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.