This was written yesterday, but didn’t get posted.
I’m sitting in a plush chair, my laptop glowing at me as Christmas music roars out of the kitchen to my left. Up the stairs I can hear a mixture of proclamations and the tinkling giggles of sixteen year olds doing their makeup. Tonight is Christmas Banquet a Black Forest Academy. In my mind, it’s an analog of Homecoming. It’s the first semi-formal of the year, open to all four grades, much is made over who is going with whom.
Suddenly, it hits me that we don’t have a Christmas tree yet. My world spins a bit. This past week is foggy and distant. Some combination of stress, allergy medication and lack of sleep has me particularly out of sorts.
I’m here trying to write a blog post, because I haven’t gotten that job done well the last several days. But in truth, I’ve no idea where this is heading. A bit of stream of consciousness meandering to…..
And now I’ll distract you from my utterly vacuous ramblings with all of these lovely ladies.
Isaac and I drove home in virtual silence. The disappointments were mounting. After getting accepted to his first choice college, Isaac had been unable to go. It was just too expensive, in spite of his numerous scholarships from the school and even one from a local church. Now he was waiting on his second choice school but it would be months yet.
We’d just put Brandy and Faith on a plane back to Germany, but finances had forced me to stay behind. I had no return ticket. No plan for when I could go home. We were both stuck in limbo.
“Heard back on any of your job applications?” I asked.
He just shook his head. The pneumonia had interfered with all of his plans. No friends. No job.
“Maybe next week we can drive out to Barclay.” The tiny college I’d graduated from in Kansas was hovering in the number 3 or 4 slot on Isaac’s list. “Have a little father/son road trip.”
Isaac smiled softly. “That’d be fun, Pa.”
While I was trying to line up appointments for my extended stay, I texted admissions over the weekend and setup accommodations for us Monday night and a tour Tuesday morning. So, after a long slow weekend, the two of us set out for Kansas.
A six hour trip quickly became eight. As we neared the tiny town of Haviland (population 703), a big sign reading “I’d turn back if I were you” seemed almost prophetic. The town was so small, we drove right past it and had to turn around, but we found the school.
18 hours later we were back in the car driving home.
“What did you think?” I asked.
“As plan B,” Isaac answered, “I would be happy to go there.”
The next morning dawned bleakly. I had no new appointments.
“Dear Lord,” I prayed, “I don’t know what you’re doing, or why you’re doing it this way… Help me. Please, Lord. You’re always there when I need you. I know you’re hearing me now. What do I do?”
When I’d finished praying, I walked upstairs to see Isaac. He looked like I felt.
He’d been waiting for today since his arrival. He was to audition for the church music team, but the leader couldn’t make it and they would have to reschedule. He felt a bit like the only thing he was looking forward to had been taken away. Both of us sat looking at one another in shared commiseration. We felt hopeless. I started talking, trying to suggest activities that Isaac might enjoy, and all of the sudden, he sat bolt upright, his eyes lighting up.
“What?” I asked.
He started to slump immediately. “Nothing.” He said. “It’s crazy. It doesn’t make any sense.”
I smirked. “None of this makes sense.” I said, “Let’s hear it.”
“What if I just go to Barclay right now? This semester.” he replied. “But, then I’d have to take out loans and it… it’s just crazy.”
I was glad that he was leery of loans, but I knew they’d be very small in this case, so I told him to go ahead and submit the application and I’d get started on finances.
The rest of the week was a whirlwind. Isaac submitted his application Wednesday, was accepted Thursday and we were back in Kansas moving him into his dorm on Saturday. Everything seemed like a perfect fit. By the time I was driving back to Colorado on Sunday afternoon, Isaac was on the soccer team, had found a good church, scheduled an audition for the worship band and was joining the school choir. I could see God’s hands all over this moment that was tailored precisely for my son.
The next morning, I was back in a darker place.
“Yes, Lord, it’s clear to me I needed to be here to help Isaac step into the amazing plan you have, but,” I whined vigorously, “I’m still stuck here — no closer to having the money raised!”
The foolishness of it, the ingratitude is embarrassing, but I’m being honest.
Between fruitless attempts to raise money, I tried to contact the finance office at Barclay. Isaac was in classes, but I still didn’t know how much the bill would be. I expected we’d need an additional $3000-4000 to be paid over the remainder of the year. Finally, I got the finance guy on the phone.
“I’ve got all Isaac’s info here, I just have to put it into the system.” He told me.
I listened to his clicking keys for several minutes. Then came the big number.
“First semester,” He informed “Isaac will owe $1247 and $1248 next semester.”
I got payment instructions and we agreed to talk again the next day. As I hung up the phone, I got thinking about Isaac’s church scholarship. I called them on the phone.
“Yes. Isaac has already talked with us, we’re directing the scholarship to Barclay.”
The scholarship was $1250 a semester. I was floored. Here I was, questioning God and his plan, his ability even to work out our convoluted finances. But God had known all along, where Isaac would end up and how much it would cost. He’d arranged it all perfectly from the beginning, though we’d been unable to see it until all the pieces came together.
