What You Can Do For Your Missionary on Giving Tuesday

Since 2012, the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday is the kick off to the charitable season called Giving Tuesday. It was originally begun as a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy. As the world begins its mad dash to gear up for Christmas, Giving Tuesday encourages us to enter the holiday season with the right focus – a reminder and an opportunity to give where giving is needed most.

If you are reading this, you likely give to and support me or another missionary, either financially or prayerfully. And while your missionaries would definitely appreciate a financial contribution this Giving Tuesday, we wanted you to know that there are some other ways to give and show your support this Tuesday.

First off, let me speak to some non-financial ways of showing your support:

Send an email/letter to a missionary/ministry you know and let them know you are thinking of them, ask for prayer requests, etc.
Thanksgiving is over, Christmas is close at hand and trust me, your missionary misses people, so send them a note reminding them you are on their mind.

Volunteer to stuff and address envelopes for newsletters.
No one really enjoys stuffing envelopes, do they? I know I don’t, and you probably don’t either, but instead of paying someone to do this service for them, ask if you could take care of this for your missionary. December is a common time for missionaries to send a physical newsletter, so now would be an awesome time to offer help.

Introduce them to your friends/churches who might be interested in partnering in the ministry.
We love to talk about our ministry, ok maybe I just love to talk in general, but we want people to know what we are doing and we hope they will partner with us. The problem is, we don’t know everyone you know, so introduce us to your friends who you think might be interested in at least hearing more. No pressure included! I can’t emphasize how huge this can be. For me, personally, I have been overseas for 5 years, so I haven’t been able to make connections that you have. When missionaries are back for a visit, it may be great to set up a dessert and coffee night where you friends can all meet.

Go on a short-term team with your missionary partner (this won’t always be available, but if it is!)
Not every missionary has a short-term mission’s trip happening, but if they do, they could probably use help, so if you aren’t sure if they have one… ask! It will help your missionary and, I can guarantee, your life will not be the same after!

Offer places to stay or a car to borrow when they are visiting your area.
Most of us don’t have a house waiting for us when we come back to visit. If you have an extra room in your house or a car just sitting around, ask if we can use one while we are back.

Donate your airline miles, hotel points or rental car points.
Flights, hotels and car rentals are expensive. When your missionary is back visiting, travel is a guarantee, so offer them some help that doesn’t even technically cost you money.

Record a video of their family and friends and send it to them.
I just watched a video that was shared with me and while it made me sad that I missed a specific event, I was so happy to see my family!

In addition to those options, there are some financial options that would also show your support:

Send an extra gift to their ministry account.
This should be self-explanatory, but if it isn’t, well, sometimes we need extra money to cover taxes, unexpected expenses, etc.

Ask them for a wish list they have on Amazon, another site, or buy them a gift card for iTunes or Google Play (ask them which one).
Amazon is in a bunch of countries and you can easily purchase something for a lot of missionaries and they may already have some things in mind. A little gift to say thank you goes a long way. Whether it is a book, a subscription to an app/site or even more extravagant purchases like a tablet, whatever you give will be appreciated.

Send a care package of stuff your missionary misses (I’d ask what they miss before guessing.)
No matter where in the world your missionary is, they probably miss something from wherever you are. Shipping isn’t cheap, so ask them what you can send before you spend the money.

 

The bottom line is, if you feel so inclined, use Giving Tuesday as a reminder or excuse to show the missionary in your life that you care for them and appreciate the work they are doing. These are but a few of all the possible ways you could show your support. I hope this post can provide a jumping off point for you to go out there and give!

If you are a missionary and have been blessed in a different way, please share a comment. If you have blessed a missionary in a unique way, I’d love to hear those too!

*This blog was originally posted in 2017, but has been updated for 2018.*

I’m a Missionary, You’re a Missionary, Everyone is a Missionary

A radio station in Toledo, YES FM, has pastors, missionaries and representatives from missions organizations on every morning to do a devotional of some sort. I have been honored to be on the station multiple times over the years. This post is a combination and summary of those five devotionals where the theme was “Being a Missionary in Your Everyday.”

