A pair of ducks and the paradox of leaving

In just over 3 hours I am leaving Toledo with my mom, step-dad, brother and sister-in-law to go to Detroit airport and head to Maryland. I’ll be in Maryland for three days and then leave the US for Germany for the longest continuous stretch of time that I have ever been away from home.

Recently people have been asking me how I feel about the whole moving thing and my honest answer has consistently been, “depends on when you ask me.” It seems as though my brain is not even able to comprehend what it is thinking. My heart (not literal one of course) is so confused that very little emotion is shown on my face at some points.

ducks

At training we were introduced to the idea of a pair of ducks (yeah and yuck ducks) as an illustration of the paradox that we are going through as missionaries leaving and that our friends and family will be going through as well. I thought I would give you some of my yeah and yuck ducks as I prepare to leave:

This time in my life is one of the most exciting times in my life – yeah

I’m leaving my mom, who is my main support, my exercise partner and cooks some good food! – yuck

I’m moving to Germany – yeah

I’m leaving my brother whom I have become better friends with in the past year and a half than ever before – yuck

I’m going to be able to use the skills God has given me to help Europeans and Missionary kids – yeah

I’m leaving the only country I have ever lived in – yuck

I’m going to be fluent in another language within a year (hopefully) – yeah

I’m going to miss holidays with family – yuck

I’m going to be able to travel to places I never would have been able to normally – yeah

I’m leaving friends both in Ohio and Maryland (and some other places too!) – yuck

 

As you can see these are just some of the things that are going through my mind at any given time. It will be hard to say goodbye to my family today, but knowing that God will use me is worth it. It will be difficult, but God will provide my family, friends and I with the strength to remain close even when we are so far away.

Fundraiser, Colorado and training, oh my!

So obviously I have been a wee bit absent on my blog the last couple weeks, but it’s for good reason I promise. As most of you know I had a fundraiser on February 2nd and then left just a week later for training in Colorado for this past week and four more weeks to come. I wanted to provide everyone with an update on both things and then hopefully next week I will be able to get back on at least a somewhat regular schedule of 2-3 blogs/week.

Fundraiser

After a ridiculous amount of preparation by myself and so many other people the fundraiser day finally came. When I woke up I saw the snow falling and I h ave to admit, I was doubtful that many people would come. It was coming down pretty hard and the roads were terrible, but my hope was in God, so no matter the turn out I was confident the event would be a success. Before the event even started I knew God was blessing me, my ministry and the fundraiser. There were over a dozen people who came just to help me set up, and boy did I need them. As the event continued, all but 2 of the chili’s showed up, but there were still 10 very good offerings available. All of the chili’s were awesome and we even had some rice and beans there too! The winner was my Uncle Mike and it wasn’t even close. His chili was my favorite as it was most people’s. Throughout the event Chris McConaughy and two of his amazing friends played music, we had items for raffle, a corn-hole tournament and a whole bunch of silent auction items. Over 70 people came and helped make the event a fun and encouraging event for me. Financially it was a success too, and it raised a total of around 12% of my launch fund bringing me to about 85% of my launch fund and 85% of my monthly support as well. With just a little more, I could be in Germany soon and this event was a huge part of that.

Thank you to all of those that helped, attended and otherwise made that day so awesome.

 

Training

This past Monday I left Ohio for Palmer Lake, CO to attend training at Mission Training International (MTI). The first two weeks of training is all about language learning and the last three weeks will be about the culture. All of my previous thoughts about what this training would encapsulate were apparently wrong. I thought I would be learning how to specifically learn sounds that are in German that are not in English and maybe then learn some German too. Boy was I wrong, but it is so much better than what I had ever thought it might be. I haven’t learned any more German than I knew before i came here, but I have learned some about phonics, some Russian and some Jeh (a tribal language in Vietnam). When I told my mom about this, she asked me why I would be learning a tribal language from Vietnam and Russian. I, at first, had wondered the same thing, but MTI has told us many times that what we are donig is learning techniques and tools to help us with our language learning. What better way to do this than with a language that few, if any, of us will ever use (Jeh). The fact that we can understand some Jeh after only a small amount of time of it being introduced to us that lets me know I can learn German!

I’ve got so much to do this weekend so I’m going to leave it at that for today, but I will try to be more regular updating my blog next week.

What a child reminded me

Last week I had the privilege to speak to a group of elementary aged girls about missions in general and what it means to be a missionary for me personally. I enjoyed this immensely! I know I have talked about how I disliked teaching in the past on this blog, but in all honesty; I love teaching. It doesn’t matter what the subject content is, if I know about it, I enjoy helping others learn it too. I struggled as a teacher, mostly because of the situations that the parents, students and myself could not control. But I digress, that has nothing to do with the point of this blog.

