Friday, February 19, 2016

Poland


  Now that we have been home from Poland for a little over a week, we've had some time to reflect. For us, this trip was about the kids, meeting the staff of PROEM, and looking at all of the different ministries that PROEM has going on.  Both Tara and I came away very impressed with the small glimpse we were able to take into PROEM.  
  First, I want to tell you about our week at camp.  For the kids, the camp consisted of learning English and different forms of art.  But more importantly, they learned that they could have a personal relationship with God.  This is where the heart of PROEM lies, and what has me so impressed with what they do.  God isn't just Someone they visit on Sunday, but encompasses everything they do. They've interwoven God into the fabric of life.  The hope is that the kids that came forward at the end of camp will go home and share what they learned with their families.
Tara and I found ourselves mainly teaching English as we: 1) found ourselves whisked off during arts time 2) don't have much to offer in the world of arts.  I think we were both a little anxious at first since teaching really isn't our thing either, but those fears subsided after the first couple of sessions.
  Next, I want to talk about the PROEM staff.  The second day we were there, we were called into a meeting.  This wasn't something that we had requested or expected.  Honestly we weren't sure what to expect.  When we arrived for the meeting, the (what I call) four heads of PROEM were present.  They asked us about our calling, what we had been through in our past, gave us insight into what PROEM is about, and answered any questions that we could come up with.  I was totally blown away that all four of them would take time out of their busy schedules to seek us out for a face-to-face.  The lack of this interaction, as well as nobody being on the same page, was something that had really frustrated us when we were looking into Haiti.  It was such a relief to see the level of organization and professionalism that PROEM operates at.
  During part of our time there, we were also given a tour of PROEM's school and church.  It was absolutely amazing!  Many thanks to John Crozier for taking time out of his schedule to show us around while he was sick.  
Now onto some more personal feelings.  This is something that didn't come to me until the last hour we spent with PROEM.  We were able to attend church on Sunday.  One of the things that hits you
the most on a missions trip to a foreign country is always the language barrier.  We experienced it in Haiti, and we experienced it in Poland.  What came to me during that service was just how much my selfish Americanism got in the way of God.  There seems to be this tendency in my flesh to think that God favors us because we are American.  As bad as that sounds, it is something that is good to realize because it has been hidden in my comfortable self.  And until I started seeing God outside of the United States, it was something that was burrowing into and making it's home in my soul. Something that I unconsciously believed to be true.  Oh how the service that day changed me.  It brought back to me something that I had been "preaching" for a couple of years that I will tweak now; every person is God's creation, and He is desperately calling them to Him.  I'm not sure a person can fully comprehend that until they worship with fellow brothers and sisters who speak a different language.  From my experiences, many times their passion dwarfs our own.
Finally, a little bit about our feelings.  Tara and I had many conversations while we were in Poland. We were both hoping for a clear (bright lights, a descending dove, loud voice from the heavens) path being set before us.  Instead, after much conversation, and seeking out some sound advice, we've decided to slow things down and speed things up.  We are not going to set a specific date of when we want things to happen, but are going to let God lead us to that point.  We do, however, plan on making more trips to Poland to develop relationships there.  There is a chance that I may be returning this summer, and plan on bringing people from our church with me.  Our hearts are still in missions, but we are going to bask in His glory, and let Him fill us up from the emotional draining we have felt over the last few months.
As always, we covet your continual prayers.  It is only with His guidance should we ever make decisions based upon where He is leading us.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Missions Trip to Poland

Two weeks from today, Tara and I will be in Poland serving with Cedar Ridge Christian Church. Tara and I are very anxious to see how God is working in this ministry. During this week, PROEM's retreat center will be having their annual winter camp for kids. They will be teaching English, and will have a number of activities available for the kids to participate in. They will also be hosting a one-night women's conference. It sounds like we are going to be rather busy during the week. We are hoping and praying that God speaks to us during this time. We ask for your continued prayers in this area. We can't wait to share our experience with you on our return!

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Next Chapter

Here is an update of what has been happening recently in our journey, and a picture of what lies ahead...
There were several reasons Tara and I decided to move on from serving in Haiti.  I will be going into none of those, as it would serve no purpose.  The only reason I bring them up is to give a little bit more context to following story.  In August, I ran into my pastor at church one Saturday.  As he was aware of the situation before us, I sat down to chat with him for a bit.  As I laid out our concerns, he brought up the passage that had been my reading two nights before.  We talked about Paul and his journey to Macedonia.  After we had talked for a while, he brought up an opportunity that another local pastor had been pushing him to get involved with, and wondered if I might like to talk to him. A couple of weeks later, the three of us were meeting for coffee at Cedar Ridge Christian Church.
So this is what we will be looking at:



I want to stress how very new this is for us.  At this point, we are following what has been laid in front of us.  As we have officially decided to close the door to Haiti, we are able to focus on what might be in our future in Poland.  It really has been a whirlwind of emotions for us.  What I can tell you for sure is that there is no anxiousness whatsoever in looking into this ministry. We will be making a trip to Poland sometime next year.  We're still trying to nail down a date.  As a long-term move, our timeline hasn't changed much.
As we continue to seek God's path, we pray that you would continue to keep us in our prayers as we journey down this road.  We pray that we will not miss any direction from our Father, and that our paths continually align with His.  We will keep you updated as things progress.  As always, we want to say thank you to our friends and family for your support.  It truly does mean the world to us.