My job title may officially be a missionary, but really all of us are missionaries. I want to talk to you about what it means to be a missionary in the everyday. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t being called to do short-term mission’s trips or even full-time mission’s work, but in the mean time, how can you live the missionary life in your every day?

After all, we are called to this in Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

So what does that mean for the person who isn’t called to full-time overseas or local mission’s work? It means the exact same for the full-time missionaries.

David Platt, president of the International Mission Board and author of Radical, recently exhorted new missionaries, but, in my opinion it can be applied to all Christians. He said:
1. May your only offense be obedience to God.
2. May your deepest joy be found & your greatest work done in daily prayer.
3. May your constant protection be the presence of God.
4. May your life cause nations to give glory to God.

Missionary in Your Home

Proverbs 22:6 – Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.

Ephesians 6:4 – Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

It goes beyond parenting though. Whomever is in our home, whether they live with us or are guests, we need to be showing Christ to them.

How? Well:
– Model your relationship with Christ.
– Be real and honest, nothing works better than letting others see your struggles, but also your fight to overcome.
– Be a Safe place – allow people to share their struggles, judgment free. Let it be known you and your house is a place they can go when they need someone.

Missionary to Your Neighbors

Acts 9:36 – In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor.

I love how it says Tabitha was always doing good. I mean think about it; always doing good. On her way to get water at the well, Tabitha was doing good. When she was cleaning house, she was doing good. When she was watching the kids, she was doing good. No matter what she was doing, or was on her way to do, she was doing good. Maybe the always is a bit of hyperbole, but if she was known as always doing good, she was probably caught doing good way more often than not. She saw needs, and she met them.

I don’t know where I heard it, but someone said your neighbor is anyone that you run across on a regular basis. This means the people who live near you, your postman, the cashiers at the stores you go to, and anyone else whom you give that slight head nod to because it’s a bit awkward if you don’t, they are your neighbors.

How do we practically become missionaries to our neighbors?

3 Simple things can kickstart us to serving our neighbors.
1. Ask questions and listen – I know this will sound crazy, but if you ask them the normal greeting of “How are you?” actually ask them how they are and then listen to their response. Help people feel loved by investing in them and getting to know the real them.
2. Observe – If you look around you can probably notice things where people need help. It could be the homeless person you see on your way to work, the neighbor whose lawn is never mowed because their lawnmower broke and they don’t have money to replace it, the single parent who works two jobs and is scrambling to help their child with their schoolwork. Look around and observe and then ask how you can help, don’t assume.
3. Acknowledge – Words of encouragement are huge for most people. Look for people who are doing something well and point it out to them, or thank them for a job well done.

Now let’s go a bit further into Tabitha’s story.

Acts 9:36‭-‬39 ESV
Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them.

It doesn’t say for sure, but seeing as these are widows wearing clothes Tabitha made, the thought is that that was part of her “always doing good.” Making clothes could have been her job or a hobby, but either way, she took what she was good at and served her neighbors with that very thing.

A lot of people think serving others has to be doing something you don’t enjoy, because it isn’t service otherwise. Some service needs to be uncomfortable, but not everything does. So, if you like to bake, bake a cake for a neighbor. If you enjoy gardening have extra vegetables in your garden, give them away. If you are skilled at a specific subject, offer to help students near you who are struggling. I don’t care what your passion is or where your skills lie, find someone and bless them with it. Whatever you are skilled at or enjoy doing, look and listen for the opportunities to serve those who need and are in your life.

That being said, I also want to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and serve your neighbors in ways that stretch you. There are many organizations in the area that need people to come volunteer, be they homeless shelters, after-school programs, or what have you. If you can’t think of a place to volunteer, I’m sure someone at your church or your neighbors that you’ve been getting to know would have some suggestions.

