heart.

Make me more like the very people You have called me to.

Alone in the City: Days Four and Five

Sorry, no deep spiritual revelations in my heart these two days. Just this:

And these:

God gave me the chance to visit Porto de Galinhas (google it, I think you'll like what you see...) here in Brazil Friday-Sunday. I didn't want to go at first because I am an introvert (an introverted missionary sounds like quite the oxymoron, but that's an entirely different blog post) and had no idea what to expect spending an entire weekend with people I didn't know, in a place I didn't know, speaking a language I barely know.
Summary? I'm so glad I went. Brazilians are some of the absolute nicest people on the planet and made me feel like we had been friends forever.
Plus, I got to sleep in an air conditioned room. Bonus.
I'm finding in my ripe old age of 26 that sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is just rest.
Rest in God. Rest in His blessings. Rest in the opportunities.
And that's just what I did and while I sit here alone again in our apartment, I feel refreshed and renewed both spiritually and physically.
"Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11.28
Thank you God for rest.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Alone in the City: Day Three

God is beautiful everywhere.

This simple yet profound thought came to my mind tonight as I looked up at the halfway moon in the cloudless sky, driving back from the most beautiful beach Brazil has to offer.

And I felt very, very small.

But it wasn’t a condescending kind of small, like I was useless or worthless. It was a feeling of peace, knowing that I am small, and that’s good.

It’s safe to be small when your God is so big.

There’s a message that my own husband has taught several times that I came to my mind tonight. (For the record, it’s not fun when the Holy Spirit uses your spouse’s messages to speak to you… it’s a blow to the pride.)

It comes from John chapter 6. To keep it short and sweet, Jesus pretty much lays it all out for the religious elite. He knew their hearts and ignored their empty words, stating they wanted to follow him when in fact all they wanted was what He had to offer.

In verses 26-27, Jesus calls them out, “I assure you: you are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Don’t work for the food that perishes, but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him.”

In short, they didn’t want Jesus for Jesus, they wanted Jesus for His stuff.

Tonight, as I looked up at the moon, I was reminded that God doesn’t in fact need me. It’s not as if when I entered the world, He said, “Finally! She’s here!”

He is beautifully at work and His creation sings His praises and I am very small, nearly invisible.

And He says, “I have chosen you. I don’t need to use you, I want to. And that is good.”

But so often I find myself not wanting Jesus for who He is, but rather for what it brings me. Even the good things—peace, joy, love, hope—I want these more than I want Jesus. And that’s where the problem comes.

The missionary life is often deceitfully intriguing to the outside world. Stories of adventures and conversions and living in a far off place fill our minds as pictures of poverty and redemption fill our eyes. And it’s easy to love God there. It’s easy to be passionate and faithful in the excitement.

It’s the mundane that’ll getcha.

“Can you want me in the mundane?” He asks. “Do you want Me for Me, or do you want Me for what I can give you?”

The answer is hard, but I humbly acknowledge that most times I want Him for what He can give. I want the adventure and the passion and the influence. I fumble when life is just changing diapers and washing dishes and cleaning up messes and living the day to day. I am discontent there in the ordinary.

I fail most in the commonplace.

And He says to me, “I am beautiful there, too. You don’t see it because you don’t want Me. You want what I can give you.”

Tonight, I felt very small—just as I should. And I ask Him to help me desire Him for who He is and not for what I desire that He give me.

He is God in Heaven, and here am I on earth.

God, help me want you in the ordinary.




Thursday, November 1, 2012

Alone in the City: Day Two

"If you aren't content with me here, what makes you think you will be content with me somewhere else?"

I've heard the Spirit speak that to my soul too many times before.

