Friday, December 5


I wanted to get a quick one in here. This is an encouragement/thank you message to those who have been praying and supporting us as we've been over here. 

Being removed from the US I get most of my news from my iGoogle page. If you don't have one I strongly recommend you look into it. Especially if you're in a position like ours and don't have regular access to news. It enables you to fill your own personal Google homepage with little boxes filled with the day's main headlines from all of your favorite news organizations. I have the headlines from CNN, NY Times, NPR, BBC, and a few others. It helps keep me up to date on news and also helps see through some of the spin most publications put on their stories. All this to say, I do my best to stay up to date with what's going on across the pond.

During the past few weeks and months my iGoogle page has been dominated by news of the recession plaguing the US and now impacting the rest of the world. It’s been difficult to watch. What's even harder to process is many friends from our hometown in New Jersey are being directly impacted by this devastating financial crisis. Many of these guys work in New York City where all of the turbulence first started and where it has been most intense. I often get emails giving us a taste of the hardship being endured everyday. Going to work with the knowledge it’s going to be an uphill battle with no real end in sight is tremendously difficult. I can feel the weariness in their writing. Despite these difficult times I have never received an email from one of my Christian brothers complaining about the situation. I've only heard amazing examples of God's grace and his provision. It’s inspiring.

It would make sense these difficult times would directly impact our support base. In some cases it has. I'd be lying if it didn't make me nervous a little bit. Even with the strong dollar there has not been a lot of wiggle room in the monthly budget. A few issues with our car and some medical bills have only challenged our situation more. God has been faithful, however. We have not gone without anything in the four months we've been here and it is an amazing testament to his provision.

We get monthly financial updates from our missions organizations. This week I opened ours for December with a little bit of anxiety and dread in my heart. It would not have surprised me to have seen a shortfall reflecting what's happening in the economy. What I saw amazed me. Those being most impacted are the ones who have stepped up. Those who are in positions where it would be reasonable if not understandable to take a step back are the ones who have increased their generosity. I couldn't believe it. We were reduced to tears as we looked at the computer screen. 

Now, we haven't arrived. Our financial status isn't secure forever. God gave us a rest we needed. Like he often does, he understand our needs more then we do. He knows when we need to be lifted up and to more clearly see his provision. We still need to work and we still need to depend on him, but for this Christmas season God has blessed us with peace of mind. 

I guess the message here is the world does not determine whether we survive or not. It is God's sovereignty and provision in control. God used this update to not only show his provision for us but also to warm our hearts and show us the work he is doing in others. These are difficult times, but God's love is being felt in the midst of them. 

I want to thank those who have helped us so much during this season of challenge. Both those from the East and those from the West. We're tired and ready for a break, but we feel your prayers and are energized by our commitment. Thank you so much. 


Wednesday, November 12

The past few weeks have been busy. Last Tuesday our Post-Secondary/College Events took place. I was responsible for the bulk of the planning. The event encompassed the entire high school with each grade involved in a different session or activity. The project was rather daunting at first, but in the end I was satisfied in how things went. There is always room to learn and improve, especially the first time, but the feedback I received was largely positive. The daytime event was focused around students with an evening session for parents. I gave three presentations to 11th and 12th graders titled: Narrowing your Post-Secondary (College) search, What are Post-Secondary Institutions Looking For?, and Resume Building and Marketing Yourself. I enjoy giving presentations, especially to student audiences, so they were all a blast. I was exhausted after it was all said and done prompting me to call it a day a little earlier then usual. It was a good tired. 

I took a few observations away from the day. The first, our students are truly extraordinary. All of them. Who they are makes them stand out. As someone who's job is based on trying to help them plan for the future it excites me to let my imagination wonder and think about all the amazing ways these students will impact this world. Even in the short term these students will bring excellent perspective to institutions they decide to join in America. Their presence will challenge their peers to impact this world as well.

My second observation. To these students the concept of selling themselves or being an applicant is extremely foreign. This makes things challenging. I've gone over in my head why this is and why the concepts coming out of my mouth are met with so many confused expressions. I'm still not sure, but I have a few theories. Its possible the culture they've grown up in is very non-competitive. Perhaps these students have never been or needed to be an applicant before and convincing someone they're good enough has never been necessary. Being someone who's had a job since he was 15 it's hard to remember a time when I wasn't in some way trying to sell myself or a product of some sort.

In some ways their ignorance in this area frustrates me. I'm standing here looking out over a sea of remarkable students with undeniable potential. Most speak several languages. Most have grown up in numerous cultures making them extremely adaptable (and marketable). Everything inside me is telling these students to set their sights for the sky, and a number of them are. Some don't seem to be overly concerned. I want to make sure they're aware of how competitive the college admissions game can be and how they need to prepare and become aggressive! So much is at stake! Or is it?

Part of me admirers the attitude these students hold. The whole concept of selling oneself can be ugly. While it is unfortunately a necessary part of survival, its sad to think these students will need to start proving their worth. A process that will start now and continue for the rest of their lives. These students have been taught God accepts them as they are, but unfortunately the world will not. 

I do find comfort in the fact that while these young students will soon be entering a more harsh and competitive world the God we serve is still sovereign. He provides for us regardless our ability to "sell ourselves" or in spite of it. 