After I got done telling the girls about where I was going, what I was doing and I taught them some German words and phrases I opened the floor to questions. For anyone who has ever asked any kids for questions, this can be a little scary. You don’t know what is going to come out of their mouth. After getting through the “How do you say my name in German” questions and the “Were you allergic to anything when you were two” question (seriously a question that I was asked) one girl raised her hand and asked me a question that was as good as smacking me in the face.

It started like a bunch of the other questions, but then finished with a gut check for me. She said, “How do you say…Jesus in German?” I looked at her with a face that had to resemble how most people would look after seeing calculus for the first time. I was shocked, stunned and amazed. Such a simple question….but I didn’t know the answer. Holy goodness! I am going to Germany as a missionary and I didn’t even think to learn this yet. I’ve taken German for a few years, but that was at a public school, so Jesus wasn’t exactly talked about. I felt embarrassed  admitted my lack of knowledge and told the girls that i would look it up that night, because that little girl was right; I should know it.

As best as I was able to find online, Jesus is pronounced like it would be spelled Yeyzeus, kind of. The e sound used in German for Jesus doesn’t translate well to English. I could be wrong, but again not the major point of this blog.

Over the past two years I have been so consumed with raising financial support that I tend to forget the main reason I am going over. I am going to Germany to talk to people about Jesus, to develop relationships with people and to make online courses to help others spread the Gospel. I need to go back to the basics sometimes and return to the reason why God has called me to Germany.

So I say thank you to that young girl. Thank you for the verbal smack in the face.

What are you doing in your life that you need to be reminded of the real reason you were doing it in the first place? Leading or attending a Bible study? Teaching Sunday School? Going to work every day?

Let this blog serve as a virtual smack in the face and go back to the basic, the real reason God has us where we are.

5 Things I’ve learned as a Missionary So Far

I have technically been a missionary with Greater Europe Mission for almost exactly 2 years now. I’m still in the US, raising financial support to get to Germany, but I have learned several things about being a missionary and I felt like sharing them with you all today.

1. Prayer is huge – I don’t mean to start out with such a “duh” statement, but there have been countless times when I have asked for prayer and then saw it answered sooner rather than later. Also, when I started praying more consistently myself things started happening.

2. Explain yourself – When I first started I don’t think I did a good job of explaining myself and my ministry to potential partners, that probably explains why I have to keep explaining what I will be doing to some people. Part of the reason is I wasn’t quite clear on what I was doing and the other part was a communication break down on my part.

3. Get over your fears – I still struggle with this, but I’m trying to do better. There are plenty of things to be scared of during the whole process of becoming a missionary including phone calls, meetings and the ever dreaded asking for contributions part (Do a missionary a favor and tell them your decision before they ask you.)

4. This stuff is hard work! – When I tell people that I work full-time raising support and spend a decent amount of time at a coffee shop doing that work, I get the “Oh, so you put in a few hours a week…..that’s nice” look. While I may not be teaching anymore, this work isn’t easy. I’m not complaining at all because I know this is where I need to be. I just never realized how much goes into raising support, but now I know and knowing is half the battle. (Sorry for the GI Joe reference, I just had to)

5. God has got this – This is a bit of a cliche and I know you have heard the line, “It’s in God’s timing,” before, but you have heard it because it is true. If it was up to me, I would have been in Germany already. So why didn’t it work out that way? No idea. Will I ever know? No idea. Why don’t I have an idea? Mostly because it doesn’t matter if I know. All that matters is that I am seeking His will and relying on Him, not me, to provide and have the utmost confidence that He will.

Laptops to skills to trades in Ukraine

My supervisor in Germany recently sent me an e-mail with some pretty cool news about something that eDOT had a had in years ago that is still being used today and now is playing an even bigger role than originally thought. I want to share with you the awesome things God is doing through that project

Unlike here where most people my age and under grew up with a computer, in some areas few people even have access to a computer let alone have their own at their house. A few years back eDOT went to  Zaporozhye, Ukraine and set up what is known as a Mobile Outreach Center. The MOC, a group of laptops used for teaching basic computer classes, was installed at a community center that was an outreach of a church plant in Zaporozhye. Originally the MOC was used primarily for computer training so people were better prepared for more jobs and while they were getting the training they are building relationships with those working there and hearing about/seeing God’s love lived out. That in and of itself is awesome, but this MOC was also being used to help orphans who have “graduated” from the local orphanage.

Recently though there has been plans for a trade school to begin as another outreach to orphans and others needing job training. They were having difficulty getting the school accredited but when they found out that the school would be offering computer classes, the doors were opened. The computer course has been accredited now which makes it easier to get future courses accredited and then eventually the whole program.

What began as a way for people to be surrounded by God’s love while learning basic computer skills has morphed into something well beyond what was originally thought. God’s plan is certainly better than ours and I love when he reminds us of that!