Discontent. Always look back, looking forward, wanting more, never appreciating the moment.
"But godliness with contentment is a great gain." (1 Timothy 6.6HCSB)
These words speak loudly to me.
Godliness--with contentment--is great gain. What good is godliness without contentment? Without it, my heart is only seeking godliness for the sake of gain (1 Timothy 6.5)
"Am I enough?"
He asks me this. And my reply is, "Yes! Of course You are enough!"
"Then why are you discontent?"
My discontentment speaks much louder than my empty words, stating He is sufficient but living as though He isn't. Always longing for more--even "good" things. But missing the point--that He is enough. His plan is perfect. Not my preconceived notions of what He has for me.
We all like Philippians 4.13--I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.
It's inspirational, warm, powerful.
But what about the preceeding verses that lead to Paul's bold statement? Those are hard.
"I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.................. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4.11-13 HCSB)
Contentment. No matter the circumstances--I can be content because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
And if the Apostle Paul had to learn this, why do I think it will come naturally for me?
"I don't know how to learn this," I say, frustrated that I still struggle, fight, fail. Shouldn't this battle be won?
"How do I learn?!" I ask Him boldy.
"I'm teaching you now," He says.
I learn through the hard.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Alone in the City: Day One

Richard and Elliott are in the States for the next nine days. The past two months of our lives have been an emotional roller coaster as we adapt to city life here in Recife, Brazil, waiting for the birth of our baby girl before we head back to the Jungle. I am on a spiritual journey that I want to share because I think it's important, as Believers, to be transparent. Over the next week, I'll be posting what God is doing in my heart as I ask Him to pluck the weeds in my life. I hope you'll appreciate my transparency and not think less of me for it. I hope you'll pray for me. But mostly, I hope it encourages you.

It's quiet here.

Aside from the noise of the street below our apartment complex and the swirling fan above my head, it's very quiet. No little feet pattering through the house or pleas for snacks or movies. Just quiet.

I play TV shows in the background just for the sound of human voice because the quiet is too much sometimes.

"I don't want this," I tell Him. "Any of it." I figure I may as well be honest since He knows my heart anyway.

I'm frustrated and I am disappointed and I am discontent. And He listens because He knows me. He knows my selfish heart and my clinched fists and He just listens.

Even He is quiet these days.

And I cry tears of anger because I don't get my way and I tell Him I know--I KNOW--it could be worse and life is, in fact, very good in comparison with 98% of the world around me but I WANT to pout and I WANT to feel sorry for myself because I am in fact self absorbed and so very short-sighted.

"Is it so wrong to want more?" I ask Him. "I want to do something great for You, and here I am with nothing at all to do. I'm alone here."

And His reply?

"Just listen to Me."

I'm taken aback as my pride sets in.

"But I HAVE listened! Don't you see where I am? I gave it all away. I left everything and everyone that I know. I am right, smack-dab in the middle of where You said to go. I did what You said to do. I have listened!" I answer, frustrated, tired.

"Just listen to Me."

He says it over and over every time I complain. He doesn't raise His voice but says it softly, gently, like a parent trying to soothe a crying newborn.

I spiritually cross my arms and furrow my brow. And He waits.

Waits for me to listen.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Jungle Trip (part 3 of 3)

As we were doing the interviews for the students, a Brazilian man came up and asked if we wanted some Jacare (amazon crocodile). I have to say that I prefer Jacaré over any other meat – it is the cleanest, leanest and best tasting meat I have ever had. Don’t even think of comparing it to gator! It is like white steak…so I was listening to an Indian speak some broken Portuguese, writing his summary in English and listening to the “Jacaré conversation”. I knew they didn’t have the funds to buy it but when I head the price of 30 Reales (15US) I asked if they wanted it (I already knew the answer). I bought us lunch. I continued the interviews and took pictures of each young man to finish the project packet to send out to donors. While I was doing that, a couple of the young men went and prepared our feast.