Sunday, November 2


We just got back last night at 11:30 from a long drive to Italy with the BFA boys volleyball team. We volunteered about a month ago when they needed two drivers to drive 9 boys to Aviano, Italy for their end of the year volleyball tournament. The drive without complications is about 8 hours. On the way there we saw our first snow of the season as we drove through the Alps. It was beautiful until it stopped us in a tunnel for about 45 minutes. We arrived in Aviano searching for the Air Force Base in the dark. We got there Wednesday evening and were shown our sleeping quarters for the next 4 days... a high school classroom floor. One of the perks of the trip other than spending time with guys we didn't know, was that we were able to meet our good friends Tim and Rachel (and Blaine) in Venice for the day on Thursday. Before you think to yourself..."rough life as missionaries"...just keep remembering the classroom floor in sleeping bags with 9 boys. That should make you feel a little better:-) We had a fantastic day in Venice since it was the only sunny day out of all the days we were there. We spent all day Friday and Saturday watching volleyball and walking in the rain to various gyms on the base. The BFA guys won their second game on Friday but it wasn't enough to advance them to Saturday's finals. We had to stay overnight to the next day because one of the seniors was taking his SAT's Saturday morning. I had the enjoyment of watching two Italian teams- Roma and Aviano compete in the finals. It was intense! First of all, they looked like 30 year old men, not like high school boys. Secondly, the atmosphere was heightened because they all speak Italian and are very animated on the court which makes it entertaining to watch. Thirdly, volleyball is just more fun when you have names on the jerseys like Da Viao, Roma, Divitario, Sage and Peppe. We ended up having to load up the vans before the championship game was over so I still have no idea which Italian triumphed. At the end of the weekend as we were leaving to drive the 8 hours back home Luke and I were asking ourselves if the purpose of the the trip was really served. I mean, we did fill a need for extra drivers, but we didn't really get to know the guys that well on the trip. As we pulled into the last 30 minutes of our drive we stopped at McDonald's because everyone needed a little pick me up. After the guys loaded in the van they all the sudden started having conversation with us and asking us questions...etc. All we could do was laugh when we got home at fact that we had been with these guys for 96 hours and in the last 30 minutes they decide to open up and engage in some real conversation. So far most of my encounters with the guys here at this school have been like that...spend a ton of time and they might throw you a little nugget to hold on to for a while until your next opportunity for interaction:-) At the end of the day we had the opportunity to at least start to get to know 9 guys we hadn't had contact with before and that made it all worth it.

Tuesday, October 14

Falling Into God's Design

Luke and I joke a lot about how often we look at each other and say "I can't believe we are here!", but it rings just as true today as it did the first time we said it arriving 2 months ago. I am finding everyday when I go to work that I feel I am doing what God created me to do for this span of time. Our day to day here in Germany does not come without challenges, but I feel freedom in using the gifts God has given me to serve here at BFA. As many of you know I did not know what to expect from my job title as Resource Room Teacher. When I got here I was given a few names of students who either have a learning disability or have taken years of schooling in another language and are in ESL. I was also given a list of students who received D's or F's last year in order to keep track of how they are progressing this year. At first I started out with 2 high school students and 2 middle school students. As a couple weeks in the school year went by, I would get emails from teachers or from parents asking if I could meet with their student. I am now meeting with 8 high school students and 2 middle school students.

For some of the kids I work with it is as simple as answering a few questions on their homework. For others it means meeting with their teachers every week to find out what they are teaching so I can read ahead in 6 different subjects. I had to review long division with decimals which took me longer to get then the 7th grader I was helping! I am starting to see patterns now with each student to unlock strengths and weaknesses within their education. It is exciting to find new ways to help them comprehend what they are learning. Most of all I love being able to be a part of their life for 50 minutes everyday. I get to be a challenger, an encourager and a listening ear when they are frustrated. The thrilling part is that even though these kids may be struggling academically, I am able to get a glimpse into the kind of leaders I know they all can be. I know that most of them get sick from time to time of my optimism and encouragement, because we all have bad days, but as long as they don't give up I know they will be fine. When I meet with them I really do see their potential and their futures in front of them. I know the daily grind of what I do would frustrate most people, but I have never felt so at home. I love what I do! I have had so many people in my life modeling unconditional love for me that it feels natural to be able to extend that love and grace to other people. I think in general that is what I am called to do as a Christian- to show love when people's actions don't warrant it. There have been times in my life that people could have given up on me in the midst of frustration, so it is exciting to work with kids you see being at those crossroads of life and being able to be the voice of constant love. It's my hope and prayer that in being that voice it points them back to God where they will find true unconditional love and acceptance.

Monday, September 29


Stephanie and I sub at one of the dormitories on Thursday nights. Its the dorm parent’s night off so we go over and help out the RAs and spend time with the guys. There are about 25-30 male high school students at Haus Bad Reidlinger (HBR) and it contains every bit as much action as you might think a house with 25 high school guys living it might have.

It originally had been a huge question mark. We were already doing a lot. Steph was coaching volleyball. We were both doing small groups on wednesday nights. Just living life was a challenge in this new and foreign place. We were determined not to commit unless we planned on showing up and being consistent. These kids depend on consistency and being the couple that shows up on random thursday nights doesn’t do much for the students or dorm staff. In the end we felt it would be a valuable time to connect with students. Neither Steph or Myself hold typical teaching positions and therefore don’t come into contact with students on a regular, period by period, basis. This would allow us to do that.

The thing I noticed the most the first night I was the noise. It was intense. Everything echoed off the walls and it seemed like utter chaos. I looked around at some of the other RAs who were just sitting there as if it was any other night. Apparently it was. Being honest now, I thought to myself how glad I was it was only going to be Thursdays. Last thursday I realized I was making more noise then most of the guys. There really isn’t anything quite like banging on the kitchen table for no particular reason. 