Josh

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Not What We Expected

I can honestly say that this was not a post that I expected to write.  For several reasons, and after many thoughts and prayers, Tara and I have decided that we will not be seeking to serve at Northwest Haiti Christian Mission.  It has been over 16 months in this journey for us, and it has been a hard decision for us to make, but Tara and I feel that it is best for us to completely close this door so we can focus on other doors God is opening for us.  We have been happy to serve in the capacity God has used us while we took trips to Haiti, and have met some wonderful people along the way.
As we begin a new chapter in this journey, we want all of our friends and family to know that our hearts are still in missions.  We are currently looking at another opportunity that has been presented to us.  We ask for your continued prayers.  Specifically, we ask that God's direction will be clear and evident.  This was a hard decision for us.  If you have kept up with us, you know that we felt our calling was very pointed, so until we made this decision recently, there has been a feeling of being lost in our direction. We hope to move on from that feeling with this decision.
I will fill all of you in on our new opportunity when we have a little more information.  What I can tell everyone is that it is different in almost every way than what we would have experienced in Haiti. We continue to look forward to where God is leading us, and continue to trust in His direction in our lives.  I will be updating our blog soon, and can't wait to share about the opportunity before us! Thank you for your continued prayers on our behalf.  Please don't stop, as this is the most important part of our support.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

My Thoughts About Haiti

I've been home from Haiti for a little over a month now.  This post is long over due.  It has been a major time of reflection and processing.  In most ways it's been very difficult.  My trip rocked me.  Stephen (the mission's director) told me, "I'm just waiting for you to break," since Tara did so well and fell in love with Haiti on her trip.  I can say that I was severely bent, but not broken.
This trip was two fold for me.  I was there to help with the eye team, but I was also there to get a feel for the mission, it's staff, and help Stephen where I could.  First of all, the staff at the mission was absolutely amazing!  I made a point to talk to each of them, and get the "story" of how they came to be at the mission.  It was awesome to hear how God has worked in each of their lives to get them to this point.  Most of them had their lives planned out.  I'm sure I will be corrected on some of these stories, but there is a purpose in telling them.  Dustin was planning on moving up in the soccer world. From what I was told, he had awesome scholarships, but God had a different plan.  Caitlin came down for what was supposed to be a short term stay after college, but God had a different plan. The Jernigan's were planning on being missionaries, but their plan involved cold weather....God had a different plan.  These are a few of the stories from the staff, but one thing that has connected all of us, is that God has had a different plan.  All it has taken for them is a bold step in faith.  And something I'm sure Stephen will be happy to hear, is that this is a step that we are still planning on taking in a couple of years.
As with any trip out of the country, I have to say that my guard was up.  What I told Connie (one of the women on the trip) was that the living conditions didn't surprise me.  I don't know if it was because we had seen it so much on the news, or if it was because I had my guard up.  What I saw on my first day was trash throughout the city, half naked children, 1 room homes made of mortar and tin, meat being sold on the street in the open air, roads that could, at best, be described as loose cobblestone, and water that we wouldn't give to our pets in the States.  There are so many pictures that I could post here, but a better way to get an idea of what I'm talking about is going here: https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#A859UlCqLGa8i .  In hindsight, in my mind, I was going on this trip to figure out what my concerns were about the mission.  Don't get me wrong, I was open to what God was showing me, but I was coming at it with a negative context.  What I had been told was, "go down and figure out what you can't live without."  I think having that in my mind probably made things worse for me.  It gave me a jaded vision of the mission.  This type of view doesn't include God in the picture.  It puts limits on Him providing for our true needs.  Stephen gave a wonderful testimony about how God has opened their eyes to what they can live without.

I want to share with all of you what I am struggling with personally about Haiti, but also the wonderful encouragement that I have.  I want to share my struggles first because the encouraging part of this story is definitely how this post needs to end.  The biggest thing that I had to come to grips with, after I returned, was figuring out how to move to a country where people have nothing, and preach that God will take care of them.  I had never been faced with such poverty.  Last night, in small group, we talked a little bit about this.  Here's a quote from last night's study: 
"Perhaps the greatest tragedy is when these problems (referring to disease, disaster, death, such as AIDS, earthquakes, tsunamis, war, etc) remain distant. Only numbers, not names. Just facts, not faces. But when we take a good, long look into their eyes, instead of looking away, we move past the stats and stories and become a part of the solution." -Max Lucado (Outlive Your Life)

