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Author: Andrew

We’ve Arrived in ‘The Big Mango’!!

We’ve Arrived in ‘The Big Mango’!!

Well, we’ve done some crazy things… but moving our family internationally takes the cake. We flew out Sunday – whatever that means in our fog of long flights, too many good movies on the seat back tvs, and jet lag (which can be contagious, by the way… according to the five year old medical professional we know)

I’d like to just fill this newsletter with pictures. For several reasons. We were swarmed with people who love us and support us all week, some we have photos with, others just special memories. We are so thankful for each hug and prayer, and tear that doesn’t go unnoticed by the Father.

            

The other reason I want to fill this newsletter with photos is because we plan to *try* to go dark on social media for the first two months or so we are here. The point isn’t to keep ya’ll wondering or to make our separation more real, but to change our habits. Instead of turning into our phones and seeking Facebook as a source of connection, we want to turn our eyes upward and go outside to sit and visit with the fruit woman and her kids. Not only will this help us make local friends faster, it will help us adjust to our new home and cruise through culture shock with style… or at least with mangoes.

All that being said, we are available via Facebook messenger or WhatsApp if you do need or want to connect with us. And if Fern adopts a stray animal, you bet your bippy I’ll post a photo 🙂

Coffee to go!!

Thank you all for your support. We have been truly carried by you and your prayers. Please continue to ask for comfort for our families. And now for us to find an apartment!! ?

Jesus is always with us

Jesus is always with us

Wow. Can you believe that it was just 322 days ago that I stood up here for the first time to tell you what Maggy and I were up to!? 46 short weeks ago! We did not expect God to move this fast. Our family is flying out for Thailand in two weeks on March 26. We will be in Bangkok for 9 months to learn the Thai language. Then we will head to Sangkhlaburi to teach English. It is impossible to convey how excited and anxious we are to board the plane. We will have to say some very difficult goodbyes. It has been very hard already, as we have started that goodbye process. I had to say goodbye to the township, Maggy has had to say goodbye to our farm, and Fern, well she has yet to say goodbye to her princess dresses. Thankfully I think we can sneak those into the suitcase!

It has been so hard to figure out what I wanted to say up here today. I have so many things that I would like to share, but then I also feel like you all have been such an inspiration and support to us, that we don’t have anything to share. You should be sharing with us. This is a paradox. Thankfully, we learned all about paradoxes when we were in Colorado. At the most basic level, according to Webster’s, a paradox is a statement that is self-contradictory because it often contains two statements that are both true, but in general, cannot both be true at the same time. So how can I have so much to say and nothing to say? How can we be excited to start our journey, but sad to leave our family, friends, and Central Lake? This is the essence of a paradox. We have so many seemingly conflicting emotions, and even as an adult it is hard to understand and communicate these feelings. Imagine how much harder it has been for a 5-year-old! It was nearly impossible for Fern to communicate how she felt. But she learned about paradox as well, through a “Pair of Ducks”, yeah duck and yuck duck. So, when we spent an evening at the symphony, she could now express that she really loved the music, yeah duck, but she did not like how long it was, yuck duck. It was amazing to us that she could now express this, instead of the usual I didn’t like it. Fern has also told us how much she will miss her cousins and friends, yet she is so excited that we will be living close to a 7/11 for a Slurpee! So, remember paradoxes, if we say that we are excited to go, it doesn’t mean that we will miss you any less. Or if we say that we are scared to go, it doesn’t mean that we are second guessing our decision to leave.

This Lenten season, Pastor Gary has been talking about promises God has giving us. He asked me to tell him a verse or promise that our family has been hanging onto for strength. It was difficult at first to respond, because there are so many!! Yet, I think this promise does a great job of summing it up, I am with you always. We read about this in Matthew 28:16-20, Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Isn’t that amazing, God is always with us.

In preparation for speaking today, I read through what I have said up here before. The first time that I was up here, I talked about my anxiety and lack of trust in doing what God has told us to do. I constantly was asking Pastor Gary what he thought we should do. He very gently encouraged us to just take the next step that we feel God is telling us to take. And I can honestly say that God has been here with us through this entire journey. Without God, we wouldn’t be here. If He wasn’t always with us, there is no way we could have the strength to accomplish this incredible task. Even if we do not feel close to God, He is still right there with us. We just have to take the time to stop and let His presence be known.