After dinner I go out and play basketball with the guys for about an hour or so. Its a lot of fun and has become a bit of a tradition. Although, Stephanie still rolls her eyes at me when I come in drenched in sweat. “You don’t have to go all out” is a phrase I’ve heard..... nonsense. 

Then comes study hours at 8:00. Two hours of them. I usually hole myself up with a student in a study room. We work on geometry or chemistry..... that’s right.... I help kids with geometry and chemistry. Recently, I’ve been reading American Literature short stories with on of the 11th graders. Its been a win/win because there hasn’t been a story I remember reading in high school yet so I figure picking it up the second time around is as good as the first. 

We usually try to get out of there around 10:00 but rarely end up leaving before 10:30 or 10:45. I usually get caught up playing a game of college ball (remind me to teach you) or making some cinnamon toast with the guys. I have learned, by the way, there is never a bad time for toast with cinnamon sugar on it.... seriously. 

Dorm night Thursdays has become one of our favorite nights. We hope the students and dorm staff benefit from our presence there. I hope the students I help study do a bit better on there geometry or chemistry exams. I’m sure the guys gain little from my over competitive basketball sessions. God has blessed us amazingly from our time spent at the dorm. He knew our love for these guys would grow through our opportunity to see them in their element. It has encouraged us in our everyday routines at school and enabled us to approach our interactions with more empathy and confidence. 


Thursday, September 11

After School

Up until this point our days have been largely focused on the job. From about 8:30 in the morning to about 4:30 or so we're working with students, planning college fairs, sending high school transcripts, checking graduation requirements, and a whole lot more. Its our jobs, and thus far we're really enjoying them. From 3:50 to 6:00 Steph moves from the role of teacher to the role of volleyball coach. She really enjoys this. In the midst of all the transition there have been moments of questioning the decision to take on so much so early, but in the end, we think it was the right move to make. While she is at volleyball practice I usually run a few errands and get dinner started having just enough time to swing back by the school to pick her up. A few days she's ridden the late van back to one of our neighboring dormitories, which has saved us time and more importantly.... $9 per gallon gas. Our days have been busy and at the end of them we've been tired. We've enjoyed sitting on the couch for an hour or so, watching an Office or Monk episode and hitting the sack. Overall, a more then satisfying day.

All this to say that Small Groups started up last night and both Steph and Myself decided to lead. Steph is co-leading because of her commitment to volleyball, but I get a group all to my self. I can't really speak for Stephanie although I know she had a good time. My group was really fun. They're a crazy group of Sophomores. Typical of what you might expect at any high school except these all come from a different country and most speak more then one language. One of the first things I noticed is they all have big hearts. The second thing I noticed was there was no way any of them are going to be able to sit still for an hour and a half. I'm going to need to get creative.

Honestly, I didn't know what to expect last night. I had a lot of different emotions running through my body. I was excited but also anxious. I didn't feel really equipped to handle it but was faithful God was in control. I just didn't now what the dynamic would be.

I asked them all 5 or 6 questions which I feel they answered honestly. The last three where. Give me one thing you like about BFA (Black Forest Academy), give me one thing you don't like, and why are you in a small group. The answers didn't vary all that much. All of them said the thing they liked the most about BFA was the "people or their friends." The things they didn't like about BFA was either "the food," "the rules," or the "repetitive nature of they're routines." All of them said they were in a small group to "get out of the dorms and hang out." None of their answers surprised me.

Being an MK (missionary kid) is tough. I was a PK (pastor's kid) and that wasn't easy either. There is pressure to know the right answer. Pressure to present yourself a certain way. Its not all bad. If fact, in a lot of ways these students are leading extraordinary lives. However, there comes a point, and I remember these times pretty vividly in my walk as a PK, that you just want to stop giving the "right" answer. I remember a lot of time I just didn't want to give an answer at all.

So I don't think there will be any right or wrong answers in my group. At least not for the time being. I'll be praying that God will allow these guys to see the miraculous changes God has made in my life and how serving him more fully everyday is the most important thing in the world to me. But they might not be in a place to see that for awhile and that's OK.

I let them decide what we could do for next week's small group. They decided they wanted to try the gallon of milk challenge. Basically, the goal is to drink a gallon of milk in an hour. If you haven't tried it and you feel the urge don't waste your time. Its impossible. Your body can't digest that much milk in an hour. It always ends in projectile milk. This is going to be interesting....... I did say I needed to be creative.... right?


UPDATE: By the way. For those of you concerned. We never attempted the milk challenge. Heard too many horror stories. If they're going to do it.... its gonna be on their own time.

Wednesday, September 3

Wednesday, August 27

Getting Settled

This is our first post from Germany. Its been almost a week and so we need to apologize for the delay! It hasn't been intentional. We're still in the midst of getting things set up, which includes our internet access, and have not really had the opportunity. We promise this will be the exception.

Its hard to believe its been almost a week since we landed on the ground in Basel, Switzerland. Our host was at the airport and was a welcoming sight after the long plane ride. Save the fact one of our bags got lost in the stop over in Munich it was a pretty smooth journey. The good-bye, on the other hand, in Newark was a bit tougher. It was a bitter sweet experience. It made me realize in a new way how much I really love my family, and even more, how much they truly love me.

The past week has been packed. We really haven't had time to stop and are looking forward to the upcoming weekend where we'll be able to catch up on some much needed sleep. The jet lag hasn't been too bad. In fact, being sore from a night of basketball was more of hindrance to my sleep pattern then the time change was. I know, that doesn't say much for how in shape I am. The fact they title Monday night basketball as "Geezer Ball" doesn't say much either.

