Updated: Nov 5
On August 25th we headed back to the USA. We needed to see our families, touch base with our friends, rest and replenish our hearts and minds and finally take care of some pressing business like annual checkups from the doctor, and renewing our drivers license.
When we arrived in the States it was a bit overwhelming , greeted by dear friends at the airport we made our way back to their beautiful home to enjoy our first American meal, conversation and dare I say, a high pressured, hot water shower! Julie and I had the best time just catching up with friends, decompressing and trying to get our circadian clocks to go back in time 10 hours. As we said our goodbyes and used the travel time for reflection God began to bring me into new understanding, to open my heart to the next chapter in the ministry.
We landed in Los Angeles County at the LGB Airport where our friend John drove to pick us up and take us back to his home. John and Cathy are members of our church and our community group. They not only signed up to pick us from the airport but John volunteered to loan us his truck during our stay (such a blessing). We enjoyed a visit and then headed over to Pam's house. Pam graciously invited us to stay with her during our furlough in Huntington Beach. As I went to sleep that night God was stirring my heart. September was on us and in my family of origin that meant birthdays. My mother and brother had birthdays on the 30th and the 1st but this September would mark a new anniversary for us. Sept was the month that we finished selling and giving away everything we owned and left our last official "home" address for the mission field. It had been one whole year. I now felt more like Kenya was home and I was visiting an old familiar stomping ground. Regardless, I was now identified with and acclimated to the life and people in a developing nation.
That was part of what God was revealing about this next phase of ministry. I was born an American and even though we are a wealthy nation, We are blessed to be a blessing. I know that America is blessed and has been because of the choices and sacrifices of our forefathers. I am also aware that our nation has been guilty of some huge missteps and atrocities as well. What God stirred in my heart was that our nation was born out of faith, to bless God and be a blessing to His holy name. Because of that God blessed this nation in ways the world had never seen. Here is the key, God did not bless us to sit back and be blessed; God blessed us so we could be a blessing to the whole world.
We spent the week catching up with old friends and visiting with Pastor for a video he wanted to use in service and we moved on to go visit our daughter at YWAM.
That is Youth With A Mission, this is a Bible school and missionary training ministry over 50 years old with bases all over the world. They have an alternative continuing education program called the University of the Nations for young men and women who want something beyond the college scene for their lives. Our daughter is a 3rd year student who just made a 2 year leadership/staffing commitment to the Honolulu base. We arrived at the base and instantly fell in love with the place and mostly the staff. We were there for a few days and in that time had a great visit with our daughter and adopted some other young men and women of God. We spoke at one of the morning devotions for mostly leaders on the base and the teams were immediately identified with us, being of one spirit and having similar calls, making us love the place and the people all the more. We also had the chance to share with a DTS of Korean students who were getting ready to celebrate their graduation and return home. This was an amazing couple of hours in which we were able to share REACH Ministries as an overview, the heart of the ministry and vision as well as our own experiences last year. The group was so engaged and excited. They really took to the concept of online, crowd based missions. The instructor later told us that the students had not quit talking about the program and he wanted to know if they could translate our webpage into Korean!!!!
We have had so much favor and we were still in the first month of our furlough to the States. We finished up our visit, said goodbye to our beautiful daughter and her fellow staff members and leaders and headed back to Southern California for some meetings, fellowship and a visit to our home church... I am trying my best to keep this short, but God has done so much in the short space of time! We stayed with Mark & Margaret Friend who graciously invited us into their home for the next phase of our US visit. What a crazy week this was. We had a small party to honor the people that had been praying, supporting and standing with us during the first year of our mission. Julie, called it the first of our "Heroes" celebrations; the idea is to honor those unsung heroes who are lifting us up before God and carrying the burden of ministry with us from behind the scenes. Everyone didn't make the celebration, but it was grand in our hearts with friends, family and church members whom we have longed to see and some new friends as well. Next.... Pastor Andrew and the board of Branches HB had a huge surprise for us... during the Sunday service the church had set up so we could share the vision and ministry between services and after. In addition they had set up giving kiosks and multiple ways to take donations for the ministry projects. Pastor called us up on stage during both services and really affirmed the call and partnership involved in our being commissioned and sent out from Branches HB. He made it clear that the church board and leadership determined to partner in a more meaningful way by contributing financially to the building projects we have up for Agape Orphanage in Kosele Kenya. It was very overwhelming emotionally and spiritually to have the body of Christ publicly come together and affirm the mission. Pastor has been teaching a series called "Word & Deed" (it is posted online and I encourage everyone to go listen). Word and deed speaks to or rather cries out to our call as Christians to not just be church mice sitting and eating the spiritual cheese and getting fat off of God's truth, His Word. But, rather to be doers of the word, to live a life of action! Called to duty by the truth of God's Word and lived out through the deeds and assignments God gives us through His Word and His Holy Spirit. Branches, both leadership and the body of believers responded by partnering with REACH Ministries to financially fund all three buildings! It started with the service and the board's significant contribution and it built as a crescendo during the week as members committed contributions ultimately funding all three building projects! God's goodness and heart reflected through His people and their hearts this week both humbled, inspired and amazed me in new and significant ways.
Julie and I are back in Texas now and reflecting on this trip fills our heart to capacity. We said goodbye to our Southern California family and had great visits with friends and family in the Pacific Northwest, even ran into a divine appointment with a young woman studying to be a minister at Northwestern University. She gave us an open invitation to come work with their churches in Tanzania. We left Washington and headed to Kansas where we had an amazing long overdue visit with family there and finally we headed back to Texas to visit with friends, family and churches we love so much! The people like Darrin and Ann, Danny and Darlene, Josh and Ana, Carolyn, and Charles and Amy, who have opened their homes, their hearts and loved and cared for us so much while visiting Texas are so dear to our hearts. They may not understand the contribution but speaking for those called to leave house and home behind and minister to the world..... there is nothing like being brought in and treated like family. It is so comforting and dear to our hearts, restoring a piece of life we have given up. It is so reflective of pastors message and this entire trip!
Everyone who has hosted us, cared for us, prayed for us, supported us and joined in this mission with us; You have become Jesus to those we reach. When you see the joy reflected in an orphan's smiling face, when you see pictures of the tears of relief and happiness in a widow's eyes, when you read the stories and see the photos of the new believers filled with real love for the first time. You are looking at the fruit of your labors! You are living God's message of word and deed and you are changing the world with us, one heart at a time!