Saturday, August 13, 2011

A bit of time in Mexico...

While we were home, we were able to run down into Mexico for a few days with Barry (from YWAM Chico, who we worked with running the Mexico trips for a few years before coming to Australia) to visit our old ministry - it was so great!!!  We got to see our many friends, visit some families we have been missing, spend a bit of time at the orphanage (and Sierra got to see "her" kids in the Day Home) and help out with a house build.  Our wonderful friends from the Virginia group welcomed us with open arms (and a good joke or two)...what a blessing to see everyone!  Thanks again!

Little girl selling bracelets at Papa Ruben's (aka: Pollo Loco)

Too many people live in these sort of conditions - no bathroom, no electricity, no running water...

Sierra making friends with a few of the neighborhood kids.

Some of our friends from Virginia - the all-girl build team, aka - Laughing Dog Farms.  Love the pink, ladies!

A perspective from inside a cardboard house.

Dinnertime!  Imagine having to cook for your family like this every night...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Building Community

Where Sierra and I live is known for being a rough part of town.  In some ways, it's really good.  We're only about a 15-minute walk into the city.  Just around the corner is a very popular and posh strip full of little coffee shops, restaurants, high end boutiques and bookstores.  And, we have a great view.

But there's more.  Right out our front door is a major area of sex trade - street prostitution happens at all hours and there are men constantly driving around looking to buy sex.  It's not unusual to get propostitioned.  We sometimes come across needles, and there are often fights outside when the girls get into it with each other or with the men.  There are sex shops all over this city, and within a few minutes of us are a few.  Not far away are the legal brothels, but the girls on our street are the ones who are older, run down.  They are often so high on drugs and alcohol that they do not seem to be able to function.  Some are even quite pregnant.  It can be disheartening, to say the least.

I admit, I have struggled with this - a lot.  I've felt scared, angry, disgusted.  Never in all my life did I think I'd find myself living in a place where prostitution was happening literally outside my front door.  I worry about Sierra's safety, about my own safety.  That's what we all want, isn't it?  To be happy, healthy and safe? 

Then there are times when I think "why should I have it special?"  What makes me think I should live a life secluded and protected from the reality of what is happening in a broken world?  Oh, it's one thing to think about going out to love the unlovable in theory - from a nice, safe, academic distance, to spend a week or a month amongst the poor and needy.  Yet it's quite something different to have it be your life, and when the ones who are poor and needy are not so easy to accept.  Yet, Jesus accepts them.  He loves them.  He cherishes them, actually.  He loves them so much that He died on the cross for them - just like He did for me.  How different from them am I, really?  In truth, not that much.  It is only by God's grace that I am not the one outside of my front door.

For a long time, I just wanted to move somewhere easier - a few blocks away where there are parks and nice houses and families.  It's all fine and good to go out and visit the girls, or head out weekly to bring a warm meal - but to live right in the thick of it?  Surely that's too much, isn't it?  It's just not sensible as a single mom with a beautiful teenage daughter.

I felt so overwhelmed - I wanted to help, to see change - but what could I do?  How could I possibly have any impact?

I started to just chat with the girls when I was walking by, spending some time getting to know them a bit.  At times they were really friendly, somtimes they were suspicious, and other times they would be really out of it on drugs.  All the time they would continue to scan the road, waiting to see if a car driving by might have some "work" for them.  Eventually, I started to bring down some cookies or tea to offer to the girls while we chatted.  Often I am able to share with them about the Lord, and sometimes I'm able to pray with them.  It's a long road, and there is so much pain and brokenness.

I was praying and asking the Lord "what more can I do?" and I felt He said I can be a good neighbor, and knock on people's doors.  I thought, Yes!  I can do that!  Then He gave me the idea of having a sausage sizzle for the people who live in my apartment complex - about 36 units in all.  I started to knock on doors and introduce myseld and invite people to the sausage sizzle.  Everyone was so open and friendly!  Many expressed deep gratitude at the opportunity to get together and get to know one another.  I found out I had neighbors from all around the world - Australia, England, Indonesia, Malaysia, Ireland, Scotlad, Czechoslovakia, Colombia, Nigeria, Sudan, Iran, India...the nations are all around me!