Looking back I can't even remember all we've had to do. Its all included registering at the townhall, starting our visa process, 3 trips to IKEA and one planned for the near future, shopping for a car, buying a car, getting insurance for that car, getting that car registered, shopping for for furniture, moving furniture (up three flights of stairs), starting our jobs, registering for utilities, and 50 other things I'm forgetting.

There have been a few frustrations and delays. We're learning and doing almost everything from scratch. There is an obvious language barrier. This time has absolutely been a lesson in flexibility and patience.

In the midst of it all one constant has emerged. Rarely a day goes by Stephanie and I don't look at one another and communicate how blessed we feel to be here. Its pretty much intangible at the moment. We don't have any hard evidence, but we feel joy in being here and that excites us.

The people and our host family in particular have been unbelievable. Almost not human. Their patience with us and sacrifice of time and resources is a testament to the work God has done through them and in them. There is so much we will be able to learn here about how God wanted us to act as a community.

The area is absolutely beautiful and while Steph and Myself haven't been able to get out and explore too much. We look forward to, once we're able to take possession of our car, get out and familarize ourselves with this new place. It seems like every five miles there is another town pulled right out of a story book.

We thank everyone for they're prayers. Please continue to lift us up. Pray for our time with God as that has been a challenge with everything we have on our plates. Also, please pray for our transition in our jobs. Its new and exciting, but is going to take some time to learn. Please pray for our patience.

We enjoy hearing from you so please don't hesitate to email us with updates.


Sunday, August 17

We planned...God laughed.

The day finally came where we received word that we could buy our tickets to Germany! Since we anticipated leaving August 10th, this past week has been one in a waiting room. As the week began we were doing everything we could think of to get ourselves more prepared and to call everyone we hadn't touched base with. As the days passed and we were still kept waiting, it began to be apparent that God had more in mind for this time than we bargained for. I must say that Luke caught on much more quickly to what the Lord was teaching him during this time, but it was more of a struggle for me to catch on to this 'divine plan.' A wise and wonderfully joyful person said to me at church today, "We can either be flexible for the Lord or he'll break us," and I chose the route to be broken. Hopefully next time I'll smarten up:-) Without going into tremendous detail I just wanted to convey that this extra time we've had in New Jersey has been one full of blessings, surprises and growth. I'm blown away everyday by what this journey has brought into our lives and I continue to learn from all those around me. Thank you for your prayers during this time, I can feel His protection and guidance on us. We will be leaving Tuesday night and will have limited internet until we get our apartment hooked up which could take a couple weeks. We promise to update everyone as soon as this happens! In the meantime, please be praying for our flight over and our transition into the school and culture. (i.e. getting settled into our apartment, getting updated from orientation, finding a car and getting insurance, getting settled into our jobs quickly because students come August 24th!).
In His Grace,

Monday, August 11

Vacation and Guatemala

We got back from vacation a few days ago. It was good. Good times with Family and an opportunity to rest our minds for a few days.

Now we're getting back into the swing of things and starting to see what's left to be done before we leave. We're eager to get over there so we can have some time to adjust and prepare before the students arrive on September 1st. Ideally, we'll be able to purchase our tickets this upcoming weekend or early next week.

August 10th was our original departure date. Financially, things are still coming along. God continues to show his faithfulness. We're not quite at the 80% benchmark needed to purchase the tickets but getting dangerously close. We're considering adjusting our budget temporarily and going without a car for a time to ensure we're able to get over there before the kids do on September 1st. With most of our fellow missionaries already at BFA there is a sense of urgency in the air, but we do feel at peace with where we're at and trust in God's timing.

On a separate but related note:

Yesterday was dubbed, "Guatemala Sunday" at Mendham Hill Community Church. Its the Sunday after all of the church members get home from our church's annual missions trip to the Guatemala City dump, where literally tens of thousands of people live their lives among the garbage. Every year this Sunday is especially powerful and this one was no different. Walking into the service there was some insecurity around the fact that we'd already said good-bye to number of people we were about to see again in just few moments. We hadn't hit our original goal.

Guatemala Sunday is made up mostly of interviews with a short message at the end summing up the experience. The interviews were emotion filled and left a powerful impression on everyone in attendance. In the end our executive pastor John approached the experience from a different angle then I was expecting. You see, one thing Mendham Hills Community Church brings to the situation in Guatemala is money. We've become a big financial supporter of the ministry down there. Each year the number of MHCC members that go to Guatemala grows, this year being 64. Its a powerful statement and an impressive figure. Lots of homes are built, doctors provide medical care, and sports camps are run complete with uniforms and all.

John has been going to Guatemala for a number of years now. He sees the difference we're making with our dollars and will admit its impressive in some ways and a blessing to the people who live in some of the direst conditions on the face of the earth. However, his message wasn't about counting new homes, the number of lunches given out, or new children sponsored. It was about the true reason MHCC continues to go down every year. With all of the money in the world our church wouldn't be able to fix the existences of everyone in that dump. We wouldn't be able to take the pain of life away. We might be able to make people less hungry or prolong life through better living conditions and better health care. This would not however make these people's lives filled with more joy or purpose. John's purpose in the dump has changed. He goes now because of the potential eternal impact his actions and those going with him might have on these people. Many of the men, women, children, and babies will die before their time in this place most people would say God has forsaken. However, there is a small ministry down there working with a relatively small church who has decided to make building the Kingdom of God on top of garbage a priority.

The service yesterday left me feeling connected. My process now is related to every single one of the sun burnt faced people who came back from Guatemala. The connection is not complex. In the end we're all charged with Building the Kingdom. Whether its doing it brick by brick in a dump in Guatemala City or doing it through the lives of missionary kids in Kandern, Germany. We desperately want to be part of this organism that is proclaiming the love of Jesus to those who don't know him.

