We have had a whirlwind of a week — I attended a week of training on Community Health Evangelism, then scurried off to Nashville for the Alive Wesleyan Women’s conference, attended a funeral of my former boss, had the chance to share at our former home church in Hermitage, and talk to hundreds of friends in between.
Went upstairs to kiss a fella
Made a mistake
Kissed a snake
How many doctors did it take?”
There weren’t many sports that I was good at as a kid.
Okay, there weren’t any.
But I did love to jump rope, especially double dutch jump rope.
Every day of 4th grade recess, you’d find me jumping rope on the sidewalk of Atkinson Elementary school with Trixy, Amy, Trisha, and Janelle. Boys were not allowed. That would just be gross.
In spite of the fact that jumping required coordination, I was actually pretty good at it –after a few hours of practice.
But jumping wasn’t the only difficult part of double dutch jumprope, the ability of the rope turners to swing the rope in a timely manner was critical. If they had poor rhythm, or didn’t come in on time, there was no way for the jumper to jump. Again, because this required coordination, it took practice and effort to achieve.
The hardest part of double dutch jump rope wasn’t the jumping, or the turning. It was getting into the spinning ropes. I had to wait for just the right moment, while the far rope was cresting at the top, to jump into the whirling ropes. Miss it by a fraction of a second, the ropes tangled around my feet, and my turn was over.
Thirty years later, I can still vividly envision the sound of the ropes rhythmically hitting the pavement, the ropes cresting, waiting for the perfect moment to jump.
Becoming a missionary is similar. Knowing when to jump is critical.
Until I was knee-deep in the process, I never knew how much work it took to become a missionary.
We have courses we need to take, both online and in person, immigration issues to address for our three different nationalities, speaking engagements every weekend, preparing to our house for sale, completing Rosetta Stone, deciding what to keep, give away, or take with us, determining where to go to language school and how we’re going to live while doing so, determining an educational plan for our children, and on and on. And then there is the matter of raising $102,000/year in pledges for the next four years, as well as a startup fund (or approximately $440,000 total).
Getting to the mission field is a lot of work, before we can even get there. We had been managing to have Ken work full time on getting us to the mission field (unpaid) by dipping into our savings a bit each month. We pressed hard to get through the application, orientation, vision trip, fundraising training, and initial partnership building as fast as possible. I believe we may have even set a record for getting through the process. We knew we cannot be paid for our work getting to the mission field until we are at 50% funding.
We are at almost 20%.
And our savings just ran out.
We find ourselves staring at the ropes of making it to the mission field.
Ken has gotten a job at Chick-Fil-A, because he cannot take a pastoral position since we travel every weekend. He has gotten a job because we are not yet at 50% funding. But getting to 50% funding just got immeasurably more difficult because Ken is working full time, and I’m working my usual 80+ hours per week. Neither of us have paid vacation time.
We certainly don’t mind hard work. We rather enjoy working hard. But we cannot get to the mission field without devoting many hours of work each week to get there, and we are out of time, and money.
So we’ve come to the point where we need God to show up in a big way. We are spent. And at the end of ourselves is usually when God shows up.
We are confident that God didn’t just call us to GO to the mission field in Ghana. He has called others to SEND us. God never issues a call without the means to fulfill it.
In the game of missionary double dutch jump rope, we are waiting for our time to jump in. We have committed our lives and possessions for the sake of the Gospel in Ghana. We are looking for some consistent rope swingers who are committed to invest in what God is doing in Ghana as well. Without the commitment and work of both the rope swingers and the jumpers, we’ll never get to the mission field.
Many of you have asked when you should start giving. The answer is simple: Now.
Once we get to 50% funding, Ken will be able to go back to full-time preparation for the mission field. The need is urgent, both here, and in Ghana.
To get to 50% funding:
We need 30 individuals to promise $100/month; or
We need 10 churches or individuals to promise $300/month
We know that the call on your life is every bit as important as the call on ours. We know you don’t know exactly how you’re going to do it. That’s okay. We know precisely how it feels to depend on God for money we just don’t have.
We all know a God who has the resources.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” Ephesians 3:20-21
If you are ready to get in the game, and swing some ropes, click here.
(A guest post by Ken)
What a strange thought. And it came out of nowhere. I was alone and driving in the car.
I don’t know when. Or where. But someday I will take my little girl for one last walk and then her heart will belong to another.
She will be radiant.
Her hair will be perfect. Robin will see to that.
Her dress will be fabulous (and expensive).
But the honor of walking her down the aisle will fall to me… wow! What have I done to deserve this?
She was born in a far off land to another family who loved her and tried to care for her as best they could. She came to us… wild and afraid. Those early days were long and hard. But love to hold and grew into something unique and beautiful.