Not only is God always with us, He actively guides us. We see this several places in the Bible.  One instance is in Psalm 32:8 “The Lord says, “I will guide you along the BEST pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” The neat thing about this is that we all have a customized pathway. There is no one size fits all pathway. God is our personal advisor. Some people pay big bucks for a personal advisor, yet we all have one in God!! God has carved out a perfect path for us to take. In this passage, the word “path” was specifically chosen. That stands out to me. It is not a highway not even a road. Paths are not necessarily straight or smooth or wide. There are usually curvy and almost always have bumps and holes. Just because we are on the pathway that God has given us, does not mean that we will not experience hardships. 2 Timothy 3:12 points this out, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” We will have those struggles, we will have persecution, but do not let that stop you from living a godly life in Jesus.

I can admit that I am not that strong when it comes to struggles or bumps in the road. I mailed in for our Thai Visas about four weeks ago, and last week I started wondering where are passports were. I looked up the tracking number and noticed it said undeliverable as addressed. I thought that was weird. Well, I checked into it further and it turns out that while I was writing the down the city and zip code, I wasn’t paying close enough attention because I was talking to someone in the Post Office and writing down addresses.  I accidently wrote the city and zip code I was sending it to in the place of our return address. I was not making any progress with the post office and was becoming more and more agitated. Thankfully I have the most amazing wife, and she was constantly reminding me to pray and to give it up to God. She reminded me of how wonderful God has been on our journey thus far, and God was not going to let a human mistake hold Him up from using us in Thailand. Maggy was able to smooth things out with the post office in Chicago, not an easy task I might add, and we now have our three passports in hand. To top it off, the Thai Consulate in Chicago didn’t even charge us for the Visas! Isn’t God amazing!? This is just one example of many that I really need prayer as I struggle through the struggles. Thankfully God has provided a rock for me, in Maggy, and He gives me plenty of opportunities to learn through struggles.

As well as a promise, I want to remind everyone of how Jesus replied when he was asked what was the most important commandment. We find this account and His answer in three of the four Gospels, I will read from Matthew 22:36-40. “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

I don’t want to give the impression that Maggy and I follow this perfectly. That is far from the truth. Yet, we try to model our decisions based on these commandments. I think that these commandments are important for us all to remember, ourselves included. When someone cuts you off when driving, how would Jesus respond? When someone mocks you, how would Jesus respond? So, when we are about to do something, we need to stop and think, is this loving someone? If not, we need to rethink our actions. Maggy was just talking with one of her very close friends that is not a believer about why Maggy loves Jesus and why we are going to Thailand. Maggy told her that this is what we are commanded to do, love others. It isn’t a whole bunch of rules and regulations to follow. Maggy followed up by saying that it is simple to follow Jesus, all you have to do is love Him and love others! We just have to love Jesus with all our heart, soul, and mind. If we do this, we will be able to love everyone else as well.

This week, while you are trying to love everyone, remember the promise of Jesus that He will always be with you. Jesus will be there to help you love the unlovable.

 

So…. this is our last week here at First Congregational Church. We will be at the Ellsworth Christian Reformed Church next week. Then we will be on a plane the following week. We cannot thank you enough as our church congregation for all of your support. You guys have lived the love of Jesus to us. Just remember, this is a temporary goodbye, because sooner or later we will all see each other again. Thanks!

Departure!

Departure!

We bought our tickets! Wheels up March 26!! As the clock ticks away our last days in the mitten, we are thinking about all the plans we had for our lives and how our steps were guided…. in quite the opposite direction!

 

Exhibit A –

 

Two years ago we were in the process of buying an old building in town that had once been the meat market for our family’s farm. We dreamed of having a coffee shop in Central Lake, a place for people to gather and hang out. We had it planned to rent other portions of the building, so our mortgage would be covered, and we could have the community space. As we were negotiating who would pay the inspection costs of the building, the gal next door swooped in and payed the asking price of the building! We were dumbfounded – mind you, no one had even looked at this abandoned building in at least three years. Apparently, the Lord had other things in mind for us. And true to his nature, He enjoys a twist of fates with a happy ending… So we are now staying in that very abandoned building, which the owner has completely remodeled beautifully and offered for us to stay here until we leave!