The one thing I want to leave you with, if nothing else, is to get up, get out and serve. Remember we serve because of the Gospel and God’s love for us. We need to share that love to others.

Missionary at Your Church

1 Corinthians 12:27-30
Together you are the body of Christ. Each one of you is part of his body. 28 First, God chose some people to be apostles and prophets and teachers for the church. But he also chose some to work miracles or heal the sick or help others or be leaders or speak different kinds of languages. 29 Not everyone is an apostle. Not everyone is a prophet. Not everyone is a teacher. Not everyone can work miracles. 30 Not everyone can heal the sick. Not everyone can speak different kinds of languages. Not everyone can tell what these languages mean.

1 Peter 4:1-10-11
10 Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well. 11 If you have the gift of speaking, preach God’s message. If you have the gift of helping others, do it with the strength that God

Let me tell you a story about one of the best examples of being a missionary to the church that I’ve been able to witness myself. My step-dad has been retired for a few years and almost as soon as he retired he dedicated more and more time to the church, serving on committees, helping with landscaping, setting up for events, etc. He gives more of himself to the church than I’ve seen anyone else do who wasn’t employed full-time by the church.

That’s not to say that we all need to retire and give a lot of our time to the church, but we were given specific skills to help the body of Christ grow closer to Him. I can’t speak for every church, but I’m sure if you contacted your church and asked if they needed help they could probably rattle off a good half dozen or so ways in which you can help. Most churches need nursery workers, Bible study leaders, landscaping, ushers, musicians, greeters, etc. Ask your church this week how you can serve the body of Christ.

Missionary to the World

How can you make international missions a part of your every day without living internationally?

  • Pray the Luke 10:2 prayer for more workers
  • Go on a short-term trip your church is organizing. Don’t know of one? Go to gemeuroteam.org and look at what my organization has coming up and sign up!
  • Send someone else to go on a missions trip. Partner with them financially or prayerfully to impact the world.
  • Go – gap year, internship, ten2 (10 weeks), or longer
  • Send – Most missionaries live on financial support from individuals and churches. Partner with them financially or prayerfully to impact the world.
  • I wrote a blog about how you can support missionaries in other ways and it will be posted next week, so come back and check it out!

Escaping the Room to learn English

One of the camps we partner with has a camp during Easter break and they want it to be less in the classroom and more active. In theory that shouldn’t be too difficult, the only problem being, we don’t have anything like that quite yet.

We needed to brainstorm, so I talked to a good friend of mine who also does English camps and he mentioned using escape rooms to help teach English. I had just done my first two escape rooms earlier that year and loved them, so I was immediately all in.

For those of you who aren’t aware of escape rooms, let me explain the concept a bit before talking about how we will be using them in camps. An escape room is a thematic room that has clues, puzzles and riddles spread throughout the room. Some of the puzzles are straight-forward word scrambles while others require much more brain power to solve. Normally the rooms take an hour to complete and the goal is to find a code that you use to “escape the room.”

The tricky part for our use is that we need a portable escape room or one that does not require a lot of set-up. This would allow us to bring the escape room wherever we have a camp. Most escape rooms are set up for months at a time and therefore can be much more involved. We, on the other hand, will need to come and go within a week and will probably only have a few hours to set up the room for a couple uses and then have to take it down again.

I’ve been tasked with designing the escape room. I’ve done research by going to multiple escape rooms with different numbers of people and discussing with them what worked, what didn’t and how we could adapt some of the good aspects to make it portable. I’m not an escape room expert, but with the help of my friends, I’ve been able to get some very good ideas down on paper.

The second tricky part is that we will want to use these escape rooms for a multitude of themes, so instead of designing one escape room, instead I am designing a template that a theme could be added onto. From that template we could easily adapt the room to fit whatever theme the camp requests…in theory.

The last tricky part is creating something that with only minor tweaks could work with students who know very little English all the way up to conversationally fluent students. Not sure how we will handle that quite yet, but we’ll figure it out.

