Sunday, October 25, 2009

We need some prayers for our friend

Hello everybody- I had a tough conversation with our new friend, DL. He recently came back from rehab and was really getting involved with our church. I have never seen someone actually return from rehab and thank me for buying his bus ticket! He spent a morning with me at the city court to replace his ID so that he could return to work. His big sister was letting him live in her extra room above the house.

He called me after I returned from English class and asked to speak to me personally. I hope you can pray for him from this point in the story. He had gone with another member to hand out flyers for our church in the neighborhood, when two guys on bikes grabbed him and said his old drug dealer wanted to see him. He fled, and hid above his sisters house, but when she saw him she said that four men had threatened to kill him if they found him. We prayed with him, and offered to do whatever he thought he needed to be safe. After considering our offer to make a report to the police or at least stay with another family, he felt it best to leave town immediately; his brother lives a couple of hours away where he was in rehab. He looked like a man who had lost all hope. DL is a smart 46 year old who is trying to make a fresh start. I really hated sending him away, but none of us had space for him to stay more than one night. Please pray that he finds family in another city. We are praying that sometime soon (after his debts are paid) he can return. DL, we are praying for you and for your safety.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Strategy Review, Days 3 & 4

I didn't blog last night because we all headed out to dinner and it took us over ninety minutes to get a table (it would have taken even longer had a certain teammate not boldly approached the couple that had already paid and was taking up our future table and begged them to move on) so we didn't get home until ten-ish.

That's one reason anyway.

The other problem is that I'm not actually sure what to say about yesterday, or what led up to it.


Okay, I'm going to let you in on something you may or may not have already known: missionaries (and ministers, for that matter) don't always have it all together spiritually speaking. We get distracted, we lose our focus, we neglect our personal spiritual lives. It's really easy, since we're "professionals", to put all our time and effort into our work and convince ourselves that it's all for God and actually be quite far from him. We make decisions based on what we feel is best and don't stop to ask God. We get so caught up in the what that we lose the why.

As we talked about what has happened in the past year, we were frustrated. Things hadn't gone like we had hoped. We weren't seeing the results we expected. Several of us are exhausted by our workloads, especially on Sundays. We all knew that something had to give.

We made our list of what we feel God wants in 2010 and what kept coming to the top was that God wants us to seek Him. The more we talked about it, the more we realized that if we all seek God with all of our hearts, everything else will happen naturally. And if we, the missionaries, are not seeking God first and foremost, how can we expect that from our members or the people we're studying with?

I've got to pause here to say again how hard this is to share. In fact, in the course of this conversation, we discussed how tough it would be to share that we had not been measuring up spiritually. (I even specifically said that it would be hard to blog about!) But I realized that 1. It's the truth and we need to openly share our struggles to be able to conquer them, and 2. We are definitely not the first missionaries or ministers to have this struggle. So I'm sharing it with you. My prayer is that your response would be one of support and prayer as we try (as everyone ought) to truly make God Lord of our lives.

So put God #1. Easy peasy.

Oh, no wait. That's hard. But we're going to try to do it together. I won't go into all the details of how we're going to go about it, but it involves regular study, prayer, worship and accountability. Sounds like a good start, doesn't it?

That wasn't the end of our retreat, though, because we did have to get around to talking about some of our day to day ministry things. But the incredible thing was how quickly all that went once we were all unified in our desire to focus first on God. Conversations that we expected to take hours were had in ten minutes, incredibly tough decisions were made, prayers flowed freely.

This week's strategy retreat was unlike any we've had before. (To begin with, we had less people than ever!) Through our time together, through our conversations, our worship, our times of prayer, we reached a new level of unity. We had moments of discouragement but are now refreshed and renewed in our commitment to serve God and the people of Salvador. I thank God for what He did in our lives and our hearts this week!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Strategy Review, Day 2

So we continued the strategy review process today. We had a little housekeeping to take care of at the beginning of the day, talking about furlough schedules and other team-related stuff. One thing we talked about was our common desire to recruit new team members, whether interns or full-time. With Travis and Alicia leaving, we have some holes in our team, and while we know we will never replace them, we are still at a point in the life of our church when reinforcements would be welcome.

We also spent a while talking about Travis and Alicia's departure in April and Heather's in June (when her two-year internship ends). There's a lot to be worked out, from finding new ministry leaders to goodbye parties. It's tough to talk about all this stuff because it brings the reality of our teammates leaving to the front of our minds but we're thankful that we have this opportunity to plan and work through it together.

