One Body, One Family, Serving Together

img-613132524-0001“In Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:5)

This text and the surrounding verses (Rom. 12:3-8) were read in various translations during morning prayer each day at the CRWM/World Renew volunteer orientation I attended a few weeks ago. I’ve often thought about how our family’s time in Africa will deepen our sense of belonging to the worldwide church of Jesus Christ. We believe that as members of the body of Christ we belong to our brothers and sisters in Africa, and that we are responsible to use the gifts God has given us to serve them.

But already in preparing for our time in Africa we have a greater sense of and appreciation for what it means to belong to the body of Christ. When he paraphrases Paul’s words from Romans 12 in The Message, Eugene Peterson speaks about “deep gratitude for all that God has given.” It is hard to find words to express how grateful we are for the community God has given us at Faith Church. The encouragement and support we have received from Faith Church has been overwhelming.

img-627134351-0001 (dragged) copyTwo months ago we set out calendar pages, inviting members of Faith Church to sign up to pray for our family on a particular day during our time in Kenya as we commit to pray for their family on that same day. The pages are nearly full.

You can still sign up for a date, even if you do not belong to Faith Church. Just leave a comment below, or email us through the “Drop Us a Note” link above. The following dates are still open: September 3, 9, 26; October 4, 6; November 26, 27. Thank you!)

On June 19, when we were officially commissioned as missionaries to serve in Kenya, a number of people from our congregation came forward to lay hands on and pray over our family. We are grateful to have already been experiencing in tangible ways like this the church’s commitment to support us with their love, encouragement, and prayers!

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In the words of the hymn with which that service ended:

We go to all the world
With kingdom hope unfurled
No other name has power to save
But Jesus Christ The Lord

(“Facing a Task Unfinished” was written in the 1930’s by Frank Houghton and updated by Keith and Kristyn Getty in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of OMF this year. See more about it here!)

 

Praise!

Here’s my freshly-issued visa to enter Kenya!  We don’t need to get individual visas for the kids (yay! *less* paperwork!) but they are mentioned on mine.  Hopefully Ryan’s is right behind it, because I’m not sure I’m up to a semester of college lecturing at present! Photo on 6-17-16 at 9.03 AM.jpg

T-25 days!

“It’s the final countdown!” I heard that classic rock song at the Pella Aquatic Center the other day. We are certainly getting close to the final countdown for our departure to Kenya: just 25 days!

With temperatures in Pella hitting the mid- to high-nineties the last several days, we sure are looking forward to relief from the heat. The current ten day forecast for Nairobi shows temperatures nearly 20 degrees lower than Pella.

Nairobi Weather Forecast

We are thankful that things are coming together well for our trip. We have secured housing in Kenya, a fully-furnished two-bedroom house with detached third-bedroom. Many thanks to Dr. Lee and the staff at Bridgeworld College for all their work in helping find and secure this house for us. The house is within a mile of the college campus on Karen Road, and although it’s hard to tell too much from a few pictures, it looks like it will be a comfortable place for our family.

karen furnished house

A couple of weeks ago I went to Grand Rapids for CRWM and World Renew’s joint volunteer orientation program. While there, I appreciated being able to have dinner and helpful conversations with Rev. Ed Tamminga, a retired CRC pastor who has made numerous trips to Kenya and Uganda to teach.  Ed said that in Uganda, which, like Kenya, was once a British colony, you can still tell where the golf courses were, past tense.  The satellite images on Google Earth suggest that they do still water the fairways at the Karen Country Club. 🙂

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The CRWM and World Renew orientation event was wonderful!  It was three very full days of learning, laughter, worship and prayer.  I could not imagine a better sending and supporting agency for missionaries than CRWM and World Renew.  It was great to finally meet in person many of the staff who have been so vital in making this opportunity possible for our family.  If you are a CRC member, keep those ministry shares coming. It’s money well spent!

A few prayer items for our final weeks before departure:

  1. We are thankful to have our housing secured in Nairobi.
  2. We are thankful for how well our support-raising has gone.
  3. We will have our commissioning service at Faith Church this coming Sunday morning (June 19). We are looking forward to our parents being with us for that.
  4. We are beginning to plan for packing, transportation to the airport and having our house ready for Dale and Gloria Slings, who will be living in it in mid-September through late November as Dale serve as an interim pastor at Faith Church.
  5. I’ve received all of the course outlines for the three classes I’ll be teaching.

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word.” (Colossians 4:2-3)

 

For the Love…

Motives can be tricky things: they are usually complex and hard to pin down. Sometimes I think that I don’t even understand or fully recognize my own motives, and it can be easy to excuse things, even unwittingly, under the guise of “good intentions.” Knowing these tendencies, these realities of being human, has helped me to consider carefully and intentionally our motivation for going to Kenya this summer.

There are lots of things that come to mind as good reasons to do this: Ryan is an effective teacher, and has been looking for a way to be of service using that gift.  We think that experiencing another country and culture together will be invaluable for us as a family, and will help us to understand God’s world more fully.  We know that our situation here, in the middle of a prosperous and free nation, has given us many opportunities and many resources that we are equipped to share – and more than that, resources that we are responsible to share.  Perhaps the familiar phrase “blessed to be a blessing” can speak to some of the “why.”  I am continually amazed and grateful for the way God is speaking to my heart through the Psalms as guided by Tim Keller’s devotional.  Particularly meaningful lately have been Psalm 57, and 65 through 68, but Psalm 67:1 sums it all up:

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine on us — so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.” (NIV)

It is our deep desire for our primary motivation now to be no different from that of anything else we do here on earth, which reflects our very purpose for existence: the glory of God.  We are seeking ways to make that tangible, and we intentionally pray for God to be glorified, no matter what – not only in big dramatic answers to prayer, but also (and likely more often!) in quiet reminders that He is enough.  There is always something coming up that we hadn’t thought of yet, or some new “worry” or circumstance that feels too stressful to even think about how I can glorify God, and the past few weeks seemed to bring these one after another, some pertaining to our trip coming up, some just part of life in general.  The reality of leaving our church home for 5 months is hard.  It is compounded by knowing that our co-pastor and his family (who are also our much-loved and greatly-appreciated friends) will be moving to a new place and new ministry while we are gone.  Having what seemed like the ideal housing situation come up (for us in Kenya), and just as quickly seem to vaporize, is hard. I know that in light of so much else going on in the world, these are not tragedies, but they can certainly be distractions, if I lose focus. Tim Keller’s meditations on Psalm 57 put this into words for me the other day:

“Deeper than disaster, danger, and distress is the desire for God to be glorified.  If that can be accomplished by saving us from our circumstances, then praise God!  If it is better accomplished by our circumstances remaining unchanged while we continue to show our confidence in God before the watching world, praise God as well.”

(Keller, The Songs of Jesus, p. 121).

And why do we give glory to God? The Psalmist explains that one reason is God’s great love! See 57:9-11: “I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.” (NIV).  So this is our prayer, especially as we go out to a new nation and new people for this season: that God’s great love for us, for His church, and His people would be powerfully evident, would be life-giving, and would allow even our fearful, wavering hearts and lives to glorify Him in everything!  As Keller explains in discussion of Psalm 67, “true enjoyment of God must lead naturally to mission,” and so we ask this of our Father:

“Lord … If you – in all your lofty beauty – have delighted in us and blessed us by grace, it should remove all fear and all lethargy so that we can speak to others of your glory and goodness.” (Keller, 146).