Wednesday, July 23

Not Just an Adventure

My resignation was made public at work on Monday. Since then my cube has been flooded with visitors inquiring about this crazy story they keep hearing about myself, Germany, Christian boarding school, no salary, and raising support. Most of my conversations tend to go in a similar direction. The individual I'm speaking to says one of two or three things. They are:

  1. Well, now's the time to do it! You're young, no kids yet, no house. Now's the time.
  2. If I could go back and do something like that I'd do it in a heartbeat.
  3. Sounds like an incredible adventure.

All of these responses make a lot of sense, right? In fact, I start gearing myself up based on these conversations. I'm excited for the adventure this is going to be. I'm excited for the experiences I'm going to have. I like the way people are impressed with my ability to see through the rat race and pursue an opportunity that would be more fulfilling. I feel more and more confident because people around me are affirming my decision. After these conversations end however I've noticed a reoccurring feeling. Its the feeling of being overwhelmed. After people leave, I return to the real challenges of what we're trying to do. I return to the logistical challenges we're facing. I return to goodbyes that will inevitably take place and the funds that still need to come in. I look at this and I'm overwhelmed. Its strange and the reason I'm writing this right now is because feeling overwhelmed hasn't been a huge issue for us thus far. I mean, we've had waves of it come and go, but it hasn't had a significant impact on our attitudes. Why is it now all of a sudden in the midst of what appears to be enthusiasm and support? After thinking about it I've come to, what I feel to be, a reasonable conclusion.

Yes, what Stephanie and I are doing is a tremendous adventure. Yes, now is a great time in life to take this on and we feel fortunate God has chosen this moment to call us. Yes, we're absolutely looking forward to the experiences we'll have and the places we'll see. Hardly a day goes by when we don't talk about these things. However, I realized in the midst of all these positive conversations I'm having with co-workers that I tend to offer a very vanilla, politically correct explanation for why we're going on this journey. I get into the process. I discuss the faith based aspect of what we're doing. I discuss the fund raising aspect. People know I'm a Christian (at least most do) and see it's correlation with what we're about to do. The thing is, I rarely get into the meat and potatoes why this is the life we're choosing.

We're making this move because God has called us to make it and we must be obedient to his call. We're doing this because we're deciding an existence in his will is far better then any we've ever known or ever would know. We're allowing the spirit to drive our decisions, in a way trading our freedom for the only true freedom. With this obedience has come faith. With it has come peace. Its allowed us to walk though the challenges and be strengthened. Its allowed us to handle this concept of the unknown with more grace then I, myself, am capable of. It's coming to the simple, but radical conclusion that what God has for us is better and finally taking the appropriate physical steps to acknowledge that fact with our lives.

Every interaction I allow to motivate me, which does not take into consideration the facts stated above is built on a premise of instability. Its a premise that states, "this ""adventure" is about me." This "adventure" is about my sacrifice and my justified priorities. In reality, this "adventure" would chew me up and spit me out if it were not for the wonderful beautiful grace of God. It's a humbling point to come to, but a necessary reality to face. This "adventure" isn't about me or my sacrifice. Its not about celebrating my step of faith. Not about me at all. God didn't slap me on the back when I told him I would him. He offered me a life line. He said follow me if you want to be free. Trace my footsteps if you want to live a life more abundantly. He gave me my life back. The only life worth living. He called and I answered. That's it. Its expected. It is the authority of an all might, all powerful, all consuming God. The options are few and the direction is clear.


Thursday, July 17

Two Weeks Notice

Just put in my two weeks notice at my job. Literally, 9 minutes ago. As one might imagine, having a tough time focusing. Its amazing how a step like that changes things. Right? Topics tend to surface that weren't there 10 minutes before the conversation. They scroll across your brain like a news ticker at the bottom of the TV giving updates on the hurricane ravaging the eastern seaboard. The, "what the heck did I just do?" came and went. "You're only at 30% support raised, idiot!" was another highlight. The problem with the news ticker is it works on a loop so the words are destined to come back for a second round and then a third and so on and so forth. One thing to mention, just like the news ticker, there always comes a snippet of good news, "the coast guard rescues family of five off roof trapped by flood waters." For me that came in form of a tremendous burden being lifted off my shoulders. The pending conversation with my manager was weighing on me like like an anvil. In your mind you picture it like the perfect storm. In reality you realize the other person is also human and understands our desires to find our calling. Even if the faith aspect isn't there. The basic human desire to find purpose is shared by everyone. I'm sure the news ticker will continue to roll on for awhile. Eventually tapering off as I allow the hurricane of fears and emotions to be covered by God's reassuring faithfulness. Even in the midst of all of this I feel a calm presence. The facts of the story haven't changed. I've been called by God to take this step. My humanly faith will waiver based on my emotions and circumstances, but God's calling to obedience will not. Through obedience I'll finally place myself in a position where I'm capable of believing. Placing myself in a place where God will ignite the faith I've allowed to live dormant in my heart for a long time.


