Sunday, September 7, 2014

Who is my family?

Barracks Sunday School Class - Brookhaven Wesleyan Church

We look like many but we are one.  Jesus Christ has bound us together in Him and adopted us as brothers and sisters into the family of God.  Like an army, we are one.  Like arms and legs of one body.  Like a thousand birds of the sky fluttering furiously about in their synchronized dance.  We are many.  We are one.

Jade and I have been constantly reminded of the unity of the Body of Christ over the last month.  Missionary work can quickly become an isolating venture.  Different churches.  Different states.  Different cultures.  A year of this kind of service causes any Christian to plead with God for some sense of consistent community.  Our family has been blessed to receive a few weeks of consistent community leading up to our departure.

Last night our Sunday school class threw us a party.  Hotdogs and hamburgers.  Kids laughing and wrestling around.  Ping-pong, prayer and potato chips.  It was awesome.  Before we ate they presented us with a gift.  Over the last year they have been sneakily putting together $5 here and $1 there.  We had no clue.  They handed us an envelope with over $500 and spoke words of confirmation that they were behind us, with us, sending us and praying for our family and the ministry God had in store.

The next morning after our Sunday School hour was over we had our picture taken.  My chest was shaking with emotion.  We went upstairs for the regular service.  I wept at the sound of my family, with whom I am bonded in Christ, singing "We believe in the Crucifixion!  We believe in the resurrection!"  I prayed, "Be praised, Lord.  Hear my family sing to you."

After two 8 hour flights our family will soon be in Uganda.  It doesn't seem like much when I put it that way I guess.  Two 8 hour flights.  That's it.  I like talking about it that way.  Close.  "We're just right over there," I say with a quick throw of my pointer finger toward the Eastern horizon.  Ha.  Oh man, it's really, really far away.  We all know that.  But I have brothers in Uganda, too.  I haven't met most of them yet but they are there.  My family in Uganda is hurting, helping, growing, laughing and making memories.  Jesus Christ has bound them together in Him and we're a part of the same family.  This is true of our Ugandan Christian family: We love them before we've met them.

Consider this challenging passage from Matthew as something to stir internal thought regarding missions:

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Our Heroes of the Faith

We just got back from a month of training in Colorado.  I have to tell you about some people I met.  For about a month my family lived in the same building as fifteen or so other missionary families.  I’ll just highlight some of them here so you can see why I’m so encouraged/impressed.  These people are representing Christ around the world.  Yes!

Since some of them are going to dangerous locations I am not going to use any names here.
  • I met a man with great charisma and energy.  We were so moved by how he listened and cared for others as they spoke to him.  I told him about a sermon I was preparing and he found time to sit with me and talk about the things of God.  When we left I hugged him and said, “You changed my life.”  He smiled a huge smile and repeated several times, “Praise Jesus.”
  • I met two families preparing to go to Palestine.  They were quiet, humble, encouraging people who knew Jesus intimately.  If you spent time with them you would feel the warmth of their faith soften your doubts and fear.  God dwelt in these people.  I saw them cry at the thought of what may happen over seas and I saw them praise God for asking them to go.
  • I met a woman who is following God’s call to India even though she struggles with the idea of being there.  She requested, “Can you all pray that God would help me to love it there?”  I was blessed to witness her courage and submission to God.
  • I met a family preparing to move to Lebanon.  Late one night in a parking lot I discussed obedience to God with the father.  We talked about those who discuss the will of God as a suggestion or a possibility.  With a humble and confident posture he stated, “If God is Sovereign then what are we talking about?”
  • I met a husband in his 60’s who has decided to retire by moving to an area populated by Muslims and share the gospel with them.  We thanked him for his example of Christian retirement.  He smiled as if to say, “What else would I do?”
  • I remember the missionary who joined in our time of public grieving.  He approached the place of prayer, stood in quiet tears and then said, “Lord, please…”.  He said no more as he remained in that place crying.  After a couple minutes he sat back down.  We understood.
These are our new peers.  They are our heroes of the faith.  Our family is incredibly grateful to have met them and developed friendships with them.  In a matter of weeks and months our peers will be spread across the world.  Our daughters developed friendships with girls headed to China, Japan, India and Ireland.  I hiked a mountain with a friend headed to Indonesia and laughed often with a friend headed to the Middle East.  Jade shared coffee and late night chats with her friend headed to Jordan and went shopping with a friend headed to Africa.  We’ve seen the conviction in their eyes.  We’ve heard the desperation and passion of their worship.  May you all be as encouraged as we are to know that generations are being raised up in the faith and sent across the world.  Praise God!

Metz kids in the grass of the MTI playground where we spent nearly every evening.

Monday, August 25, 2014

An Excellent Offering of Worship

Sophie is fearless.  She’s the one with bruises on her shins and a Band-Aid on her elbow hanging upside down on the monkey bars.  She’s trying to jump from the coffee table to the couch.  Her socks slip and slide on the slick coffee table wood but she laughs.  She’s the one asking daddy to go ahead and use the pliers to pull her tooth out.  She trips when she sprints up the stairs.  When she gets hurt she cries, “Why is it always me?”  So fearless.

Have you ever described someone as being ‘fearless’?  It’s kind of weird isn’t it?  I don’t even think it’s real.  Fearless.  Really?  Sophie has lots of fears.  I have lots of fears too.  We all do.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

So what do we do with that?  We all feel some sort of fear and yet God says, “Don’t be afraid”.  Are we supposed to be in such a relationship with God that we never feel any kind of a fear?