 

Just as He has guided our steps, He has also prepared us in ways we didn’t even realize we needed preparing. One simple example is in our training in Colorado, we spent some time learning about living in paradox. Being super excited to be five weeks away from moving and being completely brokenhearted to leave our families. Being excited to start language school and feeling sick at the overwhelming thought of a tonal language with a completely different alphabet. Fern uses the illustration of a “pair-of-ducks”, instead of a paradox. One duck is the “yay duck” – excited for mangoes and sticky rice, the other is the “yuk duck” – sad to leave our friends, family, and critters. So that’s how we are feeling about these tickets in our hands – pumped that it’s here!! And terrified that it’s here!!

 

Andrew resigned this week from his job as the township treasurer, which was a major yuk duck for him. So hard to step away from a job and co-workers he has truly come to love. But he’s trusting in the steps that the Lord is guiding us in. And walking off what feels like the edge…

Likely the next time you hear from us will just be a quick note to let you know we’ve arrived in the Land of Smiles safely. In our training, we also learned the importance of taking time away from social media and email, to really let our roots grow deep in our new community. So we’ll be majorly scaling back our connection online for the first two months or so. We’ll be sure to let you all know we are alive – which may just look like a quick photo posted on Instagram or even just a waving emoji! We’ll also let you know different ways you can pray for us as they come up. And please let us know how we can pray for you as well!

 

For now, please pray for good goodbyes and good hellos in our new community. Pray for those we are leaving, that they’ll know the comfort that only Jesus can give. Pray for just the right place for us to live – lots of children, cats, and outdoor space for Fern! Please pray for friends for us all in our new community. Our desire is to learn the language and culture well so that we can serve well.

 

Thank you all who have joined our support team in one way or another over this last year. We are so grateful for you all. If you aren’t currently part of our support team, and would like to know more, please get in touch with us!

We’re Homeless!!

We’re Homeless!!

Happy New Year to you all! We’re hoping you’ve had some wonderful time with your family and friends this holiday season. Our Christmas was quite eventful – we were preparing for a month long road trip to Colorado, moving permanently out of our home, packing to move overseas, preparing our farm for our beginning farmer renters… oh, and trying to get some sugar cookies baked!

For the couple months leading up to Christmas, our house was becoming more and more empty! Selling everything that wasn’t tied down became my new hobby! Now we are out and our new farmers are in!

Let me introduce Doug and Adrienne!! If you live in the area and are interested in supporting these new farmers through your salad consumption, I will happily connect you!

We are currently cruising through the Kansas prairie – listening to one-to-many NPR podcasts, binge watching cartoons in the backseat, and plotting the course to the next Starbucks to refuel. We are just.so.thankful. From the people who came to help clean our house when we finally had it emptied, to our ambitious and excited farmers, to the encouragement from our church family. Looking back at the eight months since we first were introduced to TMS Global we have to say it is clearly God’s path, not our own. He’s provided for us in uncountable ways – financially, our renter farmers, even just changing the desires of our hearts to match with His plans. I’ve seen this in my life – walking out of my absolute dream home and feeling not just okay about it, but excited! If anyone knows me, they know I’m a homebody. My friends joke that I don’t leave my zip code. Now I’m technically homeless, have no space to call my own and hide out, and He’s given complete peace about it! It is not me, it’s all Him.

Our next stop is a month of training in Colorado Springs. We’re excited to be back there, as Andrew lived there before we were married. We’re looking forward to seeing some family and friends and stretching our legs on a Fourteener, if we get the time.

We’ll be back in Central Lake in February, aiming to leave for Thailand by April. We’d love to be there for the Thai New Year – Songkran – which is basically a giant water fight. We think it would not only be a great way to meet neighbors, but also to help us cool down and adjust to the blazing temps.

So, as we continue to drive into the unknown, literally, it’s like 280 miles until the next coffee stop, we’re just trusting He’ll meet our needs. That used to mean in a physical sense to me, but now I know He even meets my introverted, book and coffee needs, giving me peace when it doesn’t look exactly like I’ve always done it.

If you are interested in partnering with our family on this journey, please just be in touch with us. Thank you so much to all of you who have already made the commitment to walk along this path with us!

Vision Trip!

Vision Trip!

After a rough week of 6pm bedtimes (for US!) and 2am cinnamon oatmeal breaks for Fern, we are back to our usual routine! We had an amazing, two and a half week, whirlwind trip around Thailand. We were able to meet several TMS Global workers, see some old friends, and make many new friends.