Wednesday, July 16

Love and Hate Relationship

I have grown to love the New Balance commercial that depicts the love/hate relationship between a runner and their run. I know there are a million youth leader sports scenarios of how sports and races relate to our faith, but as I was running yesterday I was overcome with all the symbolism as it relates to my current journey. About two weeks ago Luke and I started to attempt the long road back to getting in shape. We turned in our gym membership for the fresh outdoor air and I had many disillusions as to trail running and the open road. Luke leads our runs every time to set a pace for the both of us, I know it's a tough job but I am incredibly less disciplined than he is, so better him than me. The problem is that he has long legs that act like eagles wings and I feel like he glides along while I run double the amount of steps to keep up! As we were getting into this routine I was able to start thinking about other things rather than just not passing out. Yesterday we started out the same as always and I noticed a few things that have been paralleling my faith throughout this process to the mission field:
1. When I run I have a tendency to think all the way to the end point where I know I get to stop running and start walking. I even get so worked up about the length of the run sometimes that I don't want to start in the first place! I do this daily when thinking about getting to BFA. I tend to look to the end and wonder how in the world we are actually going to get there instead of looking straight in front of me to the steps ahead. Like running, when I focus on either Luke's back or my actual steps I forget about the end of the trail and start focusing on each step counting towards getting me to the end.
2. I have to focus on breathing evenly every inhale and exhale. The other day we were on a trail in the woods and I had been breathing steadily the whole run, then BAM out of nowhere a HUGE black bug flew into me from the trees. It deterred my steady breathing and it took me 5x as long to catch up with Luke again because of it. The thing I noticed with this is that this is exactly how I have been feeling with my faith towards God getting us to BFA. Most days I have steady faith that He will provide and conquer all the obstacles, but then a critical word is spoken or our financial update isn't as much as I wanted and my faith in God's ultimate victory plummets. It takes me longer to recover than it does to remain steady in His promises.
These little running lessons have spoken to me about the importance of my faith remaining consistent throughout the next few weeks before arriving in Germany. I know myself and I get bogged down with details and big picture hows and whys. It makes it all the more important for me to remain rooted in God's Word and His promises to finish what He has begun. We have been so blessed by our group times and our individual times spent on the phone with many of you. We couldn't walk this path without the faith and prayers of all of you along the way. Just like I couldn't run without Luke guiding and setting the pace:-)
I know this is a little more silly than my normal posts, but it's just a good reminder to me that we NEED all of you! Please keep us in your prayers as the days get smaller for our departure.
In His Grace,

Friday, July 11

Looking Forward to Growth

For all of you who have been following this journey you know that I have not been 100% sure of what my job will be once we get to Black Forest Academy. Today, I was officially offered the position of Resource Room Teacher! I had a informative and encouraging phone conversation with the current head of the Special Service Department at BFA. From the job description she gave me the role will be extremely challenging for me but I think it will also partner with some strengths I have. BFA is excellent academically and has a reputation for challenging their students. I will be working with students on the other end of the spectrum who need some extra attention and encouragement to pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses in the learning process. Part of my job will be to partner with parents, teachers and other staff to refer the students who could benefit from this resource. The other piece will be assessing the students learning styles and working with them to develop study skills, test taking skills, memory strategies...etc. My favorite part is that I get to work with students one on one and to pray for them while encouraging them throughout the school year! In all honesty the position was very intimidating to me at first and then I remembered that this is not about me, but about Christ working through me. I know I will need to immerse myself in the capable team already in place and have a teachable spirit. If you have any words of wisdom or resources to pass my way- I can use everything I can get!!!
In His Grace,

Monday, June 30

BBQ at the Welbourns

We had our first "evening event" this past Saturday at my Parents house in Mendham. Pulled pork BBQ brought directly from North Carolina by my grandparents. Doesn't get much better.

In the hours leading to the event my stomach was in knots. I was excited for the group of people joining us that evening. We had a great mix. Some family, some long time friends, one of my mentors was there. I knew people would receive our message.... at least..... politely. I was fairly sure we wouldn't be facing any hecklers that evening. Even with this confidence in the people I knew the moment would come when we would need to ask. Ask people to partner in our ministry. Partner financially and, equally important, through prayer.

Well, the presentation went well. We had an amazing video, prepared by one of our BFA partners, that did an amazing job illustrating the ministry in a way we couldn't. My wife told the group about the road we've taken leading up to that night and challenges and blessings we've experienced. She did a wonderful job. I was actually surprised at how well I did. At one point during the conversation I noticed my hand shaking a little bit, but for the most part, I was able to share our vision, passion, and conviction we feel for the calling God has laid on our lives. Plus, the food was great and that never hurts the cause.

In the end numerous blessings came that night. The most tangible, a significant financial contribution, completely blew Stephanie and myself away and further demonstrated the powerful ways in which God works. The more subtle blessings were personal heart felt responses to our presentation. These responses in a way further commissioned us to pursue our goal.They eased our hearts and minds with the knowledge people stand firmly behind us in God's calling. After it was all said and done I sat in my parent's living room completely exhausted. At the same time my heart was light. God demonstrated power through his provision and grace through people's words. It was a good night.


Friday, June 27

Exodus & the wilderness

Yesterday was a day of testing and prayer for me. In the morning on the train I was reading my Bible and I am in Exodus and Matthew. The mornings particular reading didn't strike me as anything too applicable, but it was good to take to heart either way. In the afternoon Luke and I got our first support summary from Janz Team letting us know what percentage we are at in our fund raising. I need to be completely honest, I was expecting and praying for it to be at 20% or higher. Even though we just started asking people to partner with us, I just had this expectation that God was going to bless the letters we've sent out and multiply our efforts to reach the hearts of all of you who might find a connection to this ministry we are embarking on. Another honest moment: I am EXHAUSTED! We have been running non stop going to our regular jobs during the day, seeking God in the morning and praying over every aspect of this journey, coming home at night to work on support letters or dessert nights, calling friends and family to stay in touch...etc. A part of me felt that surely God would bless all these 'efforts' and bring fruit. Well, we got our email update and we have $500 covered towards our start up costs (praise God for that!), but we are still at 0%. My heart sank and I have to admit that I went into doubting mode with God. I got on my train home and whipped out my journal to just confess to the Lord all these doubts that were running through my head, and plead with Him to show me what more we need to be doing. As I was writing all these thoughts to God, the stories I read in Exodus came to my mind and I opened my Bible to read them again.