I felt that the idea of getting to know my neighbors was one of those simple, yet profound little things.  As we get to know one another, people start to look out for each other.  Friendship starts to grow and our little block starts to become a community. 

I had the BBQ about a month ago.  It went so well!  About 25 people showed up, and they loved it.  There were two older men from Czechoslovakia who live in the complex - neither knew the other lived there, and they were so pleased to get to catch up in their own language.  Another family from Iran came and were so happy to meet other families.  I heard people making plans to get together for dinner and everyone agreed we should do this again.  About a week later, I saw that someone had gone out and swept and cleaned up the front walkway - taking ownership!

A few nights after the BBQ, at about 9 pm, I heard a faint knock at my door.  "Who is it?" I asked.  I heard the faintest little "me"...I opened the door and there was Moni, our downstairs neighbors little boy.  "Have you had dinner?", he asked.  Well, of course we had had dinner - it was after 9 pm!  We were actually getting ready for bed.  "But my mom made chicken!"  he pleaded.  So we headed down and found that his mom had made a big batch of chicken curry and wanted to feed us.  At 9:30 pm we ate dinner again, this time with our neighbors all standing around watching us!  They had been so blessed by our little BBQ that they wanted to bless us back.  In fact, during the BBQ, Ajanta (the mom) had mentioned that this was the happiest she'd been since she'd come to Australia from India.  All from a simple little idea.  God is so clever!

Since our BBQ, there is definitely a sense of community that is building.  Friendly greetings, little chats, plans to do another get together - I'm just so pleased that I could be a part of it!  I'm continuing to pray and seek the Lord for more ideas - including other complexes?  Knocking on more doors?  Perhaps a block party?  I'm determined that we can change the atmosphere of this block with the help of the Lord! 

And ultimately - that's what it's all about, isn't it?  Taking back the ground the enemy has stolen - not pushing it aside or ignoring it, but redeeming it for the glory of God.  With Him, all things are possible!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Little bits of this and that

Well, I'm in the process of writing the next article of my series, "A discussion on the standard of living for missionaries" - however, thought it would be fun to give everyone a little visual of what has been happening recently.  The photos aren't great, as all I've got is the camera on my mobile - but you'll get the idea.  As always - I'd love to hear your thoughts!!

This is the view at sunrise of downtown Perth from our flat

Every Thursday everyone on the base goes out for evangelism.  My team works with the homeless at a nearby park.  Here we are preparing the spiritual ground through worship.

This woman joined us for worship and noted that when we are there, there is a presence of peace that comes over the park.  She wants us to keep coming and to do a Jericho march around the park.  Although intoxicated, the Spirit of God was touching her heart.

A few people on our team are artists and minister to the people through that gifting.  Here are some of our regulars making some drawings that will eventually be put into a showing at a gallery in town.  You can see the front-most guy has something in his shirt...this is a water bottle filled with glue that he is huffing.  This is a tragic and all-too-often seen problem amongst the indigenous families.  Deep healing is needed!

Sierra is right at home ministering to the poor and can see the joy in her smile!

The ministry I've been involved in - Pathway - works with refugees and immigrants in their homes, helping with English and anything else to help transition families into life in Australia.  This is a friend from Iraq.

Here is our friend Nada, holding my friend Hollie's baby...Nada just loves that little guy!

A few weekends ago, a team of us went about 4 hours away to help at a conference.  We were teaching the kids - my team was working with the 9-12 year olds.  It was fantastic!

Not the best photo, but this is our group of kids we were working with.

So, one morning at worship we were praying for breakthrough and had a time of prophetic action.  One group formed a wall, and the other group ran at the wall to break through, symbolizing the spiritual breakthrough they were looking for.

About a month ago Sierra went away for the weekend for a school camp for kids involved in the arts.  They had a costume party on Saturday night - this is Sierra's costume - the Queen of Hearts. 

I was so blessed to be given a bike!  I've been just loving riding it around, and it's made things soooo much easier - especially for my feet.  The pain in my feet has really reduced without all the walking I was doing. 