It’s still hard to contemplate our financial situation. But I’ve been powerfully reminded just how good and generous our God can be, when we’re seeking him and walking in his will. It’s not that getting there wasn’t difficult. Of course, it was. There were powerful moments of hopelessness and despair. And yet, God delivered on such a sweeping scale. How can I not have confidence in his plans for our ministry and financial provision? Praise the Lord!
A plethora of excitingness has been happening the past four months- and it’s high time for a written report. I was introduced to the Greek Bible College opportunity kind of in the same way an assassin’s target finds out about a planted time bomb minutes from detonation. The amount of time given to consider the situation is so small and pressurized, the tendency toward self preservation has less time to kick in, and a braver course of action is usually taken…God knew if I had too much time to think, I would have stayed home and implemented my home-school-college-for-a-year-via-online-courses-plan. It would have been the worst decision of my life.
Since being here, so many blessings have followed. The opportunities here are so many, together they weigh more than a couple universes. The staff are primarily responsible for that. All of my professors (colloquially) are “beasts” for God. They’re a group of delightful, intentional, and wise people who’ve earnestly been studying the Lord and His word for most their lives (many of them with the bible’s original languages under their belts- how cool is that?!). Accordingly, I’ve been hoarding up vast amounts of…information doesn’t seem to be quite the right word, since the majority of what I’ve been learning doesn’t feel academic. To say it better, I’ve relished and cherished the lessons of Evangelism, Old Testament Survey, Inductive Bible Studies, Corinthian Correspondence, and Theology courses (I admit I may have been a less than excited student of Ancient Greek, but we get on tolerably. 😉 ) . I’ve never loved school more or rather, school has never felt less like school before.
And those are just the academic blessings! I’ve shared the joys of experiencing a new country/culture with classmates who were hand-picked for this year by God. Within the first week, we were treating each other as sincere life-long friends. Together we’ve seen the ruins of Corinth and some of the Athenian wonders- for example the Acropolis and Mars Hill. I confess, we’ve even tested and approved a few picturesque Aegean Sea beaches. Through hands-on projects for the Evangelism course, and projects of our own, I’ve been witness the Holy Spirit stirring people’s hearts for Christ. Every Monday night, I take part in a ministry that serves dinner to over 200 refugees for free. It’s easily the best night of my week- seeing so many hungry, broken people filled up with good food and a message about humanity’s Savior…
Yes, the opportunity for the Greek Bible College was a time bomb- it’s exploded into a radical, life changing, mind blowing, heart shaping, fun oozing time. If this doesn’t teach me that God knows best and that being a Christ follower is the most incredible thing I could ever do in life, I don’t know what would…
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
~The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
My brother and I have just returned from our annual Winter Conference (or Ski Camp) that GEM hosts specifically for the teens… a.k.a. A week of snow boarding/skiing and just general “hanging out” in the French Alps with other dear and loved GEM-K’s (Greater Europe Mission Kids). I love the actual conference part of the camp. Our speakers always have messages that wrangle and draw our minds into traveling through ideas and concepts most people would consider “best left alone.” This year we discussed the imagination and how it might become captive to culture, media and the worldly messages that are preached through them. And how, if our minds become ensnared with these messages, we lose the capability to tell an alternate story- a story of truth, of unfathomable love, that rocks the imagination of the world’s close-minded foundation.
We also discussed how the church might have become captive too, and fall into the trap of the idea that Jesus is someone to worship not follow, someone tame enough to be held by sanctuary walls, stain-glass windows and a steeple. When in reality, we were not saved by a normal, tame man who passively gave up his life. Rather a wild one. A saviour who purposely set up his ministry on the shores of a possessed man’s haunt, the home of a wild and positively insane scoundrel who was both a joke and a real danger to the community he had been cast out of. A man possessed by not one, but a legion of demons. And it was Jesus, who was not only brave and enough of a wild man himself to cast out the Legion, but crazy enough to have mercy on the demons themselves, and cast them into the pigs near-by as they asked. It was Jesus who was wild enough to ravage a market, set up in the temple no less, screaming for the people to “Get out!” at the top of his royal lungs, as he over turned tables and stands, all because that market was making a profit in a place and time that was not honoring God. A mad-man who surrendered his life to his enemies, to save them. WHO does that?!
These stories leads us to ask, well, if Jesus is wild, is he safe? And if I choose to follow him, can I do it without being wild myself? “’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” Not safe. But good. And when I choose to accept his gift of mercy, at all cost to him, (that mad-man…) I’m no longer safe. Not safe to stay at home, or mind my own business when I go out, but tossed out to experience life and living in a better more astounding, more good way than ever would have been possible had I been
This year, I awaited in anticipation when the mission trips would be announced. I applied for the three, whose ambitions and goals tugged at my heart the most. I trusted God to place me in the group where I would serve best, and this spring break my Wild Saviour is leading me on a mission to fill a need in to Skopje, Macedonia, where His team of 12 students and 2 adults will be involved with the “Roma” or Gypsy children and youth through sports activities, perhaps in a carnival type setting with games, face painting, etc. Or just planning other engaging activities for children. There will be an ESL (English as a Second Language) time – where we will have teen to teen contact, a time to wrangle and draw their minds around this possibility of a Wild Saviour with a story of truth, a story of unfathomable love, penned out in His personal handwriting specifically for them. This trip will cost 800
Euros, or 1,200 dollars.