My supervisor sums it up pretty well and so I will leave with a quote from the e-mail he sent.

“We’re finding that technology isn’t always what “it’s about” but many times its the door way for other opportunities to follow.”

The other side of my ministry

First off let me apologize for not posting every day like I promised. This past week has been pretty rough. I was so exhausted most days that as soon as i sat down I was asleep. Add that to the fact that I injured my leg and couldn’t run and my frustration level was pretty high.

Anyway, at the beginning of the month I asked for suggestions for blog topics and my friend Dustin gave me two. I addressed one of them earlier and today I will address the other one today.

Dustin said: I see that you and GEM both put a high emphasis on personal relationships when spreading the gospel. I love this. Why do you think this is important and biblical? Do you have any ideas yet about how you might carry it out in Germany?

Dustin is correct in saying that GEM and I are very purposeful about being relational with people and then having that lead to conversations about God. GEM’s mission statement addresses this very thing when they say “Disciple all peoples of Europe through rapidly reproducing churches.” You can’t disciple without a relationship. Jesus didn’t call His closest followers disciples for nothing.

GEM is huge on this and honestly that is why I will be in Germany creating online courses as opposed to doing them here, which technically I could do. GEM wants me to be in Germany so I can help spread the Gospel to my neighbors. There are a lot of people in Germany who do not truly know Jesus and I can help bring a Christian influence to my apartment complex, my town and my region of Germany.

Beyond the fact that GEM is all about relationships so is God. If you look in the Bible it shows many times that relationships are important, whether they be with God, with people you know or people you are yet to know.  I mean God is jealous of His relationship with us (Exodus 34:14), we are called fools if we do not have a rich relationship with God (Luke 12:21). Then of course there is the great commission (Matt 28:16-20) where we are told to go and make disciples. How can we make disciples without forming relationships? All of these relationships are supposed to be about getting each person involved to a right relationship with God.

So how am I planning on doing this? Well, I have some ideas on what I might do, but since I have not lived in Germany I am also keeping an open mind to possibilities that I have not thought of yet.

One of my ideas for my initially year in Germany while I am taking language courses all day, every day is to find a cafe/coffee shop where I can start conversations with the regular customers or employees and ask for their help with my German and i will help them with their English if need be. I also want to have a German Bible so I can ask them to translate some phrases as well.

Another idea is developing relationships through a garden plot. I have never really gardened before in my life, but some apartments come with them so if the apartment I get does I will try to find a neighbor to help me learn how to garden.

I also want to get involved in the community in general. I have heard that they have hobby groups that meet somewhat regularly. I love photography, running, hiking, traveling and would love to get with a group of locals and explore. I will probably have to know Germany pretty well by then so I might not join a group immediately.

Lastly, and this one might seem a bit obvious, I will join a local church and become involved with whatever ministries in which they are currently involved.

I can’t wait to use the skills God has given me in technology and education, but I am also ecstatic about getting to know Germans and living life side-by-side with them.

Smacked in the head by a 2×4 part 2

Yesterday I talked about how God has been planning my ministry plan far longer than I even knew and today I am going to talk about the more recent history.

Five years ago (2005) I was deathly sick. Over the course of four months I was given a 50% chance to live, had my gall bladder removed, two gallons of some random fluid removed from my abdomen, had two feet of my small intestine removed, was told that I was a week away from death had I not had the second surgery and then had pre-cancerous polyps removed from my large intestine. All of this at the age of 25. I fully believe that God used my health issues to get me to listen to His calling on my life. Gradually after I returned to normal health I felt like God was leading me to a leadership role in my Bible study.

In 2009 I had reached a milestone in my weight-loss, 150 lbs. To reward myself I was planning on buying a nice, new tv. My friend suggested that instead of buying something material, how about we organize a trip to someplace awesome. So, the two of us and three others planned a trip to, you guessed it Germany, where I fell in love with the culture and the people. I also visited the town that I will be working in without ever having heard of Kandern, Germany before.

Two months later my co-Bible study leader asked me if I had ever considered full-time ministry work (she meant more of in the church) and I quickly said no. She then asked me if I would look up short-term missions trips for our Bible study to consider. While searching I got bored and decided to look up long-term positions and stumbled upon Greater Europe Mission needing an instructional Designer in Germany. I was qualified, but I still wasn’t considering it. After prayer by myself and others I felt God leading me to do this and am certain, now more than ever, that this is His calling.

Something cool since all of that is that through a ministry partner or mine I met someone who is going to be working two floors above me in Kandern. We are both young, her more than me :-), and both exciting about learning more about Europe through travel.

If anyone looks at these things and says that I have not been called to serve Him in Germany then I would be surprised. Being the planner that I am I appreciate God’s plan going back over 20 years.

Thank you God, for smacking me in the head with a 2×4!