Our discount flight on China Eastern Airways landed us safely in the middle of a steamy Bangkok night, followed by an Uber ride to the bus station, and we were quickly on a rickety old city bus, headed toward my favorite place in the country. Nine long, warm hours later, we arrived in Sangkhlaburi – the village where Andrew proposed to me seven years before. My dear friend Nimar met us at the bus station, so excited to finally meet Fern – her “morning star”. Immediately, she became Auntie Nimar. Of course she has three adorable cats, so she couldn’t get Fern out of her house if she wanted to!

After meals with many local friends and invitations to teach English, we were quite sure this was where God wanted us to be. We certainly didn’t want to leave after just a few days. Fern even asked if we would leave her with Nimar and come back for her when we officially move! So the feeling was a mutual one among our family.

After Sangkhlaburi, we traveled to the northeast to visit some TMS workers. Two families live there, teaching English in a number of small villages. They then invite all of the children back to their home for an English class once a week. They have built some amazing relationships with these children and their families. It was awesome to be there to experience what they are doing. We are dreaming of doing just the same thing in our village when we move.

Our next stop was in Chiang Mai at the ECHO Asia office. This organization exists to provide cross-cultural workers information and resources to help increase the effectiveness and productivity of farmers, and alleviate hunger problems around the world. We were so excited to make a connection with them and have all of their expertise in our back pocket!

Finally, we were in Bangkok for a couple days, meeting the last of the TMS family in Thailand and meeting with local Thai church planting partners. We were also able to scope out a few possibilities for language school – which is where our adventure will begin, language school in Bangkok!

After our meeting with the local partners, our vision was more clear. We definitely want to be living and working in Sangkhlaburi, the village along the western border. We plan on mimicking the English teaching plan the other TMS workers are using in the northeast – teaching in several schools and then inviting students into our home for English club. Parents and communities asked us almost wherever we went to come and teach English to their children. Even just having down conversational English can open up another whole world of job opportunities for children in Thailand as they grow up. Andrew has also been asked to consider teaching an English class for the Thai soldiers!

Thank you all for your support, encouragement, and prayer for our family! We appreciate each of you and are grateful to know you are beside us as we continue on.

It’s Not Us!

It’s Not Us!

We are struck by how well we are cared for by the Lord. Even when things are hard on this journey, the Lord has brought people into our lives who believe in us, sometimes these people barely know us, but they believe in us. We are CERTAIN that it’s not because of us, or anything we’ve done, but because of Jesus living through us. Please hear me say – zero credit here!!

Jesus’s way is crazy (and we have that part down!) and attractive, because its counterculture to us. He SAYS to sell all your things and give the money to the poor. He SAYS not to store up your things on earth. They’ll rust and moths will eat your J. Crew sweater. That stuff is easy for us.

However the rubber meets the road in Mark 10:29 when he says to leave your fields, father, mother, brother, and sister. That’s where it gets hard for us. God has taken care of us leaving our fields – we signed a lease this weekend with two of the most promising new farmer’s I’ve ever met. Their desire is to provide healthy food for our community and they adore our farm, which is an absolute answer to prayer. I *know* that the God who hears our prayers and says He catches our tears in a bottle, will not leave us hanging when it comes to leaving our families.

Next month we head to Thailand for three weeks to visit different communities there and ask the Lord for direction. Our experience in India this summer was so great that my fears for this trip are minimal, and mostly surround our off-brand Eastern China Airways flights having in-seat entertainment or not! Fern felt at home from the minute we landed in India. She told me as we got off the plane, “I’m going to have WAY more friends than you, mom.” Boy was she right. Within minutes she was already buddies with a girl in the baggage area! Because of her outgoing personality we spent an evening in an Indian home our third night there. She made a friend and they insisted we eat dinner with them – which was served at 10pm! Toward the end of our trip, when we were talking about going home, she told us “I don’t know why we are leaving. Our stomachs are used to the food and we love India!” Of course she was in it for the stray animals and auto-rickshaws! Now her conversations revolving travel typically begin with “when we move to Thailand…..can I get a goat?”

Thank you all for your love, your encouragement, your support, and the many ways you all live like Jesus.

Andrew, Maggy, and Fern

Blessed to be a Blessing

Blessed to be a Blessing

Wow, it seems like so much has happened since the last time that I had the opportunity to speak to everyone. I’ll start out with what’s happened since the last time I was up here, follow up with our next steps, and give you some snippets of what God has been revealing to us.