On her wedding day, Addie’s eyes will be on a young man at the front of the sanctuary who will be wearing a rented tuxedo and scared to death. And all eyes will be on her. Deservedly so. After all she is… perfect… just as her Heavenly Father intended her to be. The road to that sanctuary may have been a bumpy one. But on that day, the past will be forgotten and we will simply bathe in the beauty of the present. Together.
Knowing me, I will try to say something profound or memorable, but all that I will be able to say will be “you are so beautiful” or “your mother and I are so proud of you”. But that will be enough.
There will be tears and smiles as we are overwhelmed by emotions too powerful to describe. Our beautiful Congolese angel is flying away.
Any pain, frustration or heart-ache will have faded into distant memory. All that will remain will be a strong, mature and precious woman beaming with the joy of young love.
My daughter has given me a fresh glimpse of what it means to be a Christian.
To be the Church.
The bride of Christ.
The words are not new to me, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. ” Thanks to Addie, this amazing little princess, who faces the challenges of each day with reckless abandon, I now have a better understanding of the Apostle Paul’s meaning.
Someday I will be the Father of the Bride. I will be beaming (and broke). But today I am also part of the Bride of Christ. And while the simple thought of walking my little girl down the aisle to be married bring me to tears, my emotions pale in comparison to how God the Father views the Church, the Bride of Christ.
The Church is far from perfect. Be it is loved and therein lies its true worth.
He has called us.
And we are loved.
The wedding day of Jesus and His Bride cost the Father dearly. His one and only Son. But so great was His love for us that He paid the price.
And someday God the Father will march us down the aisle so that we may spend eternity with Christ.
The perky heads of yellow have sprung from the ground, signaling the end of winter. A new season has arrived — days are getting longer and warmer. The arctic winds of winter have shifted to bring spring showers, awakening the dead earth back to life. Daffodils are the first sign of that annual renewal of life.
For the last 12 years, daffodils have been a danger sign to me. They signaled the coming of spring pollen. Every year, when the tree and flower pollen spikes, my lungs go into lockdown.
Ken and I started celebrating Valentine’s day at other times of the year because me getting sick was so predictable. Every year, I’ve been on steroids. Many years, I’ve ended up in the hospital.
Daffodils signify danger.
So when I saw the first signs of the daffodils of spring, I gasped.
And I exhaled.
I chuckled to myself as I am reminded that I have been set free from the chains of asthma. Even the cough I picked up in Africa in 2012 is now gone. I’ve been off of asthma medications for over 6 months now, and when I saw my physician this week he said aloud, “It’s the strangest thing.” I wasn’t just a typical asthmatic, I was the worst kind of asthmatic. I took the monthly injection Xolair in 2013 to the tune of $3500/month, and it didn’t touch my asthma. A day or two without my daily inhaled medicines would send me into gasps of suffocation.
When Ken and I prayed for my healing as confirmation that we should move to Africa, it was as if we really didn’t expect God to heal me. Though we were certain God could heal me, we weren’t sure He would.
As a medical provider, my entire job is, well, trying to help people God chooses not to heal. I pray for my patients every day as I travel to their homes. I have prayed for long lists of health requests from Sunday school classes, small groups, academic settings, and more.
I spend my days immersed in what God is seemingly not doing.
I am learning that God’s purposes in illness are not always about the cure. He could have healed my asthma 12 years ago, when I first asked. But He didn’t. He waited 12 frustrating years and over a hundred thousand dollars later. Illness did not merely exist in my life so He could heal me from it, but to teach me through it. I had had to learn to find joy, when I could not breathe well enough to walk across the house to get a glass of water. I learned to embrace the struggle as a part of how God was shaping me. I learned to love God not in spite of my physical ailment, but because He had chosen me to discipline in love through my illness. And I ultimately had to offer it as my only request to God before we moved to Ghana. I have often asked Ken, “If I wouldn’t have had asthma for 12 years, would we know for sure God wanted us to move to Ghana?”
While God did heal my lungs, and I am so thankful for the confirmation we needed to know that His plan would be found in Ghana, I am even more thankful for the lessons He taught me on those long days of suffocation.
I wear a heavy cloak of burden these days for all of my patients because of the illnesses that they bear. I carry the burden for our prayer partners who are suffering from illness in themselves or their family. But if what is true in my own life is true for others, an absence of healing does not mean an absence of God’s presence and guidance. Perhaps rather than praying only for my patient’s physical healing from illness, I should pray for their spiritual healing through illness.
My work in medicine must balance what God is seemingly not doing in the physical realm, with what He is doing in the spiritual realm. And He calls me to be a healer in both.
