FUEL – What Does it Mean?

Recently I was invited and, after much prayer by myself, ministry partners and co-workers, accepted the invitation to a training called FUEL. I have been invited to join the third group of FUEL (though other leadership trainings happened prior) and it is a combination of GEM and CA (Christian Associates). What I want to do in this blog is discuss a little bit about what this means for me, my commitment with GEM and what the training will be about. I don’t know everything that will happen throughout the course of the training, so I’ll keep you updated as I know more.

First, the training:

  • FUEL is a leader development process that deepens Faith and broadens Understanding so participants are Equipped to Lead where they live and minister.
  • 5 week-ish long trainings in different locations within Europe every six months beginning in March 2016 through March 2018.

Now, my part in FUEL:

  • Commit to being a part of a learning community where you not only receive input from others but also take an active role in advancing one another’s growth.
  • Agree to complete reading and assignments between the forums and participate in an online learning community.
  • Live what you are learning and work on a project in your own ministry context.
  • Gain insight from a personal coach throughout FUEL and acquire insights from fellow workers ministering in other contexts.

How does this change my commitment with GEM?

My original commitment with GEM was through April of 2017, but after starting to co-lead a small group of high school Freshman (in 2013) I decided to extend that until they graduated in 2017. Since the training does not end until March of 2018 it adds another 10 months to my commitment. Beyond that, I am not required to stay with GEM. Obviously they would like me to stay as long as possible, but if God leads me somewhere else then they have said, they will be completely supportive of that change. That is not to say that I am for sure leaving or staying, all this means right now is that decision is still a matter of prayer.

Now obviously since I will be extending my initial 4 year commitment for at least another year I will be asking my current ministry partners to continue with me for that time as well, but at the same time I will completely understand if you feel led to not continue as well.

 

Please if you have questions, feel free to ask. If I don’t know the answer I will find them for you. You can post them below or on the link you followed to get here.

The end of an era and beginning of another

11 months ago yesterday I stepped off a plane into a country that was strange to me with people speaking a language I barely knew. After about a week I got frustrated and wanted to start learning the language as quickly as possible and learning as much as possible too. That began a long, frustrating, draining and sometimes butt-kicking 8 months of study.

That all came to an end March 14th. I no longer head into language school every day for 4 hours and only speak German. I know longer struggle with grammar or vocabulary issue when speaking with Germans….of wait, no i definitely still do that. I don’t know if I can say that I am fluent, but I can say that I can carry on a conversation on a variety of topics without too much difficulty.

While I said that one era ended, it really didn’t. I’m not done learning German in the least bit. I am still trying to practice it as often as possible, but language school is over.

Last week began my first week in the office full-time. It was a good week, but man, was it difficult. The projects I am working on weren’t hard, the co-workers are great, but it is hard for me because I haven’t worked full-time in 2 years, since I left Mattawoman. I also have not ever worked in front of a computer the whole day either. It is definitely an adjustment, but I like what I am doing and who I am working with, so I can only see it getting better. There is also a very flexible environment here, so if I need to go for a short walk or just get away from the computer for a short bit, I can.

Currently I am helping to write articles about online course creation and facilitation, creating a curriculum for an ESL camp, and organizing a short retreat that most of the eDOT team will be going on the beginning of April. I am enjoying these projects and am looking forward to adjusting to the full-time work too.

I am very thankful to God that the language school is done and I was able to pick up the language at least decently and also that I can already see the value of my abilities that will be used by eDOT for His Kingdom.

DMT in Lisbon

I figured since Monday I updated you on my first conference I would go ahead and do the second conference that I have had the priviledge to attend. The conference is called DMT and it’s tagline or summary is:

DMT is all about training. Its goal is to train believers who can then train others in a very simple yet effective method of evangelism, discipleship, and church planting that continues to multiply across relationship networks.

DMT is a direct response to the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John (4:35-36), where He states, “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life.”

The central focus is the harvest God has already prepared in advance and is waiting on to be harvested. – See more at: http://gemission.org/intro-dmt-discipleship-multiplication-training#sthash.Bd5hzmKB.dpuf

I went to a similar training when I was still living in Maryland, but this was with Europeans who were looking for ways to expand God’s Kingdom in Europe. There were Europeans, Americans and Canadians present representing a half dozen or so countries. We learned what it means to be a disciple and and how to disciple as well as evangelize.

While most of this time seemed to be geared towards people whose full-time job was church planting, it nevertheless gave me some food for thought. I wanted to share a few questions that kept popping into my head during my time there.

  • What am I doing to disciple people?
  • What am I doing to talk about Jesus to those who don’t know Him?
  • What can I do to help those whose mission is to do something like this full-time?
  • What can I do to change my current actions to make them more along the line of disciple making?