As we wrapped up, we all headed to the eating area. Lunch – Jacaré and rice, with farinha of course. They also fixed me some juice. I didn’t realize it until that point but I was in desperate need of some fluids. We thanked the Lord for His provision – in Matis. I want to quickly say here, it never ceases to amaze me to hear people with different languages pray to our Father. Amazing to think that in a instant He created all these languages and now, some that have never mentioned His name are now beginning to thank Him for His provision.

They graciously served me first and gave me the best 2 pieces of meat. I was honored and humbled. Thankful that God has given me favor among these people and humbled by the fact that He would use me to serve them and help them learn and grow to share Christ with their families.

After lunch, it was time for me to go. I thanked them all and told them I looked forward to returning in January. Shapu, who has an incredible testimony of how Jesus used a Jaguar to cruch his skull as a 12 year old, to get him to the Gospel, helped me get to the taxi place. It was a great time together as we shared what the Lord was doing in our hearts. He shared with me that he REALLY wants to return to his village, his heart is broken for his people. He is ready to graduate next year and is already planning his return to his people. He is going with the other Matis and Marcos during December to give the Gospel to his people. I was so encouraged to hear his heart and see what the Lord is giving him vision to do. He helped me pick a safe taxi and I was off.

That afternoon, I had the opportunity to meet with Pastor Lolo in Benjamin. He left his village and made the hour trip up to the town to meet with me. I was excited to talk to him. We spent some time talking about what the Lord has been doing in the village and I shared the desire I had to help sponsor him and the churches first missionary (imagine that people, these “primitive” Indians have started a church and within 4 months have sent out their first missionary to another village.). I explained the program that I would be launching to get financial support in for these guys so they can reach more of their own. We talked about how good the Lord was and all the ways he was blessing us.

I told him I wanted to treat him to lunch on Saturday and also wanted to invite his wife, Fernando (the missionary) and Otasio (the village medical leader). He said they would be free, we prayed together and both headed out.

I tried to find a free place to stay with several of our contacts in Leticia and Tabatinga but no one was home. I ended up having to get a hotel but I was very glad to have accomplished so much.

Saturday, I checked out, found peanut butter in the local store for my pregnant wife and son and then headed to the restaurant. As soon as I got close, they were already there. I want to explain the depth of that. Brazilian culture (much like most of Central and South America) is NOT punctual for anything. The Indians are even worse –they come from a culture where time is counted by moon phases – not hours and minutes. So when I arrived 15 mins earlier than our agreed upon time, I expected to wait at least an hour. To my surprise they had already arrived. Otasio, whom the Lord saved on one of my trips back in April, was the first to greet me with a big hug and a “Nuxmaxē  Pa Chauenee”, Ticuna for “Hello my dear brother”. Otasio is a man of great influence in his village, it is amazing what the Lord has done with his heart. This is a man that would have run me out of his village less than 2 years ago because of his hate and distrust of the Branco. Now, with the Lord changing his heart, not only has he invited me into his village, he has also told the chief, who is against us, that we are welcome not matter what he thinks and has even gone as far as to give a large portion of his land to ME to build a house for my family. When God changes a heart, it truly is something amazing.

Otasios brother who is also Lolos father-in-law, Alcydes, was also invited to the lunch. This was the last big miracle of the trip. Alcydes, from all I can gather, is not a believer. His daughter is a VERY strong Christian and her husband, Lolo, is the Pastor that I will be discipling when we make it to the village full time. We installed a water purification system in the village in April. Most of Alcydes’ family lives there now and he has great influence there. After hearing from his family the work that I had done for their benefit, he wanted to meet me. We had a great time talking and he thanked me for all that we had done. He talked about future projects and he told me I was welcome any time. Now, here is the BIG part of the story. He is a member of the elite Indian affairs agency that is run by the Government here. They have been the single biggest hurdle to evangelization of the Indians. They rate missionaries on the same scale as loggers and drug traffickers. Now, because the Lord has given us favor, he is writing an official document from the agency granting us unlimited access to live and work in this village and not only that but to also bring teams to work as well! It is always amazing how the Lord works. He has moved even the heart of an unbeliever, who has a great amount of power and influence to help us do what He has called us to do.