John Piper in What Jesus Demands from the World says, “He did not die to make this life easy for us or prosperous. He died to remove every obstacle to our everlasting joy in making much of him. And he calls us to follow him in his sufferings because this life of joyful suffering for Jesus’ sake (Matt. 5:12) shows that he is more valuable than all the earthly rewards that the world lives for. If you follow Jesus only because he makes life easy now, it will look to the world as though you really love what they love, and Jesus just happens to provide it for you. But if you suffer with Jesus in the pathway of love because he is your supreme treasure, then it will be apparent to the world that your heart is set on a different fortune than theirs. This is why Jesus demands that we deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him.”
Daffodils will now always remind me of delighting in God, whether in danger or disease or deliverance. And this year, I am celebrating what God has taught me, as I embrace the arrival of spring, with every. single. breath.
I do not need diversity in my life to feel better about myself.
- I need people with dementia in my life, so I can learn to love without any expectation of return tomorrow.
- I need minorities in my life, to open my eyes to the white privilege I unknowingly enjoy.
- I need the poor in my life to teach me to value what is eternal more than what is temporal.
- I need children in my life to help me to laugh, love, and forgive easily.
- I need LGBT people in my life, to help me comprehend the sting of hateful words like “abomination” in an area of personal pain.
- I need chronically homeless people in my life, to help me understand how much work it takes to survive homelessness and unemployment.
- I need Christians from other cultures in my life, to help me distinguish between what is Biblical and what is political.
- I need people with disabilities in my life to help me see the benefits of a little patience, a little accommodation, and a lot of hard work.
- I need undocumented immigrants in my life to help me comprehend how unjust laws have created systematic discrimination and abuse.
- I need Muslims in my life to remind me of the pain of being judged as an individual based on the actions of others.
- I need patients in my life whom I cannot cure to remind me that I am not the Ultimate Healer.
To dismiss and dislike those whom I do not know is tempting. It is much easier to love and fill my life with those who look like me, think like me, believe like me. I need people from diverse backgrounds in my life to recognize what I am not.
You do too.
The beauty of the gospel is that God demonstrated that He loves us, not because of what is in us, but because of what is in Him. Likewise, I need others in my life who are different than me to learn to love, not because of who they are, but because of who Jesus is.
Revelation 7:9-10 “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
‘Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.’”
If the picture of Heaven is diversity, I need more in my life in order to for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Who do you need in your life?
We were completely caught off guard Monday evening, August 1, 2011. We were expecting to be in the paperwork process of adoption for several more weeks before we could even be eligible for a referral. My heart dropped in my chest as I read the email we were unprepared for — medical information, pictures, demographics of a 3 year old girl and a 4 year old boy. The chubby-cheeked girl was clearly angry in the pictures, and the boy tore at his clothes in grief. It was the moment they were turned in to the orphanage, and they were broken. And we were being asked to adopt them.
In order to demonstrate our intent to adopt, we had 6 weeks to come up with $17,000. With sinking realization, I knew we just didn’t have it. We actually didn’t have any money because we had spent all of our savings to start the adoption process and were living from paycheck to paycheck. We had no way to even get it.
I turned to Ken and said, “Unless it starts raining money from heaven, we are going to have to turn these kids down, raise money, and then accept the next referral that comes our way.”
I am quite certain that God chuckled at my words.
Little did we know, checks had already been written. Contributions had already been sent. Without saying a word to anyone, we had $5000 given to us in the first 24 hours after that email. God was sending rains of generosity through people who were sensitive enough the spirit to give without even being asked. Dozens more followed in the next few weeks, and there are hundreds of people who were able to be a part of making beauty from ashes in the lives of those two broken children.
When we started out the adoption process, we had no idea how we were going to pay for it. The only thing we did know was that God was asking us to, and that we would need to have faith that He would provide as we were obedient.
When we were adopting, if we had asked ourselves, “How much can we afford to spend on adoption?” we never would have adopted. We had to step out in faith, knowing that God would provide what we needed.
Without the need, we never would have seen God provide the miracle.
Faith promise giving is exactly like that. Faith promise giving is not looking at a budget and asking, “How much can I afford?” but looking at God and asking, “How much do you want me to give?” In fact, if you can afford to give, faith really isn’t involved. Faith steps in and says, “Without you, God, I cannot make this happen. I am trusting you to provide.”
Without a need, God has no room perform a miracle.
When Ken lived in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia as a young single pastor, there came a day where he was down to his last $40. He had pledged to sponsor a child through Compassion, and it was either the child that was going to eat, or Ken. No one would have blamed Ken for calling up Compassion and cancelling his sponsorship. He really couldn’t afford it on a part-time pastor’s salary.