Since it was a tough morning, we took a good break for lunch and headed to our favorite churrascaria (favorite because it's cheap!). It was a little challenging for all of us because of our ongoing weight-loss competition (which is going very well, by the way!) but we all managed to control ourselves. Mostly. There are these really good homemade potato chips...

This afternoon we joined together for worship time. We've been meeting in the "party room" at our apartment building but this afternoon we gathered around the pool to enjoy the cool breeze. It was a welcome change of scenery!

Our final major conversation of the day was the start of building for next year. We all shared what God has put on our hearts about the coming year. We talked about personal realizations and, of course, stuff about the work. It was a time of vulnerability and openness and together we ran the gamut of emotions. But I think when we finished, we were united in purpose. It became clear where our focus needs to be and, more importantly, who we need to be.

So tomorrow it's down to the nitty gritty--we start brainstorming.

It's been interesting going through these meetings as the mother of a toddler. We've hired a babysitter to watch Jackson and we've been dealing with the a kid who's used to having a (mostly) stay-at-home mom be stuck with a sitter from 8-4. Good times! Not only that, but we used to come home from these strategy meetings, order a pizza and crash out for the evening. But Jackson seems to have other ideas, which is how we found ourselves at an animal fair tonight. It was totally worth it though--when he saw the geese and cows he flipped out. I would take him a million times to see that reaction!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Strategy Review, Day 1

I'm trying to get back in the habit of blogging more. It's hard to consider my daily life interesting to blog about most days but every so often I realize that my life is probably pretty different than many of yours. So today I thought I'd give you a glimpse into some of the not-so-glamorous missionary stuff.

Today we started our annual strategy review. Our strategy review has been an evolution. Before we moved to Salvador, we sat down as a team and wrote a strategy document. I can't remember exactly, but I think it was about 60 pages. Yeah, seriously. It talked about our big goals and dreams and some of the day to day stuff, too. It was intended to give us a starting place with our ministry but we knew going in that it would be a living, breathing document. So every year we sit down and re-examine what it is we're doing and what we hope to do. Does it sound exciting yet?

So today we started by looking at the past year and reflecting on what went well and what could have been better (or in some cases, flat out failed!). I should mention at this point that these retreats require a great deal of humility and very thick skin. (It has taken us years to get to the point that tears at these retreats are few and far between!) Then we considered our church's identity (a family of God) and our values (authenticity, healthy theology, growth and invitation). We asked ourselves, "How are we reflecting these? Are we effectively communicating them to the congregation? Are they sufficient or do we need to change them?"

Finally, we looked at the list of roles that we all currently hold. For each person on the team, we affirmed which jobs they have been doing well. After that, we expressed any hesitations that we may have about particular roles they have been filling. It sounds a little scary and it requires a great deal of trust (and as I said above, humility). But we start that time by first being confessional and admitting our own failings. It's rare that the team tells us anything that we don't already know--though sometimes we think we'd been "getting away with it" a little better than we actually were! From that conversation, we have a short list of some ministries that need to be re-examined and some roles that need to be filled by other people.

An essential element to the day is prayer and worship. We know that all of this is for God and is only possible through God. Taking the time to worship together unites us in purpose and reminds us that we are all here to serve our Lord.

So that was day one. As we get further into the retreat, we'll look closer at our focus and the ministries we have. We'll consider why the ministries exist and how they help us accomplish our goals. We'll brainstorm for new ways to reach out to the lost and to minister to God's family.

Strategy review is a tedious process. As I said, it's been an evolution. But we've found that as we have grown to trust each other more and experienced personal growth that it has become a time of necessary pruning and shaping. We all know that there will be tough conversations, times we don't get our way and moments of great frustration. We may have to give up ministries or roles that are important to us. But we believe it's all ultimately necessary to best serve God and use the resources that have been entrusted to us.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

We have our annual strategy review this week. Four days of meetings. Imagine my excitement. But really we have a lot to talk about this year with Travis and Alicia leaving so I know these meetings are important, even it if does mean leaving Jackson with a sitter for four days and dealing with his crankiness in the evenings.

Russ had an amazing trip to Sao Paulo other than the fact that he got sick and wasn't able to talk or sing. I'm so thankful he was able to participate in the conference. Thanks to Continent of Great Cities for taking such good care of us missionaries! And I was personally blessed to have Debbie (aka Grandma Q) here for the week to help with Jackson. I know that lots of people are single parents and many others deal with their husbands being away for deployments but this was a first for me and I was grateful that Debbie was able to take the time off to come down. We had a superfun week.

And now, just to make (some of) you smile, your dose of dorkiness for the day. It reminds me of a certain band tour top ten list!

Get Fuzzy