So when I was last up here, we were preparing to head to India. What a marvelous trip that ended up being. The journey started out a bit rough with a 6 hour delay and 3 plane changes! But we eventually made it to London and then onto Delhi. Once in Delhi, we had our first taste of a different way of doing things. The airport requires you to have a print out of your flight confirmation email in order to even get into the airport! Of course, we didn’t have that as it is not required in America. Thankfully we were able to find a shack on the side where the airline printed it out for us, so then we could head on in and get our tickets for the next leg. The next panic of cross-culturalness was on the cab ride to our hotel. I was white-knuckling it, Fern fell asleep, and Maggy was having a great time. It was drizzling, we were flying down roads too narrow for two cars let alone three or four! But somehow, we made it to our hotel and I could breathe again. Once settled in, we ventured out and instantly fell in love with India. The food was great, and the people were so so kind, and there were plenty of stray animals for Fern to name. We spent the first five days in Goa, which helped us get over jet lag and adjust to the climate and the culture. While there, Fern made some friends that invited us over for dinner. The dinner tasted amazing! It just took a while to actually get around to eating… It was a great lesson in what Indians call IST – Indian Stretch Time. We were able to enjoy great conversation and discuss Hinduism and Christianity. We then took a “10” hour bus ride that turned out to be 15 hours to Bangalore, the location of our training.

Bangalore turned out to have an amazing climate. The temperature was between 75 and 85 with a nice breeze. Our training was at an Indian seminary. There were about 10 Westerners and about 30-40 Indian cross-cultural workers. The training was amazing! We learned so much. We learned how to conduct a Bible study without any external aides. And just a shameless plug that you can join us Sunday at 4:30 to see what that looks like. We also learned how to story, as demonstrated by Maggy during the children’s sermon. We also learned about spiritual warfare and how to spot culture stress and how to react appropriately to it. In Bangalore, we were able to head to a local Christian couples house for dinner. Once again, an amazing spread of delicious food. There we were able to talk about the local Christian movement and the struggles they experience in the big city. An interesting cross-cultural experience that we had at training was taking communion. They don’t really have bread, and many Indians do not drink alcohol, so wine was out of the question. So the way they were able to experience the symbolism of Jesus body being broken and His blood spilled was through a coconut. The coconut ended up being an astonishing representation of Jesus. You have to break the coconut to get to the meat or the body of Jesus. During this process, you inevitably spill some of the coconut water or the blood of Jesus. So while this was completely foreign to our Western eyes, it was spot on in the representation.

So we arrived back in the states in late July and were not planning any other trips until January, but TMS really encourages all cross-cultural workers to go on a vision trip. We really didn’t want to spend the money on three more international plane tickets. They usually run between $1,200 – $1,500 each, but for some reason I felt the need to search for tickets. They were $555! So I called Maggy and talked to her to see what she was thinking. By the time we agreed that we should go on a vision trip the tickets were down to $515, so we were able to get all three for what would normally be the price of one ticket! God is good!! So we will be headed to Thailand in the end of October for two weeks. We will be traveling around the country to meet with several established couples to see what they are up to. This will help to hopefully provide a clearer picture on what our future might hold for us. We will be in four different cities in all different parts of the country. This should be a great time of learning God’s plan for our life.

Finally, we will be headed to Colorado Spring in January for the final training course. This course is a month long and very intense. We will learn how to learn languages and also how to share the gospel with other cultures in a non-offensive way to their culture. After we get back from Colorado, we will take care of all of our final needs here in America and say our goodbyes and get ready to head to Thailand for good.

So that’s our story up to now and our plans for the future. But I also wanted to share with you today what has been on our hearts. Maggy and I have been extraordinarily blessed by God. I remember back to when we were first married living in San Angelo, we had a very frank conversation on finances that brought both of us to tears. We were trying to work out our budget and just could not figure out a way to make it work. I was in debt from school, medical bills, and foolish living. We just could not get the numbers to add up to how we were supposed to live, let alone pay off our debt. We heard about the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace and decided to give it a shot. We went “all in” to rectifying my financial past. We used the envelope method that Dave suggests and also started working on his baby steps to financial freedom. It took a huge amount of commitment and sacrifice. While everyone else in my military class was going out for dinner, Maggy would fix a nice meal of beans or rice and maybe a small amount of meat. We lived very frugally. We were eventually able to completely pay off my debt and start saving for the future. We were able to save enough to pay for half of our house in cash! And not only that, we worked hard and paid off the rest of our house in less than two years. Mostly because we bought a fixer upper, but also because we lived frugally and trusted in God that this is where we were supposed to be. All this to say, God has blessed us so much! And God says, “We are blessed to be a blessing.”

