Category Archives: Uncategorized

Heading Out Tomorrow

It is the evening before I head out, and I think that I am ready.  It has been a busy day picking up all the last minute items, but I feel confident that we are ready to travel.  We will leave at 8:00 in the morning to get to the airport in plenty of time.  Security will be tighter as we are flying on the 11th Anniversary of 9/11.  Yet, fewer people will be flying, so the crowds will be tolerable.  Ronnie looked back at her Zimbabwe journal this evening, and we are traveling at almost exactly the same time as she did several years back.  I know she is ready to travel back there, and someday we hope to do these mission projects together.

Many people are praying for our work in Zimbabwe.  I can almost sense their prayers even now while still stateside.  Anticipation continues to build as I feel like God will do something very big through us.  I am ready to serve.  Even though there has been some to do to finish getting ready, it has been a relaxing evening at home.  The thought of being away from home makes me already miss it.  Yet, I know that I will grow and learn so much through this mission.  It will help me serve better at home, I know it will.

I will not update this blog while in Africa.  Ronnie will be able to if she has opportunity, but I plan on sharing many updates after arriving back home.  Thank you again for your prayers.  Know that God will be doing big things through all of us, and your prayers will be a lifeline for His work among the Tonga people.

Thank you and God Bless,

Joel

6 Days – Supplies

I have been really blessed to have so many of my supplies provided by others for the project.  I am no stranger to camping and enjoy the great outdoors.  The biggest problem is that my great outdoors historically has been the Rocky Mountains, not the Zambezi River Valley.  Therefore, much of my gear is a bit useless in this situation.  I am very grateful to the Many people who have provided items and/or funds for me to acquire the things I need.  Thank you.

As I was thinking about my supplies today, I thought I would share a little about what I will be taking and more about the camping side of the project:

  • Clothing:  The seasons will be changing from Winter into Spring there.  The days will be very warm, while the nights will cool off considerably.  I will wear mostly jeans, shorts, and lightweight shirts.  We will wear lightweight pants and long-sleeved shirts in the evenings and mornings while at the camp to protect against bugs.  More important is the need for a good hat, safari vest, and quality hiking boot.  Camouflage is illegal in Zimbabwe, so we are careful to not wear even a stitch of it anywhere.
  • Food:  We will pick up some of our food in Bulawayo, but we will take as much food as space allows with us from home.  One reason for this is that we may have difficulties adjusting to some of the local food and not be able to eat enough to maintain energy.  More likely, we will find it difficult to eat around children and families who have not eaten a meal in days.  For these reasons, we will take snacks and high protein type foods (granola bars, canned meats, etc.) to eat in the evenings and mornings while at camp.
  • Water:  All we will use water for is to drink.  We will take backpack style water bladders and fill them up throughout the day.  Plus, we will have small containers of water to use at camp.  We do not shave or bathe with water while in”The Bush”.  We will use moistened towels mostly, unless we are blessed to camp near a natural hot spring.
  • Camping:  Many of our camping supplies are waiting for us in Africa.  Our expedition starts at the home of a safari hunter around Bulawayo.  There, we will stock up on our fresh food, water, and camping gear, and connect with our ground transportation.  We will sleep in Hennessy Hammocks, much like what is pictured below.  These are much more comfortable than they appear, and they add a measure of safety by allowing us to sleep above the reach of many animals.
  • Ministry:  We will take many items that we will leave there with the people.  This year, we will be taking soccer balls, pumps, and jerseys to give away to the people in conjunction with the soccer tournaments we will help host.  As well, we bring balloons and suckers for the children and their families.  We also bring many items to the safari hunter we visit, like car parts, batteries, food items, tools.  We will take a few copies of the English Bible, but only the young men know much English and Tonga Bibles are very difficult to find.  When we get to Africa, we will also purchase medicines and other health supplies for the people and the pastors.  And we will all have our own bibles, journals for noting events and thoughts, and cameras to record as any of the sights and sounds as we can.