I left the lunch VERY excited and humbled once again. God is certainly up to something in this place. One thing I have always believed and was confirmed even more for me on this trip is this; God created these cultures to glorify Him. They don’t need me to bring in a denomination, a certain type of dress of a certain type of music. As a matter of fact, they don’t need me, a branco, for anything! Yet the Lord, in His infinite Grace and Wisdom, decided when he created their race, that he would not only allow but USE me to serve these people. He has been knitting this story for a long time. Their souls were on His mind as He hung on the cross and He is letting me be a part of it. I have NOTHING to boast in but the cross, everything I “have” or “can do” was given to me by Him to be used for His glory and it can be taken away just as quickly.

I am committed to serving these people and guiding in any way I can to help them see the cross. I want them to know what it is like to live a life devoted to Yahweh. I want them to see that He created them for a purpose and the He has plans to glorify HIMSELF through their lives. Some have caught that and they are teaching others to the extent they are able. My goal in life is to enable these people in any way I can to reach their own. After all, God has given them the call to missions as well – they don’t need a white man to “show them how it is done”. They need a bit of guidance, discipleship and love so they can grow in Him and lead others to do the same. I have always planned and am more than willing to live my entire life with these people, with my people, my brothers and sisters, but I am praying that the Lord will allow me to “work myself out of a job” to the point where they have a strong leadership that is fully independent.

Thank you for your prayers and support in our lives. We are SO ready to be in the jungle full time. We love these people and miss them dearly. If you would like to learn more about the 2 projects God has laid on my heart to begin, please contact me at

Friday, October 19, 2012

Jungle Trip (part 2 of 3)

We arrived there at the small place where Marcos does his discipleship program. I was apart from the group from Manaus so I headed down as they asked Eli a few questions. I was humbled by what happened next. Indians are very quiet, non-emotional (outwardly) people. As I approached the thatch roof hut where they meet for church, Shapu and Tumi Matis ( 2 young men I had spent time with over the past several trips) came out with a BIG smile on their face and gave me a big hug as I walked up to them. They had previously taught me some of their language so we had a brief exchange in Matis. As I walked in to the “Maloca”, I realized there was something bigger going on. There were about 35 Matis men and women and children sitting in there with Marcos. In this crowd included 3 top witch doctors within their culture. One, Tumi’s father, is mentioned is a previous post here. The pastor and his family came in and took their seat, I always seek to blend with the Indians (although not much “blending” actually happens, they appreciate the attempt) so I stood in corner with my new found posse.

I knew the following conversation would be interesting as the Pastor was there to see what he could do for these people. I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time around Indians and I have learned and been taught that you always ask how to handle things and how certain questions may be perceived. The problem with us as outsiders is we may have the best of intentions but without the correct knowledge of how to handle certain topics and situations we can ruin opportunities to build relationships with these people. Unfortunately, that is what happened next. The Pastor began a monologue with about 35 people that are VERY primitive and are just now beginning to think about knowing more about Christ (by the way, the reason they want to know more about Christ is because of Marcos and his ministry but that is for later).

The Pastor explained who he was (through Tumi as the translator) and what he did. He explained that he was there to help and wanted to know what he could do to help them. He then moved into telling them that the most important thing they could ever do is accept Christ into their heart as their Savior and only trust in Him. That life is only available in Him and that He is the most important decision in their life. He said all this was clearly written in the Bible and they could see it for themselves. I want to take a minute and say that everything he said was 100% true. It is the message that gives me hope and a reason for life. It is why I was in this place. My heart burns for these people to have their eyes opened to who He is. BUT, and this is a big one, these people literally have NO idea who Jesus is. All they know is, once again, a “Branco” (literally means “White person” but is the favored term by Indians for any non-indian) was telling them how to live their life and what they needed to do. What happened next took the color out of the Brazilian Pastors face and literally made him a “Branco”. He asked if there were any questions, the lead Pajé (witchdoctor) spoke up. He looked squarely at the Pastor and said, “Have you ever seen your God?”. The answer was in the negative. That was all the Pajé needed to hear. He said, “How are you going to come to me and tell me about this God of yours when you have not even seen Him?” “All you “broncos” have is a book to read about Him but you never see Him”. His next words left us all thinking a bit, “I have seen your God, I spoke with Him, I see many gods and talk to them frequently – and all you have is a book. Don’t tell me what I need to do when you can’t even see Him.”