Here is Sierra, getting ready to go her Year 12 Ball (prom).  She ordered her dress off ebay from China!  She's growing up...

Sierra and her friends took an old orange bus from the base as their transport to the ball.  So much cooler than a limo!  Haha...This is Sierra with her friend Pete - he's also a YWAM kid, and they went to Bali this summer for the Summer of Service (SOS) mission trip.

Here's the whole group of kids that went to the ball together.

Every quarter we have a commissioning dinner to pray over and commission students who are leaving for outreach.  This was at the commissioning dinner last week.

Sierra took this photo - it's at the base.  Look!  No more double chin!
Well, I hope you enjoyed this little photo journey through the last few months of our lives.  Remember that God is good, all the time...even when we can't see it, that truth stands.  Bless you!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Quick update on Temple Restoration

Well, this has been a great week!

Today is day 10 (out of 90) of fasting caffeine and sugar.  I had headaches for about a week, but now feel great.

Last weekend I was given a bike!  I was so excited...this is something I've been looking for for quite a while.  My feet have been hurting a lot, so walking has been quite difficult.  I've been doing other exercise as I can...swimming, weights, calisthenics, etc.  But aerobic activity has been tough.  And then - hurray!  A bike!  I've been riding a lot and LOVING the freedom!

Then, this morning, I noticed something really exciting!  I noticed that I don't have a double chin anymore!  Woo Hoo!  That was pretty cool!

So, that's my quick update.  The overall weight is not coming off as fast as I'd like, but I'm seeing some changes.  I'm gonna keep on keepin' on....thanks!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Scripture Study on Giving

Well, this little series of articles that I thought would take a few months has taken longer than expected!  However, here is the next far, we've gone through:
  • what I'm doing in missions
  • what YWAM Perth is all about
  • plans for the future
  • perspectives on living a life of faith in finances
Today I'm going to be talking about what the Bible says about giving.  This is not by any means an exhaustive article, but more of a general discussion of Biblical principles regarding our finances.

Of course, we all know about tithing, which is giving back the first 10% to God.  I suppose we could start there.  I remember many years ago when I quibbled over whether that was 10% of the net or the gross.  I was totally missing the point!  I think we can do that with our finances - get so caught up in ticking every box of the law that we miss the big picture.  Gosh, I guess we can actually do that in every area of our lives, can't we? 

Why do we give a tithe, anyway?  It's simply to help us remember that everything we have comes from God, and it is one way we can honor Him and remember His blessings in our lives.  So, really - it's not our money, anyway - it's His!  And tithing is not just about our's everything - our time, our talents, our entire lives.

We could look at tithing as the entry level position regarding God's perspective.  Truth is, He really advocates that we live our lives according to the principle of generosity.  We can never out-give God!  I find that the more I live from a place of generosity, the more God pours out His blessings on me.  I actually think that the double-whammy-secret to a happy life is living a life of generosity mixed with a healthy dose of gratitude to God. 

Living generously keeps us from selfishness and also keeps us in touch with those around us.  I love being able to meet someone's need.  I try to keep my eyes and ears open and pay attention to what those things are.  It's incredibly encouraging, and super fun!  I especially love to do it anonymously.  Sometimes I get anonymous gifts.  It makes the whole world seem brighter, cheerier.  Every person I pass I think "maybe THEY'RE the one who gave me that little gift!"

I have the benefit of being connected to a host of people who understand and live by the principle of generosity.  From generous supporters to fellow missionaries, it is such a blessing to see and hear the testimonies of how living a generous life opens the floodgate of blessing.  Almost every day I get to hear incredible stories of God's faithfulness, some so amazing they almost seem unreal. 

One man I know needed some shoes.  He prayed about it one night, and the next morning he found four $20 notes on the ground.  Another family was at church when a man approached them and said he felt that God wanted him to buy an A/C unit for them.  Their 14 year old son had been praying for an A/C the night before.  Some friends of ours got into about $12,000 debt.  They began to fast and pray, and made the decision give something away every day.  In the last two months, they've seen over $9,000 come in from unexpected sources.  God is faithful!  He longs to meet the needs of His children!  Just think how it warms your heart when you see your kids do something truly selfless...don't you just want to pour out a big blessing on them?