As you can see, it takes a lot to be apart of such a great opportunity.  This morning I was reading the story of David’s retaliation against the Amalekites in 1 Samuel, Chapter 30.  The story notes that several of his men did not go all the way into battle against the Amalekites, but stayed back with the supplies.  Those who actually fought did not want to share the spoils of the victory with the ones who stayed behind.  Yet, David was quick to recognize their service as equal to those who participated in the battle, and instructed that they would have equal share of the spoils.  The same holds true for this mission.  For those who have given anything, whether time or resources, they have just as much to gain as I do.  All that God does while in Zimbabwe, and for generations afterwards, will be your success as well.  It is not just five men going to the Tonga people with the Gospel, but it is thousands of us through giving and prayer.  Thank you again for your obedience to God.  Know that I am excited to come back and share what God does through all of us in the Tongaland of Zimbabwe.

Mushale kavotu, remain well.

We will sleep in something much like this.

One Week Out – Distractions

 

Our team is exactly one week away from converging on Chicago where we will be together for the first time before heading over Africa.  The next several days will be hectic as my pastor and I work to collect all the remaining supplies we need for the project, and finish any personal preparations.  Of course, there is also much to do to make sure our responsibilities are covered before we leave.  In addition to all that, life goes on.  Our families still have needs, bills still need paid, and life in general tends to tug and pull in a million different directions.

This has been the experience today, for sure.  Currently, we have two major appliances not functioning in our home, the clothes washer one of them.  This morning, we woke up to the smell of a burned out blower fan on our central air unit.  It seems that as soon as I began to gear up and focus on the project, the more distractions that were placed in my path.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  Every hurdle has been worthy of addressing, but distractions none the less.

After I arrived at the church this morning, I took a little time in the Word.  My daily reading brought me to 1 Corinthians 10, where Paul used the analogy of a runner to express the need to run and train with purpose and focus.  God began to speak to me, encouraging me to consider the distractions as hurdles in the race.  Addressing the hurdles while still keeping focus on winning was all part of it.  Trying to go around the hurdles or ignoring them would only lead to problems.

Yes, there is still much to do before we are ready to travel.  And yes, I anticipate more distractions to come.  It is my prayer that I will stay the course in regards to our project and in my own personal walk with Christ, handling each hurdle well.

Associate Pastor for Children and Their Families, First Baptist Church of Borger, Texas

I am excited to announce that First Baptist Church of Borger, Texas, voted this morning to extend to me a call  to serve as their Associate Pastor for Children and Their Families.  My family and I are honored and humbled to accept this call and serve faithfully as God empowers to reach the children and parents in the church and community.

Last night, we spent a few hours in a fellowship atmosphere where people within the church were able to introduce themselves and chat about anything and everything.  It was wonderful to meet many new  families within the church and discuss their hopes and expectations about the future of children’s ministry.  FBC Borger has an active membership of around 800 people, so it will take awhile to meet everyone and learn names.

This morning, we spent most of our time in the children’s area.  FBC Borger has just started using 252 Basics, a curriculum developed by the ReThink Group, or more commonly known as Orange.  I was introduced to this program in May when we came to visit my sister and her family.  The church they attend has been using the program for awhile, and I had asked to sit in during their Sunday morning children’s worship to get a taste of the action.  The greatest asset of the 252 Basics is the connection to home.  Equipping parents to be the spiritual leaders at home is going to be a priority in this new ministry opportunity, and I am convinced that Orange is on track to do this effectively.

I had the privilege of sharing my testimony and vision in the Main Worship Service.  FBC Borger has a beautiful sanctuary, and it was full of smiling faces and warm hearts.  After sharing, my family and I went back to be with the children in their worship.  The vote was taken after the morning service ended, and we were very pleased with an overwhelmingly positive result.  We then returned to the service where I was presented as the new associate staff member.  We thoroughly enjoyed meeting people afterwards as church was dismissed.