There are many things that we will feel and experience in this life that are completely normal and acceptable in the eyes of God.  Much of what God calls us to is a proper handling and response to the conditions of a normal human experience.  Fear is normal.  Our family is afraid to go to Africa.  We’re human.  The issue is not whether we have fear but what we do with it.

Through Isaiah God says, “I will strengthen you and help you” implying that a weakness has arisen which requires strengthening and help.  God says, “I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” implying that the knees are weak, perhaps knocking, and a stable strength must abide.

Fear is normal.  We have it.  The fearless Sophie has it.  You have it.  We are not called to be anything more than human.  It is from that good humanity that we highlight His words “for I am your God”.

What will you do with your fears?  Will you try to fix yourself by mustering strength behind some creative battle plan?  Will you allow it to paralyze you?  Will you become consumed by avoidance?

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Surrendered fear makes an excellent offering of worship.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Saying Goodbye

What a jam packed summer this has been! We’ve been plugging away at things like visiting churches, vaccinations, applying for passports, packing, training, etc. In the midst of it all we have worked really hard to set aside time for our friends and family as we prepare to move. We’ve been blessed to do things like this:

hiking with family
nature walking with cousins
worshiping with sisters in Christ
getting lost on road trips with friends
spending precious time at Fairmount Camp with family

giggling with new friends at camp
painting best friend mugs 
visiting uncle Micah and aunt Maggie
making s'mores with grandma 
We have been blessed with an incredible family, genuine friendships and an amazing church. We are feeling quite emotional about leaving and know our family and friends are too. Here at MTI we are learning how to say “goodbye" and process the grieving that comes with it. The motto here is, “when you say goodbye we hope it hurts because that means you loved deeply.” 

This morning we as a family went on a prayer walk to process all that we are learning here at training. We shared our struggles and praises with one another. Nathan reminded us of the story of Joshua and his great mission. God sent him away from home and said, “Be strong and courageous.”  After Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River they decided to make a special monument to help them remember what God had done to make a way.  Like the Israelites we stacked small stones while sharing with each other what we hope to remember.  It was a special time of healing and worship.  

Thank you for praying for our family and those we are leaving behind as we continue this process of transition. We love you and are grateful for you. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Video: Thank You!

After 36 (not 30) church visits and a whole bunch of coffee and lunch dates we are packing!  Tickets purchased.  September 22nd this family will board a plane for Uganda, Africa.  Thank you to everyone who has joined us in this great work!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

We are overjoyed to share with you that we have purchased our plane tickets to Uganda. We leave for our first two year term September 22nd. Thank you Church! To God be the glory! 

Monday, July 7, 2014

I saw a lion.

"So how was your trip?"  It's the good common question for me right now and I wish I were better at answering it.  “I saw a lion.”  I guess I’ll let jet lag be my excuse for boiling down my whole trip to Uganda into one fairly forgettable phrase.  “It was close,” I added in a pathetic attempt to justify my blabbing.  More happened than just lions, though.  Why had I chosen that experience as the microcosm of the whole trip?  I felt lowsy about my answer until I had a chance to stop and think about things.  I was kind right on point.  It’s true that I did see a lion.  Yet, more true and considerably more accurate is this statement: “I saw many lions”.
One of the lions I met smiled at me with a large genuine grin.  He held out a solid hand and said, “Hello, Nathan.”  This man named James was the Assistant Bishop of a denomination and a holy man of God.  I realized quickly that he would become a dear friend in time and so my questions were formed on that prediction.  I leaned in and cupped my hands as if I were holding something special when I asked him how He thought of God.  After another wide grin he explained his relationship with God displaying such reverence and passion that I felt I could see Christ himself manifest in his face.
Pastor David was a lion who led us through the slums to the dock where our boat was waiting.  In the hot sun he captained our two-hour ride across Lake Victoria to the WGM school on Buvuma Island.  I asked someone why Pastor David looked so tired back there.  They said, “He has malaria.”  I asked him how he was feeling and he said, “The shade will be helpful.”  David, a true lion, carried himself with a soft authority that demanded my respect.  I gladly gave in.  Later that day he smiled at me and said, “It will be good to work with you when you return.”  Honored, I shook his hand.
I met another lion near the university who said, “Hello, I’m Pastor Kennedy.”  On my last Sunday in the country, I preached for the students who had gathered at Kennedy’s church.  Earlier that week I had enjoyed dinner conversation with Kennedy laughing over how we felt about ice and whether tea should be hot or cold.  On the way to the airport Kennedy smiled and said, “The students are still talking about your sermon, Nathan.  A visitor was saved and I met with him in my office.”  I shouted.
Pastor Wilson and Pastor Gideon are lions, too.  They hunt and fascinate those who notice them.  They are dangerous to their enemies.  When they speak they roar.  They lead with power and influence.  They are worth following.
            There are lions in Uganda and they are leading our churches.  They are fierce.  I love them.  God has called me to be a help in a country I knew very little about.  When I went to visit I was bursting with questions about who they were and what they were doing.  I wondered if they were strong.  I wondered if I could soldier up next to them.
            For a year now we have told our churches what we are doing in Uganda while in the back of our minds we wondered how it would all play out.  There are certainly still questions but we now have some answers.  In meeting these pastors I have found a home away from home.  I found Godly leaders!  Obedient pastors!  I found a den of lions!
Asst. Bishop James

Pastor Gideon

Pastor Gideon

Pastor Kennedy