But Ken wrote the check to Compassion and trusted God to provide, or to lose some weight in the next week.
As Ken was leading youth group that night, he heard some rustling going on upstairs at the church — they were having a board meeting, he was told. After youth group, Ken went upstairs, and found the members of the church had planned a grocery shower for Ken. There was a whole table of food — cereals, soups, crackers, pasta — more than Ken could eat in a week!
God must have smiled as Ken chose to write the check to Compassion. The blessing was already on its way.
Without the need, he never would have seen God perform the miracle.
I know there are many of my friends who would love to support our work in Ghana. We are so blessed by people who are praying for us and cheering us on. There are some of you who read this blog whom I’ve never met before, who are drawn to what God is calling us to do.
I’d ask you to consider one thing: Don’t ask if you can afford to support God’s work in Ghana. Ask what God wants to provide through you. Would you consider putting yourself in a position of need, so God can work miracles through you?
Without a need, God cannot perform a miracle.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6 NIV
“Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” Luke 6:21 NIV
The trouble is that hunger is not a very comfortable situation to be in. I’ve often thought about wanting to hunger and thirst after God as something good, something pleasant. But hunger, by its very nature, is painful. There’s a big difference between a desire and hunger. Hunger goes beyond desire to a physical discomfort of craving. A piece of cinnamon and sugar toast sounds good to me right now. One could even say that I DESIRE to have a piece. But am I hungry? No. No hunger pangs. No stomach rumbling. But if I eat the desired cinnamon and sugar toast, I actually shortcut hunger.
Ken Gire speaks on the subject of spiritual hunger in The Reflective Life. “Because hunger hurts, though, we try to take the edge off it in any way we can. One of those ways is with religious activity. And that can include the activity of reading books, listening to tapes, or going to seminars. Through these things, which are often very good things, even nourishing things, we are fed the experiences of others. But they are not our experiences. I can read a psalm about David crying out from a cave in the wilderness, and I should read that psalm, but it is not my psalm. It is not my psalm because it is not my cave, not my wilderness, and not my tears.”
My pain. My cave. My wilderness. These create a true hunger. There’s no easy substitution for hunger.
In a world of self-sufficiency, my faith can be hampered by shortcutting hunger. Do I snack on the spiritual experiences of others, rather than working through and learning from my own? Probably more often than I’d like to think. In the same way that eating at the first desire for food without true hunger creates overweight people, feeding off of the experiences of others without allowing true hunger for God creates overfed Christians.
How do I create true hunger for righteousness rather than snacking on the experiences of others? Many times I find myself in stages of life in which I tangibly feel the need for God’s healing or provision. In my middle-class North American culture, that’s often not the case.
The summer sun beat down on the roofs of the Nebraska Wesleyan District campground, with its white-washed structures randomly planted among the cornfields and cow pastures, surrounded by country dirt roads and barbed wire fences. Thousands of dogday cicadas softly hummed their weeee-oooooooo-weeeee-oooooo, welcoming the human intruders to their rural domain. Sand burrs lay hidden in the sandy soil waiting to impale bare feet. Any grass lay trampled by the feet of dozens of children gathered for church camp.
The morning breakfast of pancakes and syrup with a side of canned peaches had been consumed with a side of Tang, and the iron bell clanged its beckoning call to chapel. The air was musty and humid in the cement-floored tabernacle, which stood boarded up against the elements most of the year, until summer camp rolled around. Now it was filled with pre-pubescent mischief and energy, anxious to get on with the activities for that day.
The day I said yes.
I was sitting on the aisle at the end of the wooden pew in the right half of the building, a half a dozen rows back from the front of the platform. The breeze blew in lightly from the screenless windows through my permed towhead hair. My feet squirmed in the sandy dirt on the concrete floor beneath my feet. The pastor was preaching a compelling message, and though my eyes were fixed on his polyester baby blue plaid suit, I could not focus on his words.
Someone else was speaking to me.
“I want you to say yes, no matter what,” the Holy Spirit whispered.
“Yes, to what?”
“I want you to say yes, no matter what.”
The words reminded me of when Moses asked the name of the One who spoke from the burning bush.
“I Am Who I Am.” While obviously a person cannot tell God that is a lousy answer, I’m sure that Moses did a little shaking in his sandalless feet when he realized that was actually the answer God expected Moses to give to Pharoah. The Pharoah with the temper, and a grudge.
If I were in Moses’ bare feet, I would have thought, “Are you trying to get me killed by making me into a smart-mouth, ‘I Am Who I Am’?” Thankfully, Moses chose his words more wisely at that time.