We have had the honor to serve at FBC Bayfield for almost four years.  We love this church and the people will always be near and dear to our hearts.  It is our sincere hope and prayer that God will lead Pastor Randy and the church to new horizons as they seek to minister to youth, children, and families within the Bayfield community.  We plan to maintain the many great friendships we are apart of, and are excited to see what God has in mind for the church.

Our schedule as of now is to pack a rental truck on July 14, travel to back to Borger on the 15th, unload on the 16th, and begin service on Sunday July 17th.  We are grateful for prayers surrounding this transition.  We are also appreciative of any help we can have in loading and unloading.  If you can offer assistance in this way, please let us know when you will be available.  We have not secured a home to live in, yet, but will try to find something by this Tuesday.  We ask that you also join us in prayer for this.

Thank you again for your prayers and support.  This has been and continues to be an exciting process as we have watched the hand of God move in our lives, the life of FBC Bayfield, and the life of FBC Borger.  We will continue to depend upon God’s hand as he leads in a new direction for these two churches and our family.  Praise be to our God, Soli Deo Gloria.

 

 

Youth Camp:Final Night

We have come to the most difficult part of camp, the final night.  Tomorrow, all the youth will travel back to their homes.  Some will be welcomed into a loving family where they will be encouraged to share all that they experienced while at camp.  Many others will find that despite all the great things that happened at camp, the evils they left at home are still there.  Their parents will still be fighting, with words and with fists.  Some will go home with a relative because mom or dad is out of work or has abandoned them altogether.  Others will be faced with the same temptations of drugs and alcohol from friends.  And still others will struggle to deal with the pain they face by cutting themselves and entertaining thoughts of suicide.  In light of all this, there is a side of me that wishes camp would never end and that places like this would last longer to provide hope and safety for all.  Then I remember that there is a God who is bigger and more powerful than all of that combined.  I can relax in knowing that God is in control and is aware of every situation.  Much like the rafting experience I had today, I can trust God in the wind and the waves.

The day’s activities were identical to yesterdays.  For worship tonight, we were faced with the concept of forgiveness.  In order to connect with those whom have treated  us badly, we must forgive.  This carried over to church devotional time where the students expressed the difficulties they have had with forgiving those whom have hurt them deeply.  We took time to pray for each student individually and encouraged them in their desire to make things right with those whom have mistreated them.  This was then followed by a Talent Show and a time of fellowship.  We are letting everyone have a little extra time before bed tonight since we are all leaving tomorrow.

Thank you for all your prayers and support.  We have had an outstanding group of students from FBC Bayfield, and have had a lot of fun as well.  It has been a joy to share daily what all has been going on at camp.  Continue to pray for:

  1. Safe travel home for all groups.  We are going to leave right after breakfast and be back at the church around 10:00 am.
  2. The students who still need to make a decision for Christ.
  3. The students who are facing troubled or broken homes.
  4. The students who have made some type of decision.
  5. The leaders and churches that they will welcome the student’s excitement and that it will be contagious.

You have been critical in all that has gone on this week.  I cannot tell you enough how grateful I am to God for you.  God Bless you and thank you for being a part of this amazing week.

Youth Camp:Day 3

We are officially over the half way mark here at Hesperus with only one full day of camp left.  Time flies when you are having fun, and that is certainly the case here.  Not only are we having a great time ,today the students were digging into God’s Word and learned how to CONNECT with friends and family.  Today was also a special day as we helped Tabetha celebrate her 19th birthday.

The Zipline closed today due to the lightning, but the weather stayed fair enough for the river rafters to get some time on the Animas, and for the camp to pour 70 yards of concrete into the new basketball court.  There have been a few injuries within the camp, but everyone from our group is healthy and happy.  Worship this evening was powerful as Josh Storie led in music and Jeromy Ray brought the message.  In our church group time, we all talked about the Christian life being hard, but we can know that God has good plans for us if we will be persistent in our faith in Him.  We finished the evening with an outdoor game of “Smuggle the Duckling”, a game of strategy, tag, and capture the flag all rolled up in one.