Challenge: I would like to ask you to sincerely and prayerfully consider if our Wild Saviour might be asking you to commit to praying for this team up until and during the week of March 25- April 2, 2010 and/or offer to be one of the financial supporters that we need. Will you be one of six $100, or eight $75 givers?
Hey Friends and Family,
Just wanted to let you know, I’m home. The week I spent in Macedonia
was incredible, amazing, crazy, unexpected, an emotional roller coaster, exhausting and… a blessing. Our group visited two Roma/ Gypsy neighborhoods. The neighborhoods looked more like slums. It was gut-wrenching. The Gypsy people, who call themselves the Roma are a totally different race and hold to a culture and language than the natives of the country they live in. Thus there is a severe
amount of discrimination. The first day in our first neighborhood we spent just playing with the gypsy kids and teens that came to the playground… it was insane. This culture was SO physical! it was completely natural for the kids to attack each other, for example just because one wanted to jump rope and the other was in the way. Like, full out attack, punching kicking screaming. But on the
flip-side they were very snugly. They were just normal kids, with a larger “lovin’s” capacity. They would latch on and give hugs and kisses galore. Also, they were very, very, very, very dirty. Most of them didn’t have proper clothes or shoes. The kids we were playing with were from families with an average of six to eight children. In Roma culture, it’s unusual if a person over 21 is unmarried and not a parent of four or more. The second neighborhood was rougher, scarier, dirtier and the kids were meaner, more hopeless. The “playground” looked more like a cage. It made me just want to sit down on the filthy, glass strewn pavement and cry. We cleaned up their “playground” and loved on them with all the energy we had left. In between our playground dates, we hosted ESL/coffee/ share the gospel times for older teens in the neighborhoods. During this time we exchanged cultural experiences, thoughts, ideas and beliefs. When our group encountered the vast need of this people, physical and spiritual, it was very hard not to wonder “What difference are we going to make? Their need is so big, there are so many of them. And we are so small, so foreign, so few, and only here for a short time. How could we possibly reach them?” Which is funny because at the very beginning of our trip God gave us a verse: Zecariah 4: 10, “Who despises the day of the small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.” Now I don’t know what’s going on with the second part of that verse, but I do know the verse was in reference to a temple being built. And I also know, you can’t build a temple without leveling the ground before you could even lay a foundation. I figure that’s what God called us to do in Macedonia, level the ground, or part of it anyway. Because the salvation of these people is gonna take more than a group of thirteen teenagers and a few leaders on a week long visit. I want to thank you for your support, both financial and prayerful, this trip meant a lot to me and to those we served.
I got off the plane sick and exhausted, but extremely pleased with myself. A mental image comes to mind: A brilliant sun-set fades into the hills outlining the figures of two people in reds and oranges too rich to be replicated. The secret agent on the left turns to the one on the right and with a satisfied smile reports, “mission accomplished.”
Mission accomplished. Those words send a shiver through me. I’m home again and I feel like I shouldn’t be, it all went too fast. I feel like we still had work to do, by the day we had to leave we had just begun to be able understand English through the heavy Romanian accents without asking for a repetition more than once. We had just begun to feel that these people were really our friends and not just momentary acquaintances. We had just gotten used to the insane and unpredictable schedules. But I guess this feeling of incompleteness is further proof that God, not man, is at work. Here, let me explain:
We arrived in Suceva with no idea of how or what we were expected to do for the week, only that God had got us here and He had the master plan. Throughout the whole week we were living for the minute, plans changed in the blink of an eye. Most of the time we were in the classrooms, practicing English with the kids, other times we were working on a project studying the types of good and evil that exist in the heart of man with one of the 12th grade classes. But at any moment classes we thought we were supposed to visit changed and we were instead sent off to different classes, or to practice English with a different group of randomly selected kids.
In the evenings, we were found loving on the dorm students, playing games with them, telling them stories, making music, or dancing with them. This doesn’t sound like your typical missions trip, even to those of us who went. But our God isn’t the kind you can put in a box. He will use whoever, whenever and however in just the most perfectly crafted way to get His work done. The entire time we never knew exactly what was going on, schedule-wise or heart-wise, but we knew God did. God was at work, and it was while we were still wondering what “thank you” in Romanian was, that God was working through us to share his love with the needy students.
Even though we feel like we didn’t have enough time, we do know we accomplished what God sent us to do. We gave our time and our love to a group of people who God knew needed it very much. And just like planting a seed, you don’t always get to see it grow, or the results of that planting. But God knew just how everything was going to play out. He knew which kids were most lonely, who needed to be loved on. God, through us, got everything done the way it needed to happen. I am rejoicing in this truth, even though I wish we could have had more time with the kids. Thank you so much for your support, without you there would have been no “mission accomplished.”