ICCM Europe

My first technology conference while working for GEM eDOT took place around a month ago and while its slightly old news I wanted to share with you all about my experience there. The conference took place in Mosbach, Germany at OM Deutschland’s HQ. There were a total of 80 people there representing 12 countries, four continents and 32 organizations.
At any given pass through the gathering/coffee area you would most likely hear at least 3 different languages and not all of them even being spoken by native speakers of that language. It was quite common to hear a German or Dutch to be speaking English or a native English speaker speaking German (sometimes even me) or Dutch (definitely not me). Such is my life right now and to be quite honest at times it is hard, but other times it is incredibly amazing. To think that God, who made languages originally to separate us so that we could not accomplish whatever we put our minds, now is using those same minds to allow us to be united again in multiple languages. It is truly a blessing that God has given us the gift of learning languages so that we can unite in Him to reach other for Him!
The conference overall was a very good, albeit draining, experience. On day one we introduced ourselves and I made it known that I was there with an ulterior motive, to speak German with Germans. That same day we were put into prayer groups, organized by my supervisor Dana. The idea was to provide us a small group where we could pray specifically for each other and become closer as well. Dana had randomly created every group, that is except for my group. My group consisted of three Germans and me. Talk about being thrown into the fire. During every prayer group they only spoke German and I quickly realized that I did not know German spiritual vocabulary in the slightest. I mean, it’s not like we learned that in my public school in Toledo or my public language school here in Germany. If you think about it, when we pray or ask for prayer we use a much different vocabulary than normally. I also realized my tech speak isn’t very well-developed so sometimes I wasn’t sure if they were speaking German or Tech-ese. My goal was to grab at least one point of prayer from each guy and then pray for that. They all prayed in German and I in English because I wanted the prayer to flow naturally.
Beyond the prayer groups we attended sessions on various topics and one of my favorite was on leadership using Nehemiah as a reference. I like Nehemiah’s story a lot and some very good points were brought up in regards to proper leadership that will bring about results. One point that stuck out to me was that Nehemiah had each person work on the wall opposite their house. Genius! He knew they would work so much harder if they had a personal stake in the matter. A true leader finds a job for their people that they are invested in and where they see importance. That’s just quality!
At night we typically gathered in the coffee area and a few of us played some board games (not a big surprise). Those simple games, though, allowed us to unwind but also develop more of a community. It was one of my favorite parts.
Going to this conference I learned a few things:
There are some ridiculously passionate tech geeks out there and its a great thing that they are there.
I am not a tech geek.
God has called all of us to Europe separately and yet together for His purpose.

Language School Nugget – Lebensmittel

A little while back I learned the word for groceries in German – Lebensmittel. Lebensmittel is a compound word consisting of Leben (live) and Mittel (medium or “means to”). So when you put these words together in English groceries are a medium or means to live. In class when this clicked in my head I realized the subtle difference between something being a means for life and a means to live. Since that day  have come to understand that Leben means both life and live, but the premise of this post remains the same.

What is the difference between “means for life” and “means to live?”

Quite simply I think it is this:

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

      -Matthew 4:4 (bold added)

Jesus doesn’t say we live only on the words of God, but he says that we also do not live on bread alone. We need food to live….that’s it. Technically the only reason we have to eat is to get nutrients into our body so that it can function at the level in which it is supposed to function. That is food (Lebensmittel) as a means to live. We need it to live and….done!

Unfortunately I know I and many others use food as a means to life. As soon as I am done eating breakfast I often time find myself thinking about lunch. Why? Because food is what I revolve my life around. It is how I experience life. My brother made a joke last summer when we were in Alaska that is very fitting for this topic. He said most people come to Alaska to see the different wildlife, but I came to eat it. It’s true, I wanted to try as many different kinds of meat as I could.

That in and of itself isn’t bad, but if that is all my life is focused on then am I really full of life? I’m probably full of food, but not of life. This is the same for anything. What is filling your life? What should be filling your life? It doesn’t have to be a bad thing to take up too much of your time/energy/thoughts, it just has to be consuming. We are  to live every day to the fullest for Him who has blessed us with that life. Use food/family/sport/work as a means to live, not a means for life.

There is only One who is our means for life.

Where everybody knows your name (and that’s about all they can say in your language)

Language school is an interesting beast. On day one you are placed in a classroom with a group of 15-20 other people and you know absolutely nothing about them. It’s not until they write their name on a placard that you even know their name and then you might not be able to pronounce it.

Then class starts and it is completely, 100% in the new language. So in the first day you learn how to say what your name is, where you are from, where you live, etc. So now you know a little bit about each other, but can you ask them anything in specific? Nope, sure can’t! If you want to ask what city they come from in their country, that might be a stretch. Maybe a little more info about their family? Well, you haven’t even learned the word for family yet, so good luck!

As the days go on you begin to learn more and more words and you can piece together, what I am sure sounds like some of the worst sentences ever to native German speakers. You get to kind of know the other people in your class and yet something is happening. You are becoming friends. You are suddenly involved in these people’s lives and yet you barely can have a decent conversation with them. You spend more time stumbling over remembering the little vocabulary that you have that it takes 10 minutes to have a 2 minute conversation. And yet, you take those 10 minutes to have that conversation.

There is a bond, a bond between people who do not speak the same language, but are trying to learn a new language together.

I am Yacob in class (German way to pronounce Jacob with a short a, not a long a) and I sit next to Olga and Denis. Denis comes from France and Olga comes from Portugal. They both speak about as much of English and I speak of Portuguese and French (pretty much none). Every day, we talk though. We talk about our family, we talk about the classwork and we talk about anything that we have the vocabulary for. Five weeks into class we are beginning to be able to have decent conversations, but it is still uncomfortable.

There is a bond, a bond between people who do not speak the same language, but are trying to learn a new language together.

We want to say so much more to each other. We want to share what we care about with our new-found friends. But so far, it is a slow process. So we take it day-by-day and every day it gets a little bit easier to communicate. Every day we get to know each other more and more. Every day we get closer to a point where we no longer have to use the Google translate app to translate something from our native language to German and then the native language of the person next to us.

There is a bond, a bond between people who do not speak the same language, but are trying to learn a new language together.

We have struggled together, we have had victories together, we have had fun together and we have laughed together. Soon, we will be invested in each other’s lives and hopefully my life will shine with the light of Christ so that they might now Him more.

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.