The camp has been one of the best this year.  The curriculum is engaging, there is plenty to keep everyone busy, and the students are well behaved and engaging.  I ask that you lift up the following in prayer:

  1. Continued safety.  As we do more, we get more tired, which makes up all prone to illness or injury.
  2. I believe there are many who still need to make a decision for Christ.
  3. We had a little bear activity last night around the dumpsters.   We are not alarmed, but would like for everyone to be smart when walking around the camp in the evenings.
  4. Continue to pray for energy for Jeromy Ray and the rest of the camp staff.  Thursday can be the hardest day physically.
  5. Pray for the last full day tomorrow that everything would bring honor and glory to God.

We are blessed to have people like you praying for us.  May God reward you for your faithfulness and thank you again for your prayers.

Youth Camp:Day 2

Well, our first Full day of camp has completed, and the campers are beginning to settle down for a good night’s rest (yeah right, lol) God blessed with great weather again today, but we are certainly not opposed to Him providing a little rain. In Bible Study and at Worship, the students discussed connecting with authorities. There many people out there whom God has placed as an authority over us. Sometimes they are fair and make agreeable decisions. Other times, we consider the authorities in a negative manner as they can overuse their power and be oppressive. Yet, by still honoring these authorities we bring honor to God, as long as we are not asked to compromise our beliefs and faith practices.

Recreation hosted many team building activities which challenged the teams and forced them to think outside the box. The students also participated in Track Times, choice activities which included hiking or water games. For free time, the Zipline was going full force as students and adults climbed a 30ft pole up to a platform, and then rode down an 800 ft cable at speeds between 20-35 mph. The students were constantly attached to safety ropes at all times, making this one of the safest activities here at camp. A few students tried out the new 9 Hole Disc Golf. Others spent time building relationships and just hanging out.

Overall, camp is going very well. There are a few kinks in the schedule we are ironing out, but God is working on lives and everyone is having fun. Prayer requests for today:

  1. Continue to pray for safety. We will send our first group to do a little rafting tomorrow.
  2. There are so many students in bad home situations or other poor relationships. Pray for them.
  3. Pray for energy for the staff as they overwork to complete all the work needed to be done.
  4. There are students here who need to know Christ as their Lord and Savior.
  5. Though we need rain, the camp is trying to pour concrete for the new basketball court tomorrow.

We challenged our students to make personal, daily worship a priority. That extends to you, as well. How is your daily time with God? I pray that it is strong and getting stronger. Thank you for your prayers and God Bless.

Youth Camp:Day 1

Camp is in full swing this morning with everyone up and ready for the day.  The first day went great with groups coming as far as Texas and New Mexico to join us.  We were intorduced to each other, the camp staff, and the camp rules.  The students were also divided up into their teams for the week.  In these teams, they will participate in bible studies together, as well as group games.  This is where much of the application for the week takes place as the students interact with the leaders and each other.

The evenings begin with Worship as we meet together to sing, pray, and listen to the Word shared in a relevant way to all.  It also has mix of compelling videos, and some that are a little on the goofy side, too.  There is a time of decision at the end of every message where the students can come to the adults to discuss a decision, or just ask for prayer.  After Worship, we break up into our church groups for a time of discussion.  Our group consits of our church, and some of the smaller groups that are attending.  Last night, the message and discussion was based on Matt 22:37-40, giving our all to Christ.  It was exciting to hear the students share where they have failed to give their all in the past, and their plans to give their all in the future.  The night concluded with “The Late Shoe”.  This is a time in the evening where the staff and students participate in a very fun and engaging activity or game.  Last night, the students played Ther Bean Game.  In this game, a small group of students were given 20 beans, a larger group given 12 beans, and the majority given 7 beans.  The beans act like money, and the goal is to acquire shelter (cost 6 beans), food and water (1 bean), and medicine (3 beans) by the end of the game.  During the course of the game, police officers can take a bean for various infractions, disasters can take beans or resources, or the wealthy can take beans from the poor.   After the game, we took time to debrief and understand the real life concepts, and then pray for the vast majority of people in the world whom are poor and live without food, water, shelter, and the medicine they daily.

