Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ninevah to Nicaragua

In reading through the book of Jonah this morning (to prepare for our Sunday School class), the last few verses really struck me. Ironically (or sadly), like Jonah, I sometimes need repeated lessons to have it sink in deep into my heart. Jonah, at the end of the story is complaining about how his shade plant, which God provided, withered and died. God asks Jonah, what is more important...the plant or the 120,000people living in spiritual darkness in Ninevah?

It makes me think AGAIN, what is more important, Bethany, the "stuff" that provides comfort (that, by the way, is stuff God provided)...or the 6 million people living in Nicaragua (whom have a warped sense of salvation due to traditional religions that do not present the Truth)?

God has provided many comforts, just as He provided Jonah the comfort of shade from the plant He made grow. While God cares for me and provides things I need and even want, He cares deeply for those who don't know Him and He desires to provide mercy and eternal comfort in Heaven with Him.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Importance of Pumpkin & Stuffing

At dinner this evening, the eve of Thanksgiving, we talked about the importance of celebrating "American" holidays when we live abroad. We said we'd be okay without the turkey at Thanksgiving, but stuffing was a "must" for Jeff and pumpkin pie was my "must". So, who's willing to ship us some Stove Top Stuffing and Libby's Pumpkin if we can't find it in the grocery store??

Regardless, we are so thankful for the support we've received as we continue to journey to Nicaragua! In the season of thanks...we do thank you very much for your partnership!

Random Facts About Nicaragua

There are 3 types of monkeys in Nicaragua.
– mantled howler monkey
– Central American spider monkey
– white-faced capuchin

Nicaragua’s 40 volcanoes are part of the “Ring of Fire”.

Nicaragua is 49,000 square miles...about the size of New York state.

There are about 6 million Nicaraguans...more than half this 6 million are younger than 16 years old.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

5 Year Old Evangelism

Our thoughtful and fiery 5 year old daughter told me that when we get to Nicaragua we should ask people if they know God AND if they don't then we should tell them about Him. This is sounding so nice so far isn't it!? I then proceeded to ask her what she would tell them about God. She replied that she would tell them how God told David to kill Goliath. Certainly not the sweet "God loves you" answer I was expecting. Not to mention that this tidbit of knowledge about God according to my daughter would likely send anyone who didn't know God running...however, God works in mysterious ways, right? Just the same, we'll be working on learning a gentle approach.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A 50 Cent Soda -- A Good Deal, A Bad Deal, or No Deal?

I (Jeff) used to think that I had a good handle on the doctrine of stewardship. In a few words, it sounded like this: Everything I have (skills, talents, time, energy, money...) is from God and is God’s. I am entrusted as a steward, a manager, of these gifts. They are to be used for his purposes, not mine. I thought my lifestyle reflected this (with the occasional shortcomings ☺) until we began the process of “raising support”...asking others to give their money to that we can obey God by going to Nica.

Now that I am receiving other people’s money, I find myself wondering if I should spend 50 cents of someone else’s money on a soda? Wait, do you see where I still have it wrong? I still tend to think in terms of “my money” or “someone else’s money”. However, if I truly believed that it is all God’s money then I would not get hung up on whether or not I should spend 50 cents of someone else’s money on a soda....because, really it is ALL GOD’S MONEY!

What I should be focusing on or asking is: “God, do you want me to use your money in this way or not?” So whether it be a soda, an ipod, tithe, eating out, a car, a house – Am I willing to obey God when He says “I love you and the answer is no – I want you to use the money differently”? Again, Am I? Are you?

Perhaps the question is not so much “Am I being a GOOD steward?” but rather, Am I being an OBEDIENT steward?” So that, as a result of our obedience, we may be able to hear Him say: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together! ” Matt. 25:21 NLT

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Of Great Importance to the Goodwill

I spent some time in the storage room in our basement tonight going through our "stuff" to determine what is stored,sold, donated or goes with us to Nica. Sounds like fun, huh? Now I should say that I get perhaps an unhealthy thrill from throwing stuff away...but even with that obsession...WOW, we have a lot of STUFF. It is truly amazing how much we "collect" considering we aren't taking any of it with us when we leave this earth. Some of it has memories attached...which I am happy to keep and pass on to my kids (so it can sit in their basements one day)...but what do I need with a book on Soil Management and a Size 14 Black Wool Coat...not to mention the notes I took in college in Sociology. It is always interesting to look at the things we once thought so important...that now sit in the "bring to Goodwill" pile.

The Meaning of the Name

Naming our ministry was like naming one of our children...although we didn't have a "contest" on Facebook to name our kids like we did for our ministry. Here is why we picked SHEPHERD'S GATE for our ministry name...

Shepherd: a person who cares, a person who teaches, a pastor, a guide.
Gate: something that protects, creates a safe place, a way in or out.

We feel Shepherd’s Gate embodies our ministry vision in Nicaragua because it both indicates that we desire to teach, guide and care for the people of Nicaragua as well as create a safe place for learning and growing. We hope that Jeff’s opportunity to teach at the vet school at UCC will open a gate of learning AND motivation to reach people with the knowledge of how to care for animals as well as sharing the Good News that the Lord asks believers to share with all nations.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Laying the Cheetah Down

My mind has been stuck on Christmas ornaments this week. Let me explain. As I think about all things we either need to sell, store or bring in preparation for our move to Nica...I get stuck on Christmas ornaments. The kids have their own "collections" of ornaments, they get very excited (especially Andrew who has been through more Christmases than the younger two kids) to re-discover their ornaments at our annual tree-trimming! Andrew has a glass cheetah ornament that he just loves...and I keep pondering...should we bring it and risk it getting lost or broken in the move ...or do we store it--taking that tiny special aspect of tree-trimming away??? Stuck. I know that I need to walk up to the alter before the God of the Universe (who cares about me, my kids and the cheetah ornament) and lay it all down. I pray that God will provide me with the wisdom I need to decide if the cheetah is stored or travels with us to our new home.