Okay, well, I think you get it.  God wants us live generously.  The amazing thing is that He actually tells us to test Him in this!  Incredible!  Check out Malachi 3:8-10, which talks both about robbing God and His encouragement to test Him in our giving....

8 “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me!
“But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’

“You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. 9 You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! 11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 12 “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

Amazing!  God is trustworthy.  He will do as He says, without fail.  Try Him in this and see if He doesn't bless your socks off.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Australia Day 2011

Today is Australia Day, the day when Australians celebrate the first settlement of Europeans to this land.  It is not without controversy, as the Aboriginal peoples view this as the day their land was stolen from them.  It is true that there was much harm inflicted upon the people here, and it is also true that there has been much work toward reconcilliation, although more is yet needed. 

One thing the Eurpeans did bring to the land of Australia (the Greath South-Land) was the Word of God.  While they did not always represent God well, they did bring the Good News of salvation.  This morning we had a time of prayer for Australia, and I have been deeply moved in my heart for this land.  I think I have really come to recognize my own inheritance in this land, spiritually.

Australia is the only continent that has not experienced a wide-spread revival.  However, it's coming!  Join me in praying for the Great South-Land to really know their loving Heavenly Father!  This is a land of people who understand mateship, perseverance, giving it a go and celebrating life.

Here are a few prophetic songs over Australia...enjoy them, and please - pray for Australia!

This first one is called "The Great Southland of the Holy Spirit"...many people would like to see this as the National Anthem of Australia.  I'd have to agree.  It's amazing.  For those of you who prefer lyrics, they are below the video.

The Great Southland of the Holy Spirit

This is our nation, this is our land,
This is our future, this is our hope.
A land of reaping, a land of harvest,
This is our land, this is our home.

This is the Great Southland of the Holy Spirit,
A land of red dust plains and summer rains,
To this sun-burnt land we will see a flood,
And to this Great Southland His Spirit comes.

This is our nation, this is our land,
This land of plenty, this land of hope.
The richest harvest is in her peoples,
We see revival, His Spirit comes. [to chorus]

This is our nation, this is our land,
This lucky country, of dreams gone dry,
And to these people we see a harvest,
And to this land, revival comes. [to chorus]

This next video is of a song called "Save Australia"...I'm sure you'll agree that we could and should be singing this song over all nations of the earth.  It's a bit longer, but really worth it.  Again, the lyrics are below.

Save Australia
Save our nation Lord
There's nothing we want more
This land of hopes and dreams
Lord bring us to our knees

Hear our cry oh Lord it's time
Heal this land Lord send Your fire

Save Australia
Pour Your Spirit out
On this nation
Send revival to this land

Do it through us
Do it in me

Bless this sun burnt land
With Your mighty hand
Take our hearts and lives
So all may know Your Love

Save our nation

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Has it really been 5 years?

Wow...5 years ago we set out on a new unknown journey - who could've known how it would all turn out?  Well, God, of course!
I count it a privilige...

As we enter a New Year and I look back, I thought this would be a great time for some reflection over the past 5 years.

I guess I'll start by summing up how we got to point A to begin with.  So, basically, I think I've shared previously that I first felt that missions was my life calling when I was 11 years old - although I didn't have a name for it at that time.  As I grew older and was not walking with the Lord, it basically took the form of humanitarian work; and, frankly, even for many (many) years of my Christian life, it still looked basically the same.  I wanted to relieve the suffering of the poor and needy around the world, but not necessarily share with people about Jesus.  In fact, I guess you could say I was even hostile toward evangelism and spreading the gospel!  Isn't God funny?

After going through an ugly divorce (I don't know that there are any pretty ones?) in 2003, I tried to stay afloat and keep things as normal as possible for Sierra, who was then 9 years old.  A year of insanity proved that I was in over my head financially and emotionally, and I made the decision to sell our house to get out from under the load of debt.  I figured I'd just downsize and keep on keepin' on.
Selling the last of our 'earthly goods'...Mom was a trooper through it all

God had a different plan.