I was expecting some sort of response from the Pastor – something….but he was truly speechless. He had just offended a Pajé by insinuating (not intentionally) that he had all the answers and could fix everything for them. When the Pajé returned with a difficult answer, there was nowhere else to go. That is when Marcos stepped in and asked them to let the Pastor know what they needed physically. They began to speak about wanting to have a fence built around Marcos’ property to keep their young men protected. They loved Marcos and what he was doing for their children but they felt like the boys were unsafe without any type of fence. The Pastor said, “Ok, we will see what we can do”. Now, I was homeschooled and I was once told that you can tell if someone was homeschooled by the way they run from awkward confrontation. I don’t know if that is true in a general sense but it is for me. I don’t really know what happened after that because Pastor Eli and I both left the Maloca. I used it as a chance to speak with Eli more about what he needed and the needs of the seminary. We talked about that for a little while. We then brought up the elephant in the room. He said they were great people and had helped financially in the past. He said he understood their heart but that they didn’t understand they were doing more harm than good with attempts to make a convert. You have to remember, we grew up in a world surrounded by Christianity (and still so few actually “get it”) and here we are trying to give the Gospel with ZERO background, explanation and absolutely no life examples for them to see (as far as Brancos are concerned).

They soon finished up the meeting and they were on their way. I went back into the Maloca once the awkwardness had cleared and began talking with some friends. Very quickly, about 15 of the Matis came and surrounded me. They wanted to know about me, how I knew their boys, etc. I used it as a time to talk about how much I love their culture (no smoke here, I have always had a special place in my heart for the Matis over all the other tribes). I talked about how I had met one of the Pajés (who was there) in 2010 and what a privilege it was for me to be there with them. We had some fun as they taught me some Matis words. Essentially, I didn’t come in and try to convert them. I did speak the Gospel in words they didn’t understand. I did everything I could to live it out and love them. I wanted them to see that there was something different about this Branco. I want them to see that their young men respect me and that I respect them and that even though I am an outsider, I don’t want anything for myself – I want to love them, unconditionally and let them know that they are of utmost important in my life. After all, that is what Christ did. You may argue that He also said to PREACH the Gospel. That is very true, but He also had certain people go to the Jews and other to the Gentiles because He knew how to best reach them. It is my firm conviction that these people will be reached by their own! They will not need the Gospel from a foreigner because God is raising up young men RIGHT NOW to be able to adequately convey the Gospel message in their own language and in a way that incorporates their culture, a culture God created to Glorify Himself.

Soon they all left, I swear that these people have to be ninjas because literally one minute there were 35 of them and the next there were 4….I have no idea where they went and how they did it so fast!

I began to talk with Marcos about the project that I wanted to develop to bring funds into his ministry. He is training 11 young men in their language. He is one of them, they trust him, he cares for them. And they are getting the Gospel through him. He is feeding them, giving them a place to live and teaching them the Gospel. He is also supporting a wife and a 2 year old on $250US a month! You read that right… is disgusting to me the amount of money that we waste as the Church when there are SO many that are scraping by with nothing. We think we do well because we give the magical 10%....most of them don’t even have that 10% to eat with….once again, that is for another blog. He was very excited to hear that there were already 17 people who had committed to giving and other than me, none of them had ever met him......
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