To me, this is exciting. It is a challenge for sure, but to design something that the kids can learn through that doesn’t even feel like learning is worth the work!

And I would drive 2,205 miles…

First off, you are welcome for getting that song stuck in your head. If a song didn’t get stuck in your had, what if I say, “and I would walk 500 more?”

On a completely different note, yesterday (Sunday the 14th) I left Toledo to start my big trip of my HMA. As this is posted I am in Nashville visiting a guy who I had the privilege of leading in a small group during his time at Black Forest Academy in Germany. It was originally going to be two guys and they were going to be spending their Fall break hanging out together. For some reason they want their “old man” leader to come hang out with them. I have never been to Nashville, so that will be fun to explore a new city and get to hang out with him.

After Nashville I will be heading to Charleston, SC, Charlotte and Raleigh, NC, Alexandria, VA and good old Waldorf, MD. At each of these locations I am going to be connecting with friends and ministry partners who live in the area.

If you live anywhere near those locations and want to connect please reach out to me.

I do have a couple times I know of in which I will be speaking at churches, so if you happen to be near California, MD on November 4th I’ll be at Bridgeway Church, or White Pains, MD on November 11th I’ll be at South Potomac Church. I hope you come because I’d love to see you!

Home, Such a Funny Word

“Welcome home!”

“It must feel so good to be home.”

“Has it been nice to be home?”

These are the questions I have been answering from well-meaning people since I arrived back in the US for my year HMA in May. None of the people asking the question said anything wrong, but it caused some interesting thoughts to run through my mind.

“Is this home?”

“What makes a place home?”

“If this is home, does that mean where I live in Germany is temporary?”

“If this is home, why do I keep forgetting how things work here?”

You see, the difficulty for me is that, while I grew up in Toledo, I’ve also made a home for myself for 7 years in Maryland and now for 5 years in Germany. Does that make Toledo any less of my home?

Right now it feels like I have two homes, but on occasion it makes me feel like I am not genuine when I call one place home and not the other. What’s kind of strange is wherever I am at the time, I tend to call the other place home just as much as the place I am currently living. Weird, right? Welcome to my brain.

So, why do I write this? Why am I spending time explaining how home is a weird word and a weird idea to me right now? Well, because its something that I’ve been trying to figure out for myself and I know there are many other people who feel the same way. They are torn between two places.

Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying being “home” in the US, but at the same time there are things I miss about my German “home.” When I’m in Germany I will miss things about my US “home” while loving things in my German “home.”

As an uncle, a brother, a son, and a friend, my heart is often where I am not, so maybe the saying “home is where the heart is” is pretty accurate. If that is true, then welcome me (and anyone else who returns) home wherever I see you, but please remember that my home and heart lies elsewhere as well and that can cause some feelings of displacement.

No More Faking Fine

In Feb of this year (2018), I was asked to present on a topic for the spiritual track of ICCM (International Conference on Computing and Mission). I was nearing the end of a book called “No More Faking Fine” by Esther Fleece that was constantly on my mind, so I presented my take on the book as an option and the powers that be thought it sounded like a great topic for the conference.

Some of us are really good at “faking fine” while inside we are nowhere near fine. We’ve been trained by society to hide how we really are and instead answer the question, “How are you doing?” with “Fine and you?” no matter what.

The thing is, we don’t always have to be fine because sometimes life sucks. Everyone experiences times where life seems to knock us down and then continue to kick us while we are there. Nobody would expect you to get up and say you are fine after being beaten, so why do we do it when we are figuratively beaten?

When life sucks, we are allowed to be sad. Look at Peter in Luke 22:62. Right after betraying Jesus (which he was told he would do and promised it wouldn’t be the case) it says “And he went out and wept bitterly.” Peter wasn’t going to be able to brush off the tear and say something was in his eye. That dude wept, and there was no hiding it. His life sucked at that very moment. He let himself down. He let his Savior down. He let his friend down.