"When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, "If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." So God led them in a round about way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle."
Later on in the next chapter the Lord says, "I have planned this in order to display my glory through Pharaoh and his whole army. After this the Egyptians will know that I am Lord!"

God spoke to me in that moment through his word about what He may be trying to do in our own lives through this fund raising experience. God performed miracle after miracle to get the Israelites freed from Egypt and to display to the Israelites & Egypt that He is Lord. Even after all those miracles, He still took the Israelites the round about way through the wilderness because He knew that if they saw harm coming their way they would turn back to Egypt. I feel like this parallels with what God is doing in my own heart through this journey He is taking us on. He has displayed his sovereignty and His miracles to us throughout this process. He has brought people to encourage us along the way when we needed it. If He had just given us the 20% or the 50% right away it would have been like Him taking us the "direct route through the Philistine territory". Yet instead, we are being taken on a wilderness detour which causes us to wait for more miracles to get us to the Promise Land. When we do get to Germany I believe that this time of faith and waiting for those miracles will plant in us a firm belief in our calling to be there when things get tough. If we had all our money provided for us in the blink of an eye we wouldn't get the opportunity to look back and say "see I know we are here because of what the Lord has done for us and NOT because of our own 'efforts', but because of His grace and mercy." So today, as I woke up I was renewed with a sense of expectancy to see the miracles of providence that I know are around the corner. I pray that this time will produce in me/us strength for the road ahead, character to become more like Jesus, and faith to trust our every steps to Him who has called us and WILL be faithful!
In His Grace- Steph

Friday, June 20

Birthday in Winnipeg

This week we've been in Winnipeg, Canada for Black Forest Academy orientation. Today was my birthday.

As far as birthdays go. This one wasn't one of the more eventful ones. My wife woke me up with a kiss and a very enthusiastic, "Happy Birthday." Everyone at orientation sang me happy birthday and got me a cake. My mom and sister sent me a happy birthday email. A bit low key in comparison to some of my past celebrations.

Honestly, I didn't really know what to expect coming up here. I'd never spent a week with a group of soon to be missionaries. I was a little concerned regarding where Stephanie and I would fall in the mix. I had a feeling there would be diversity of backgrounds. The group spans the all of North America. We have people from Orange County, Texas, Nashville, Boston, Virginia, The Bay Area, Ohio, Toronto, and Alberta. I couldn't have put together a more hodgepodge group if I tried.

We've been discussing cultural differences, christian education, missionary family dynamics, the history of Janz Teams (our mission organization) and much more. Our evenings have been filled with hearing each others testimonies on how we came to know the Lord and what were the events that brought us to this place. The stories have been amazing and inspiring. I would never had guessed the road some people have traveled.

We've built relationships with new people. People different then us. I've felt ashamed as some of my snap judgements were demolished in the face of the bravery of some of these people as they've sought to follow God's will and the obstacles they've had to overcome. I've been inspired by the raw faith that sustains many of these people. Faith which dwarfs my own.

The gifts I received today were real examples of walking faith. I've seen yearning desires to follow God. I've heard true stories of God's unending mercy. I've discussed different and exciting ways of worshipping our Lord.

God knew that for my birthday I needed to see confirmation. Confirmation that he was in this. That people's lives were going to be impacted by all of this. The kingdom was going to impacted. That the sacrifice was well worth it.


Thursday, June 12

What our apartment looks like right now!
Piles of books we're selling on Amazon

Black Forest Academy acceptance letter- we're official!

Monday, June 9

The Whole Story

I honestly don't even know where to start! I wanted to give everyone a timeline of all the events so that you can feel like you've been with us from the beginning. So here it goes...

We moved to New Jersey a year ago after getting married and I left everyone and everything I had known for the past 24 years. I started working in Manhattan at Deutsche Bank and Luke continued working for Fireman's Fund Insurance in New Jersey. This past year has been a year of learning, of growing into ourselves and into our marriage, learning to integrated into a new community, finding new friends & fellowship and really taking a break from any kind of formal ministry. We just wanted to be able to spend time with each other and build a solid foundation. It has been wonderful! I am a multitasker by nature. I love to be doing a million things all at once, so taking a break from doing anything "extra" was a bit foreign to me but it was definitely the Lord's plan for that chapter of my life. I would get home later at night after commuting on the train and we would head to the gym and then stop at Whole Foods to pick up what we were cooking for dinner. Then Luke (my wonderful and amazing husband who likes to cook!), would tell me to relax while he cooked dinner. Rough life huh? As the winter neared both Luke and I were feeling a nudge to start praying that God would allow our hearts to stay open to what His plan is for our lives. As we continued to walk forward we entertained and prayed through many opportunities like business school, moving overseas with our current jobs, seminary...etc. In the end we didn't feel peace about anything that was coming across our paths.

