Sunday, April 27, 2014

The trials continue but won't last: 2 Corinthians 4

Broken down car, a borrowed car with a check engine light, Beckham battling vomited and diarrhea for two weeks, Jamie getting the sickness, then me, then my dad and my mom, having to cancel meetings with a church and a pastor because we are too sick to travel, coming down with poison ivy which continues to spread, battling insomnia brought on from itching and my medicine, and Beckham continuing to wake up crying multiple times a night.  I am tired, drained, emotionally spent, but all I can say is God is good and in control.  

“For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.  We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.  (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)  

I am a weak, fragile clay jar that could be easily broken.  I am not patient or strong and I don’t have endurance.  I can barely keep myself together enough while working towards raising up the prayer and financial partners to get to Romania.  I will never have the endurance to stay for I am far too weak, but this doesn’t cause me despair like it once did.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.  Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. (2 Corinthians 4:8-12)

Jesus is alive and building His kingdom, and He has called our family to serve Him in Romania.  The small, trivial and short trials we have endured lately have only made our calling more clear.  We truly do have an adversary who roars around like a lion seeking to devour.

But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you.   All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.  That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.   For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!   (2 Corinthians 4:13-17)

When we joined ReachGlobal we had many people tell us that they respected us and something along the lines of, "It takes a strong person to do what you are doing."  I believed it.  A year and half of humbling hardships later I see that there isn't anything further from the truth.  It takes a weak person to be a missionary.  The weaker the better, because God's power is perfected and clearly shown in weakness.  We don't endure because we are strong, faithful or full of patience.  We endure because God's power is alive inside our weak, fragile clay jar of a body.  

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.  (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

51 Days to Go!

“In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.”   Psalm 5:3

There are 51 days left until our goal of reaching 100% of our monthly partnership so we can move to Romania this summer.  God has brought one passage again and again to both Jamie's and my mind.  In the book of Exodus Moses and the Israelites were standing on the edge of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army on their heels.  “But Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever.  The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent’” (Exodus 14:13-14).  

They stood on the edge of an unsure future and were told “The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.”  Currently, that is how we feel.  We don’t know what will come next, but we know that God continually shows us that He is the one who will call people to partner financially.  He is far more interested in the spreading of His glory around the world than we are.  He will fight for the spread of His gospel in Romania and put us in a position where all we can do is silently watch Him work.

Please continue to pray that God would bring more annual and monthly partners on our team.  Also, thank you so much for the prayers for Beckham. He kept down sweet potatoes last night and even a couple bottles of milk for the first time in a week!  Praise the Lord!

Please continue to pray for wisdom for the shelter for trafficking victims.  Our team is seeking the Lord about the possibility of starting a second shelter for younger survivors of trafficking.  Romanian law does not allow the current shelter to house both adults and minors under one roof.  Many victims of trafficking are younger than 18 and need a separate emergency housing option.  No such facility currently exists in Romania.  Pray for wisdom as this would be a huge endeavor, and would require personnel and financial resources that currently are not available.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Week One of Travels

To sum up our first week of traveling: nothing went as planned.  Our car started having transmission troubles on day one, and I had to drive it back to Eastern Pennsylvania the day after leaving home to get fixed.  It was a bigger job than we could wait for, but Jamie's grandma graciously loaned us her car for a month.  Beckham had a fever and diarrhea the day before we left, but he started intense vomiting on Friday.  By Sunday Jamie had come down with the same virus causing us to have to stop traveling and spend the night at a hotel.  Sunday we also had to start canceling our plans for the week.  Two stops visiting family, one stop visiting partners, a meeting with a pastor and speaking at a one of our partnering churches.  Monday we made the drive to my parents house in Missouri, and I came down with a mild version of the same bug a couple hours before we got to their house.  So five days after we left home we had a different car, we had canceled 90% of our plans and our entire family had the flu.  Like I said: Not as planned.

The last few days I have constantly been brought by the Lord to Proverbs 16.

"The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps" (16:9).  

It took a lot of planning and coordinating to schedule our stops and church visits this week.  To see it all have to get canceled wasn't easy.  I wanted to fight it and push through even though we were sick, but God continually brought that verse to mind.  I can plan all I want, but God directs what will happen.  No matter how hard I strive and work it doesn't change the fact that all fruit and growth come from God.  Our team of partners is growing because God is causing them to grow.  Just like Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth."  Once again I am humbled to be reminded that I am called to a life of one thing: obedience.  Many days I forget that and try to convince myself that I am called to the task of causing the growth of our team of partners or teaching others how to grow closer to the Lord.  However, I am called to be obedient, and God will cause the growth.  Right now that means resting so our family can recover from sickness.  It also means praying that God will cause the growth of our team of partners.  

We appreciate all your prayers for our family.  Jamie and I are recovering and starting to feel better, but Beckham is still vomiting and still has diarrhea and a fever.  He is staying hydrated with pedialite but is starting to look thin.  Praise the Lord that we have a God who is good and loves our son more than we ever could.  Although this week has been difficult, God has kept up our family's faith, and we know that this situation will be used for our good and His glory.   

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Day Two: A Different Car and Vomiting Son

Day two of our month long trip consisted of me (Mark) driving back to Eastern Pennsylvania to have our vehicle worked on.  We had serious transmission issues arise on our first day of travels.  It was discovered that it could not be fixed in our time frame, but praise the Lord that Jamie's grandma graciously loaned us her car for the next month and a half.  I then drove back to Cleveland last night totally an extra 750 miles of driving not originally planned.

Also, Beckham has a fever and spent the whole night vomiting.  He has been able to keep pedialite down this morning and has even taken in some milk and solid food, but he still has diarrhea.  

We are leaving right now to drive to Michigan to meet with a missions team tonight from a Baptist Church.  Please be praying for Beckham that he would sleep well in the car.  Please continue to pray that God would be glorified through this trip and that we would continually to look to Him for comfort and wisdom.  Praise the Lord that He promises us the grace to get through all situations.

Our current struggles remind me of the apostles after they were beaten.  The  book of Acts records their actions saying, "The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name" (Acts 5:41).  Although we having been physically beaten, I can begin to relate to this verse.  God has called our family to glorify His name through missionary service and working to raise up a team of partners for this ministry.  Hard ships will come, but praise the Lord that our family has been blessed with the privileged to bring Glory to Him in any way we can.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Day One of Travels: Check Engine

Two days and five hours of driving after sending out a newsletter about trusting God's sovereignty and praying that His glory would trump our safety we are sitting at a rest stop with the smell of burning rubber and check engine light on the dashboard.  Jamie's first thought was, "Maybe you shouldn't have written that newsletter".  :)

The situation as it stands is that the car can still run but needs something in the transmission replaced that is estimated to take at least 6 hours to replace.  We are in Cleveland currently for a EFCA church conference and are meeting with a Baptist Church's missions team of Saturday night in Michigan which is an appointment we have been praying for months to have.  Being as important as it is to make Saturday it looks like I will be driving back to PA to have Jamie's father (an awesome mechanic) do the work on our car tomorrow.  Please be praying that the car makes the trip and that the work can get done.  It looks like Jamie will be going to the church conference with Beckham tomorrow without me.  Please pray that God will use this for His glory, because we know He can and we know He wants to.

Beckham wasn't too stressed about the car troubles when we stopped at the rest-stop.