He began to remind me of my first love - to reach out to a hurt and dying world.  He showed me that I was in a place where I could actually follow the dream in my heart - I had the freedom to go - relationally, financially, emotionally, spiritually.  It was thrilling and terrifying.

We made the decision to "try it out" and a week after Sierra turned 11 - June 2005, we packed up our bags and headed to Mexico.  We had a few loose plans, and the bags on our backs and no idea what the future held.  When I think back, I can hardly believe it!  Sierra was still so small.

Everything we owned on our backs for almost 6 months
What followed were almost 6 months of backpacking and traveling throughout Mexico and into Guatemala.  You can read about all of our adventures by looking at the archives from 2005 on this blog.  It was a healing time for us, and a time of God clarifying His call in our lives.  It was during this time that God opened my eyes to could I say I loved people if I was only willing to feed them for the day and never give them the food that would feed them for all of eternity?

It was this revelation that led to joining YWAM.  I realized I needed training and the accountability & legitimacy of being involved with a missions organization.  We started our training at YWAM Chico with a Crossroads Discipleship Training School (CDTS) in January 2006.

Knowing that God had called me to this life for all of my life, we joined staff after completing the CDTS.  I began teaching at the school there on base, working with kids from grades 3-12.  It was amazing and it was hard, and I loved those kids with all my heart...I still do.

Then, I began to work with the Short Term Outreach office, taking groups into Mexico to build houses and work at an orphanage.  Oh, how I loved it!  We still miss it so much.  Working directly with families and kids and teams...seeing such amazing transformations in the lives of people - it was good.  Still, God was calling us deeper, further.  Building foundations, strong and sure.

building homes for families
showing God's love

working amongst the 'least of these'

The decision to leave and come to Australia was a hard one...God was calling me to trust Him more, to get out of my boat and step out on the water.  To leave the comfort of what I knew and was good at to allow Him to work deeper in us.  We chose to obey and trust.

And so here we are....we've been here in Australia for just over a year.  Sierra is 16 and will start her final year of High School in February.  My little girl is growing up, and I couldn't be more proud of the woman she's becoming.  When we came here, God told me that she had grown roots in Chico, but would grow wings to fly in Australia - how true to His word He is!  As I write, she is preparing to head to Bali, Indonesia for 3 weeks of ministry there.  Just imagine - she went to China at 14, Cambodia at 15, and now Bali at 16.  Could we have ever planned or imagined such a life? 

He continues to build the temple and strengthen the foundations...working amongst refugees from multiple nations, teaching English as a Second Language, discipling and being discipled...God continues to prepare us and form us.  I've recently written in detail about what we're doing here and what the future holds, so I won't go into that again, but I can say this with confidence - God is good!  All the time!

So, I thought I'd just review a little of what God has accomplished through us (and by 'us', I mean all of us - not just Sierra and I - but those who support us financially, those who pray for and with us, those who encourage us.  We are a team, and this is only possible as a team effort!)....
  • medical clinics run with hundreds receiving treatment, medication, and prayer - dozens receiving instant, miraculous healings
  • teaching young people about their value, purity, God, prayer, the 3 R's and relationship with God and each other
  • dozens of homes built for families - hundreds of people received new homes and hope for a better future for their families
  • thousands of people fed meals and given bags of food
  • thousands of people received teaching about God and were given the opportunity to hear about Jesus
  • hundreds of people have come to a saving knowledge of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
  • myriads of people have received prayer, encouragement and practical helps representing the nature and character of God
  • strongholds broken over individuals, families, neighborhoods, cities and nations
  • untold hours of prayer and worship
  • 'invisible' women have been given value and a voice after being rescued from horrific conditions in their home country
  • training and discipling of young missionaries
  • hundreds of lonely, needy children played with, loved and prayed over throughout many nations
This list doesn't even begin to cover all that the Lord has done....what a mighty God we serve!  And so, thank you...thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all you have sacrificed to see God's name carried into the nations.  We are so grateful to our family and friends who love us, encourage us, support us, pray for us and keep cheering us on.  What a privilige it is to serve alongside you in spirit and truth.  Here's to another - 50! years of serving our God together.

Thank you doesn't begin to express it...