The faces of poverty in this world were definitely put before me.  The other big issue that keeps coming up is the safety of my children.  I have no doubts that they will be safe within the mission walls, and that as we start our journey there, I will be more comfortable with my surroundings.  But as a father that has been afforded a comfortable assurance of safety in America, I am having a hard time growing in faith in this area.  I definitely need everyone's prayers here.  There are many other challenges ahead of us, but these are the two issues at the top of my list.
Now on to the encouragement that I received.  As I stated above, the staff at the mission is amazing!  I had concerns that there would be issues with all of the families living in close quarters with each other.  Those fears were put to rest when I met, talked to, and was able to interact with everyone. Their hearts are all in the right place, and even though I'm sure there are times where there is drama within the staff collectively, they pull through because of their faith in God, and being very open and honest with each other.
The most amazing thing during my trip was something that actually had me downhearted at first.  I shared this in my other blog, but when I was praying with patients before their exams, I would ask what they wanted me to pray for.  What shocked me so many times was hearing people answer back with, "God is in control."  At first, I didn't think that this was an answer to my question, and didn't really think about it more until I came home.  This was so much more of an answer than what I was expecting.  As Americans, we have a tendency to put our faith in being comfortable.  We say, "God, as long as I am comfortable, I will have faith in you," or, "God, please bless me with these material things."  How much greater faith does it take to say that "God is in control" when life isn't comfortable?  It's a faith that looks beyond what this world says we should have, and realizes that God is STILL good even when the comforts of this world are not available or present.  I was downhearted, at first, because I was seeing things through an American's eyes, and not the eyes of a child of God.  Once I changed the glasses I was looking through, God's goodness became very apparent and amazing!  The only thing different between the Haitians and us, is that they haven't placed as much junk between themselves and God as we do as Americans.  They have struggles of their own with their faith, but oh what it would be like to do away with all of the junk...and, in our case, be willing to do so.
God has big plans, and we are excited to be a part of them!

Josh

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Those I Couldn't Pray For


I have been honored with the privilege of praying with patients before their eye exams.  This job is very much a roller coaster of emotions.  The joy that we see from people every day that have next to nothing is amazing!  When asking, “how can I pray for you,” my favorite response has been, “God is in control of everything.”  What an amazing faith!
But these aren’t the stories I want to share with you tonight.  Tonight, I want to tell you about the grandmother and grandson in the picture on this post.  It had been a good morning.  We had prayed with many patients, and it was still early.  On the bench in front of me sat a little boy and his frail grandmother.  It wasn’t uncommon to see people leading the elderly to be seen by the doctors.  What was uncommon was a child of this age being an escort.  I approached them with a usual greeting, and waited for my interpreter ( the local pastor) to fill in the blanks.  This time, he didn’t come back with a usual reply.  Pastor St. Verty proceeded to tell me that this was a grandmother and grandson.  We had many blind people come through, so I wasn’t shocked hen he told me she was blind.  What shocked me was that he told me the grandson was also blind.  We questioned how it was possible for him to lead his grandmother to the clinic.  I thought there was no way that this could be true.  I waved my hand about a foot from his face.  There was no response.  I waved it two inches from his face.  He could follow my hand, but not focus.  My heart dropped.  How could a blind grandmother and grandson make it to the mission, much less out of the front door?  I felt my throat starting to choke up, and I felt tears welling in my eyes.  These were (and still are) the only people I have had to step away from, and have someone else pray for.
What I have encountered in Haiti is nothing short of inspiring, but also heart breaking.  I’m amazed at a faith that most of us could never comprehend.  Our God is truly a great and wonderful God, and He is constantly teaching me that my perspective on life can be very out of focus.  Thank God for the iTeam, and all that they do.  They truly define a servant’s heart.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Josh's Trip

In 4 short days, I will be heading to Haiti to "get a feel" for what could potentially be our new home.  I will be working with the same eye surgery team (different members) as Tara did.  The difference is that Tara is a registered nurse, and while I have some medical background, am nowhere near as skilled in this area, so I'm not sure at all what I will be doing while I'm there.  After the busyness of the past few weeks, I'm finally starting to get excited about the trip!
On a separate note, Tara and I are constantly amazed and reminded that God is in control.  With the time between the time we hope to move and now, we have been concerned that the excitement would go away, and that we would start questioning God's calling in our lives.  God continues to bring encouragement and reminders into our lives.  Today, our pastor gave a message about the Israelites wandering in the dessert.  The message was titled "The Space Between."  He talked about how what should have been an 11 day journey from Mt. Hebron to Israel took 39 years.  When God speaks through our pastor to us, Tara and I have a tendency to look at each other and giggle a little because we know that He is sustaining us through the down times.  Today's message did come with a warning though.  During their time in the dessert, God supplied the Israelites with manna to keep them fed.  When they grew tired of the manna, they complained to God that they didn't have meat, and that they would have been better off in Egypt where they had plenty of meat to eat.  God gave them meat, but had this to say in Numbers 11:18-20, "18“Say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, “Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt.” Therefore the LORD will give you meat and you shall eat. 19‘You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, 20but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the LORD who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’”
I think I can speak for Tara in saying that we are both taking the message given today to heart.  Here is the sermon:

Look for pictures from the trip after I return!

-Josh