At the end of March Luke's parents told us that some friends were staying with them from Africa, and of course that meant free homemade meals and fun fellowship so we joined in on a lot of dinners and chatting over good food. Throughout the week we talked more in depth with Evan and Jewel about their ministry in Dakar, Senegal. They have been working for over 2 decades in the Christian international boarding school setting. They started as dorm parents and their roles have evolved into chaplaincy and overseeing the dorm parent minnistry. I still remember the 2nd or 3rd night we had dinner with them and then spent the night over at Luke's parents house. Both of us couldn't sleep because we felt this intense nudging and excitment in our hearts. We ended up talking about it late that night and even though it was completely irrational for us to even think about something like this, we started that night to pray. On Sunday Jewel gave a sermon at our church about her testimony and experience of God's power over her life. The verse that was central in her sermon was:
2 Samuel 24:24 " But the king replied to Araunah, "No I insist on buying it, for I wil not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing."

This was the final piece that confirmed in our hearts that God was calling us to start praying about ministry. He has blessed us abundantly and sometimes His callings come with a cost, but there is so much joy in offerring that cost to the Lord. We have whitnessed this and felt this immensely in the past month. When we began to pray about being missionaries in some capacity we really evaluated and counted the cost. In the end we both came to the answer that obeying God brings far more joy and fulfillment than anything we could plan for ourselves.

Evan and Jewel spoke with us more about a possible position that they might have open at the school and we started to make plans to go and take a vision trip to just see what the Lord would say to us in Senegal. We were so excited and felt that each day God was confirming more and more in our hearts that we were to follow His open doors...whatever they looked like. When Evan and Jewel got back to Senegal they found that the position was no longer in their budget as a school, along with that news they also sent us a list of 8 other Christian international schools that they encouraged us to contact. Even though our dissapointment was evident, we started to send out emails to all the schools they gave us. Through that time Luke and I grew in having to trust that God had a plan for that initial feeling of a call towards Senegal, even though we didn't see it working out. We got response after response of positions not being available for a couple years and then Black Forest Academy replied to us within a few hours. The email they sent us showed evidence that they had taken the time to see where we might fit into their ministry and expressed desire to have us officially apply to work at BFA. This process took several weeks of filling out applications and simultaneously applying with Janz Team, the missions organization we are going through to work at BFA. Weeks went by and we asked ourselves many times "Are we crazy?" "Is this even possible right now?". The Lord continued to confirm us in our daily times with Him, even in our doubts He strengthened us in His will. I remember asking myself one night if I really thought I could move to where I don't know anyone again. The next morning the scripture that was in my reading was Genesis 12:1 "The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father's family, and go to the land that I will show you." I almost laughed outloud on the train at how directly I felt the Lord confirming His call.

2 weeks ago we received emails saying that we are both officially accepted to both Black Forest Academy and Janz Team Ministries!!! Right away we started putting a plan in place for all the things that we can be doing in this time of preparation. We gave notice on our apartment, began listing all of our possessions on Craigslist, Ebay, name it we're selling it! God has answered so many prayers along the way including:
1. Finding someone to rent our apartment who is willing to move in early and save us rent
2. My work being supportive of our move and allowing me to work up until we leave for Germany
3. Selling most of our big furniture items

We are moving out tomorrow (Friday June 13th) and moving in with Luke's parents until we leave. It has been a huge test for both of us. All of our furniture and "stuff" is brand new since we just got married and to act on the calling we feel God has led us to means that we will be basically possession free. It was a challenge watching each piece of furniture walk out the door to someone elses home. I always thought that I would be ok with this, but it is funny how comfortable I got with my home and attached to everything that made it my home. To go through the process of detaching myself from the world and know that my home is really wherever God chooses to use us and the relationship that I have with my husband-it has been a growing opportunity for me! As far as next steps....which I'm sure many of you are curious about! We are almost done writing our letter that we will send out this weekend to let you all know a little bit more about what we are doing and what our financial needs will be, along with major prayer requests. We leave on Monday for Winnipeg, Canada for training from our missions organization for a week. As I learn more about the school, I get more excited about what kind of ministry we will be able to have there. Through college I loved working through YoungLife with highschoolers. For me, to have the chance to mentor students again and to be a part of their spiritual growth and integration into the "real world" is a dream come true. Being able to be a support for the hundreds of parents who are missionaries in remote parts of the world is an honor. I can't wait to get to hear all their stories of how God is moving in their individual ministries and countries!

Once you get our letter, we're going to be setting up a couple informal dinners here in New Jersey and in Oregon so that we can have an opportunity to talk to you all in person. We'd love to answer any questions you have or hear your hearts on what we're about to embark on. I just got an email with our new German address which was exciting (except that I have no idea how to pronounce it!). We both wish we had the time to call all of you individually, but I hope that with this update you were able to get a glimpse of the process and hear our hearts in it! Please continue to pray for us as we move this weekend and start to raise our support!

In His Grace- Steph

Sunday, June 8

Gotta Start Somewhere

I've never "Blogged." I just want to get that out there. I'm also not much of a "myspacer" or "face booker." It's not that I don't understand technology. Its just that communication via a computer screen has never really been my thing. More then once I've offended people with my impersonal one line email responses. I guess I've always just treated it as more of a means to an end then a relational tool. I'm not knocking on it, and to be honest am a little jealous of those able and willing to invest in it. Its just never really been me. Get it?

The reason I say all this is because I'm really excited about this blog. If you're reading this you've probably gotten a support letter from us (if not we have plenty) and have gotten a taste as to why we're making this crazy and illogical move. I'm hoping this computer based relational tool will help you better understand the reason and passion behind our decisions.

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind and I promise that in our posts to come you'll get a clearer picture of what that has looked like for us. Its my hope that you see God move through some of these posts because HE IS MOVING! Sometimes in large crazy ways and sometimes in painful ones, but regardless his presence and impact are unmistakable.

Thanks for checking our BLOG out. We hope you enjoy walking with us on this journey.

Till next time.