We have been talking about our house and how great it would be to use it to bless others. We found some incredible farmers the other weekend to rent our house. They are just finishing up organic farming school at Michigan State, Go Green, and will be moving into our house January 1st. We just feel overjoyed how we are able to bless them through our home and be a part of getting them off to a great start in their farming career. If our house wasn’t paid off, we wouldn’t be able to provide this space for them to learn and build a new business.

We can see this example of blessing others through our blessing way back in Genesis 12:1-3, “The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” Think about that, all of our and your blessings are because Abraham did the right thing by God, was blessed, and all the families of earth are blessed. Incredible. Sure makes me glad he chose to obey God.

Also this call to be a blessing to others is repeated in Zechariah 8:11-13, “But now I will not treat the remnant of my people as I treated them before, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. For I am planting seeds of peace and prosperity among you. The grapevines will be heavy with fruit. The earth will produce its crops, and the heavens will release the dew. Once more I will cause the remnant in Judah and Israel to inherit these blessings. Among the other nations, Judah and Israel became symbols of a cursed nation. But no longer! Now I will rescue you and make you both a symbol and a source of blessing. So don’t be afraid. Be strong, and get on with rebuilding the Temple!”

So how do we apply this to everyday life? An African proverb states it like this, “There is only one crime worse than murder on the desert, and that is to know where the water is and not tell.” As Christians, we have been blessed with the salvation in Jesus. He is our water in the desert. Why would we want to hold onto this limitless water source!? There is enough of Jesus to go around to water the entire world and keep on going! Jesus as he told the Samaritan woman at the well is the “Living Water”. We cannot keep Jesus to ourselves. We must go and share the blessing of salvation and daily hope with others! Please remember every single day that we have been blessed so that we can bless others.

Off to India

Off to India

And off we go! We fly Monday afternoon out of Chicago to INDIA!

While at MSU, I (Maggy) had the pleasure of living with quite the Indian gal…that I met online! In what can only be explained by being God’s plan, we hit it off and became lifelong friends. She was also my cultural guide as I lived in international housing. Now, as each raise a girl on separate continents, we sneak visits in whenever the stars align! And the stars are aligning on our flight to India! We have a 12 hour layover in London, where she lives with her family now. Which means we spend the day with my dear Chandni and meet her sweet girl.

From there we fly to New Delhi and on to Goa, where her parents are graciously hosting us. Though they will be in the US while we are there, they offered us their place to stay. All the guide books say it takes a few days to get your belly used to India, so we planned this extra time for that.

Next comes an overnight bus trip to Bangalore, where we will begin our cross-cultural training with TMS Global. We are excited to reconnect with everyone and see what they have planned for us.

After training, we were invited up to Siliguri and Darjeeling to visit two other TMS teams working in those areas.

We are so excited for this experience and are so thankful for everyone who has been encouraging to us along the path.

How we got here

How we got here

As many of you know, Maggy, Fern, and I are going to be cross cultural workers. We have committed to at least five years of service with TMS Global. We have already accomplished two separate one week trainings in Atlanta, Georgia. Next up, is a month long training in India. Sometime in the winter, we will head to Colorado Springs for another month long course. We believe that we will be headed to SE Asia, probably Thailand. We feel called to help children that are at risk for being exploited into the sex industry. Parents often times find themselves in a tough spot, they are too poor to care for the children they have, so someone comes along and offers the parents money for the child. Many times the trafficker does not tell the parents what they are selling the child into. Often times the parents are told that they are going to go work in the city, possibly at a factory, as a maid, or in a restaurant. Yet, that is far from the truth. These kids are often trafficked into the sex industry. UNICEF has estimated that nearly 2 million children are exploited into prostitution or pornography every year. In Thailand, the Health System Research Institute estimates that 40% of all prostitutes in Thailand are children. Even back in 1980, the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand said, “I ask all governors to consider forms of sexual entertainment that attracts tourists… we must do this because we have to consider the jobs that will be created for the people.”

This is a travesty. So where do we start?

How did this all begin? First we will examine what mankind is like.

  • Our sinful nature has the tendency to be corrupt and selfish. (Galatians 5:17) “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.” While God created a perfect world, God gave us free choice, with that free choice Adam and Eve chose to disobey God. This has caused all the evil in the world.
  • Sin is born by our evil desire. (James 1:14-15) “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

Next, we need to look at what God is like. Our motivation to act and pray should come out of our understanding of who God is.