As you are praying for cam this week, please lift up:

  1. Joe Burton, the man who was supposed to be the camp pastor until he had exploritory surgery on Friday.  We are all unsure about what the doctors found and the impact.
  2. Jeremy Ray, camp director.  He is having to fill in all the spots that Joe was going to do.  This adds much more stress physically and mentally.  Pray for God to sustain him.
  3. The students, especially those whom are going through great trials right now.  One young lady has recently tried to commit suicide.  Another young man is just going through the motions of church, but is angry at God due to the death of his brother.
  4. Safety throughout the week.
  5. God will meet us here and move in a mighty way.  There are students that need to hear from him this week.  We are all very expectant.

Know that I am praying for you right now, in whatever God may put your hand today.  SDG

CONNECT Youth Camp Kicks Off

Youth Camp at Hesperus has launched and we are expecting great things at Hesperus Camp this year.  Hesperus has teamed up with Centrifuge, one of the nations best at organizing summer camps for Christian teens, and is providing a Fuge style camp with the some of the familiar faces of the past.  Not only is the programming going to be fresh and engaging, the worship and bible teaching will solid and thought provoking.  If all that isn’t enough, the camp itself looks astounding with the addition of the Tandem Zipline, Disc Golf, and the beautiful grounds.

Many people liked reading the updates from the mission trip last week and requested that to the same for camp.  So, I will be keeping a daily log of events, stories, and prayer requests here on my website.  Thanks for your prayers and I look forward to sharing all that God does this week at CONNECT Youth Camp.

Gallup Mission:Final Day

I tried to post this last night, but didn’t go.  So here it is, just a little late.

We are all very tired, and still have a bit of Gallup under our finger nails, but World Changers has come to an end.  Today was the last day to work on projects, and by God’s strength and grace alone, all 18 work sites were completed.  As one of the staff members said, the fact that we are tired and just plum worn out is a testament to the physical labor we displayed to bring honor and glory to God.  Our team held nothing back as they worked with their crews to see that the work was done.  I must say it again, I am so proud of what God did through our Bayfield Mission Team this week, and all the World Changers as a whole.

This week, God answered prayers, your and ours, by 1) helping us complete the projects, 2) planting and harvesting the fruit of the Gospel, 3) providing safety for our team, 4) and by strengthening the call to missions within our on hearts, which will spill over into our church in Bayfield.  Laboring to improve the physical needs of the people has been very enjoyable, but our team agree that there is a great personal need here, as well.  Begin praying now for future opportunities to participate in missions here or wherever God sends our church.  There are to many stories to share in this posting.  I encourage you to take time to ask the individuals on our team about what God has done in their lives this week.  I am sure they will be happy to share.

Though the week has been exciting and wonderful, we are ready to travel home tomorrow.  We miss our families…and our beds.  We will pack up at 6:30, leave about 7:00, hit Cracker Barrel for breakfast, then be on our way.  We will cherish the time here in Gallup, and I pray we will reflect often on what God has done here.  We thank you, again for your steady prayers.  We ask that you continue to pray for:

  1. Our safe travel home tomorrow.
  2. Praise:  Gordy was feeling great this morning after we all prayed for him last night.
  3. That what we share will lead others to want to seek God in mission – to Bayfield, to Colorado, to the US, or maybe even the world.

Thank you church, friends, family and supporters of this opportunity.  We have been blessed by God through you, and know you will be blessed by Him as well.  Soli Deo Gloria.

On a side note, Melissa and I had a rare opportunity to sing “Seek Ye First” with our crew tonight.  What made this rendition so special was that Karen Lafferty, the composer of this timeless chorus, was a member of our work crew this week and led us in singing it together.  You can learn more about her ministry at www.MusiciansforMissions.com.  Great lady and on fire about bringing music and missions together.