“I want you to say yes to me, no matter what,” the Holy Spirit pressed again as if the wind itself were carrying the words through me.
“Jesus, I already have you in my heart, I don’t know what more you want from me,” I protested.
“For the rest of your life, I want you to say yes to me, no matter what. I have great plans for you, but I need you to always tell me yes.”
By the time the pastor gave the altar call, I was running for the front of the altar to pray with hot tears of conviction streaming down my face. My counselor, Tracy, followed me. I felt awful for her because I was sobbing so hard, all I could say was, “I just want to do what Jesus says.”
That day, I committed my life to Christ in what I now know is called sanctification — the moment when God got all of me. I had already experienced all of God’s forgiveness and love, but it took years before I gave God the right to overrule any of my decisions. That day, I knew that if God made His will clear, I would follow it, no matter what.
I was not saying yes to a project.
I was not saying yes to a profession.
I was not saying yes to a pursuit.
I was saying yes to a Person.
Jesus didn’t want my affection, my talents, or my plans, He wanted my YES.
He wants your YES too.
When I tell people today about God asking us to move to Ghana, I’m always a bit surprised to hear people say, “Oh, Africa? I could NEVER do that!” Saying “never” to God is not an option. For me, the choice was made more than 30 years ago on a sandy concrete floor in the front of a musty tabernacle.
The choice was made the day I said yes.
“But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.'” — Luke 9:62 NASB
Guest post by Ken
“Missing friends is the worst part of moving away.” – Sue Dinkins Pinion
I am not a sentimental person. Our closets are not filled with memorabilia or souvenirs. I have a few, but only a few. (Tomas Vokoun bobblehead doll. 2003 NHL Rookie Draft ID badge that was signed by Wayne Gretzky.) It may be the number of times that we have moved. More keepsakes means more boxes and longer moving days.
Christmas would be the exception. We intentionally add a new souvenir each year to our “tree of memories”. I like this tradition. It may be in part because Christmas ornaments are small and easy to move.
Whether good or bad, I have always been good at saying good-bye. I think it started back when I was in college. Each summer I worked as a counselor at Camp Sebago, the Salvation Army Camp on Sebago Lake, Maine. The days were long but the summers flew by quickly. And at the end of each week we (the counselors) would say tearful heart-felt goodbyes to our campers. With each week the goodbyes got easier–routine almost.
In ministry Robin and I have had to say more than a few goodbyes as well. Some have been easy and some have been very difficult. Fortunately in college ministry (which is what Robin and I have been doing for the last 15 years) goodbyes are natural as students graduate and move away to conquer the world.
Leaving Wesley Community Church in Pembroke, Ontario was easy for me. I loved the people there and the teens especially. I was grateful for the friendships with Elizabeth Stewart, Mike McConnachie, Darren Somerville, and Morgan MacPherson. But leaving Pembroke was easy because I was moving in order to marry Robin and begin our lives together.
When Robin and I left Marion, IN it was a particularly hard goodbye for two reasons. The first reason was the circumstances under which we left. We loved Pastor Dave Terhune and felt tremendously blessed to serve with him. He loved Jesus and was an incredibly gifted soul-winner. The second reason why is was hard to leave Marion was it meant leaving behind a very good friend, Adam Sprinkle. Adam was like the brother I never had. He still makes me laugh like no one else can. Adam was a relatively new believer and so saying goodbye in order to pursue God’s will was still foreign to him. To this day, one of my greatest regrets in ministry was having to say goodbye to Adam.
Now that we are planning to move to Ghana people ask what we are going to miss most. In terms of the “stuff”… nothing. Not really. There will be days in which I just wish I could microwave something, watch hockey on our plasma screen TV or eat a Five Guys cheeseburger, but for the most part it’s all small potatoes.
Robin and I talk–almost daily–about what WILL be hard for us to leave behind: our dogs. We have had Buddy & Holly for over eight years. They are part of our family. It’s on our kid’s minds as well. For Addie & Palmer, the dogs have been two constants in their young lives.
What makes saying goodbye to Buddy and Holly particularly difficult for me is that I know they won’t understand. They’re just dogs. But they are our dogs and we love them dearly.
Intellectually we know that we cannot put the love of our dogs before our commitment to do God’s will. But emotionally it is inconceivable that there will come a day when we will have to say goodbye to Buddy & Holly.
If you’re not a dog person, this may all sound silly to you. That’s okay. But for those of you who have enjoyed the companionship of man’s best friend, you understand the hurt that is a part of our decision to move to Ghana. And we would ask that you pray that God will help us find a loving home for two amazing canine friends entering their golden-years.