So why don’t we feel free to lament, as Ether Fleece calls it. Why don’t we allow ourselves to feel bad and share it with God and with others? There could be a multitude of reasons, but how we’ve been trained is probably a major one. We’ve been trained that “Men don’t cry” or “A strong woman is one who is able to smile this morning like she wasn’t crying last night.”

Stop me if you’ve heard this one after experience a break-up or a loss in the family. “It’ll get better.” That’s all fine and good, but what about the right here and now? What about during the time of grief? God has a different message. He says, “Blessed are those that mourn…” (Matthew 5:4). Note that it doesn’t say Pitied are those that mourn, kicked in the pants are those that mourn, pathetic are those that mourn, weak are those that mourn.

When we lament, as Esther Fleece says, we surrender to God’s sovereignty. We trust that even though we are in the midst of the suck, that He is listening. It might take us a while to fully give our troubles and worries to Him, but lamenting is a step in the right direction.

Turning lamenting into joy is the most important part though so how do we turn our questioning and frustrations into joy? We need to turn to God, remember what He has done for us and look towards the promises He has made us. We also need community. God’s plan for us is to be in community. Notice that ever Jesus died, Peter was still with the disciples and they were all grieving together (John 20:1-4).

The key, as part of the community, is to allow someone time to lament without shaming them. Their emotions are valid, so be there with them.

Communities are the support we need to hold us up when we can’t hold ourselves up. A place we should feel free to share truth and to be loved.

God designed communities to be a part of our lives. There are people in your lives who you know are hurting. They may be in mourning, they may feel unloveable, they may hate their lives, hate what they’ve done, or who they think they are. Today and every day we need to reach out to them, because they may never reach out to us. Reach out to them, share their pain and remind them that you love them, and more importantly, that God loves them. Period, there is not but, and , or if. Nothing that happens to them or that they have done will change that.

I challenge you right now, that if someone popped into your mind right now, reach out to them this instant.

If you, yourself need to be reminded of that love and need someone to remind you that you are loved, know this, even if we never meet, there is love in my heart for you. You are loved by the creator of the universe. He knows you better than you know yourself and He loves you.

 

*If you are interested in reading Esther’s book, I highly recommend it.

**Thanks to Esther Fleece for allowing me to truly process what it means to lament and remind me the importance of community.

***Thanks to Unsplash for the pictures that beautifully illustrated my points.

It’s Been a While

Every couple of weeks or so I thought to myself, “You should write a blog sharing whats going on in your world right now.” I’d immediately file that in the good idea folder and then promptly forget about it for another couple of weeks when I’d think to myself…you get the picture. When I logged on today to start actually writing this blog I realized I hadn’t published one since November. Holy goodness a lot has changed since then, so this post is going to be a brief update and immediately after I write this I will be planning and working on the next few posts so I can schedule them to release on a somewhat regular basis. I hope to do at least two posts a month; one about my ministry and one on a random topic which could include whatever pops into my head that month.

Ok, so here is a brief run down of what’s been going on since November:

  • Helped host ICCM (International Conference on Computing and Missions) as my last major event with eDOT where I spoke multiple times and in several different capacities including leading sessions called: “No More Faking Fine,” “40 Days of Decrease,” and another one on different styles of prayer. Be on the lookout as those will probably be jumping off points for my next few blogs.
  • Switched to Euroteam TEFL from eDOT. After 5 years with eDOT in Germany I felt it was time to move on to a different group that was more suited to my skills including curricula development and working with kids in English camps.
  • Helped lead a short-term team at an English camp in Korropi, Greece as my first team officially with Euroteam.
  • Moved out of my apartment in Riedlingen Germany and moved to Perrysburg, OH for my mandatory year in the US.
  • Since I’ve been back in the US my time has been filled with ministry partners, friends and family. I have made many memories already and am looking forward to making more throughout the rest of my time here.

That is the briefest run through of what I’ve been up to as of late. My next post will follow this one closely as I dive a bit more into what is going on with Euroteam TEFL and my role on the team, especially while I am working from the US.