  • He is gracious, compassionate, loving and just. (Exodus 34: 6-7) “And the Lord passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, The Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.” God loves us, after all we are all made in his image. While we might things many things on earth are unjust, asking ourselves why do bad people go unpunished and often seemingly rewarded, but we must remember that God is just and everyone will go before him for judgement.
  • He is in the process of restoring his broken world; the momentum of his Kingdom is towards freedom, healing and salvation (Jeremiah 31) The Lord talks about restoring Israel in this passage. The same holds true for us. God was to restore us, take us from our brokenness and heal us and give us hope. I know the healing power of God. He has taking me from dealing with issues from war and delivered me and has even given me the strength to go out and help others.
  • He does not leave his creation to its own devices; he actively works on behalf of those who suffer (Isaiah 42:6-7) I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness, I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. Maggy and I are allowing the Lord to take us by the hand and we are trusting in him that he will help us to be a light to those who don’t know Him. We are also trusting in Him that He will help us set captives free or even keep children from becoming captives.

 

While the Bible does not talk directly about human trafficking, we can infer from God’s nature on how he would react to human trafficking.

  • Rescuing and caring for the poor and oppressed is intrinsic to God’s very nature (Psalms 146) Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them he remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord.
  • Jesus’ mandate was all about reaching the poor, the deceived and the enslaved (Luke 14:16-19) He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
  • Jesus himself was sold (Matthew 26:14-16) Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

 

So, how should we react towards the issue of human trafficking?

  • We must allow God to set our agenda. We need to rely on God to show us the way. Often times, we script out a well-meaning life for ourselves, yet that is not God’s plan for our life. Maggy and I had this nice script laid out for our life. I was going to be the township treasurer until I was 70, Maggy was going to keep growing produce, we were going to start Airbnb rentals. Life was going to be great! However, God has bigger plans for our life. It was difficult to realize these plans. It has been difficult to surrender ourselves to these plans, yet we are glad we have.
  • We must be different in our attitudes: not allowing prejudice, arrogance or selfishness to creep into our speech and actions. We need to look at every human as they are created in the image of God. It does not matter if they are Muslim, Hindu, Prostitute, beggar, or someone living in a McMansion. We need to share the hope of God to all. Often times we are quick to judge people, myself included, yet those who we judge are those who we probably need to share the love of Jesus with the most. Think about who Jesus hung out with. It was the outcasts, the prostitutes, even the tax collectors, heaven forbid! Let’s try to approach people with Jesus eyeglasses on.
  • We must be ready to let God’s compassion move us to deep, heart-felt prayer. I have always had difficulty praying. I am a very matter of the fact type of guy. Yet, God has shown me so much through this process. I would still not call myself a great prayer. Let alone a good prayer. Nevertheless, God is helping me improve. I now consciously pray about things. I am striving to be even more conscious about my prayer life and am asking God to help me with it.
  • We are called upon to do whatever it takes (with our time, energy and finances) to bring about justice for those who need it. We feel very strongly on this. We want to be the agents God uses to bring about a change in Thailand and beyond. We are very thankful for those of you who have already joined with us as financial partners. We are blessed by God through all of you. As some of you know this has been a very humbling experience for me, raising support. Yet with your encouragement and God’s help, I have learned that finances are a way that many people worship God. It is not so much about us, as it is about you worshiping God by partnering with us.

In conclusion, I’d like to remind you that we were all in slavery once. We were slaves to sin. But by belief in Jesus Christ, he has set us free from that slavery and has giving us hope for today, tomorrow, and for eternity. We are so thankful that you, as a church family, have been so encouraging for us to bring this message of hope to the least reached corners of the world.

Andrew & Maggy are doing what!?

Andrew & Maggy are doing what!?

So….

We’re moving!

Sometime after the New Year, inshallah (which is Arabic for God willing!), our family will be the newest residents in a Southeast Asian community! We have decided to partner with TMS Global, based out of Georgia. We aren’t sure where we are headed yet, but for now, we’ll catch you up to speed.

Andrew and I began dating as I was beginning to pack my bags to spend a semester on the Thai/Burma border. He was cool with that. His adventure started a short time later when he joined the Air Force. Just before basic training he spent two weeks with me in my Thai village. He was not weirded out by gobs of hair in his food from my favorite restaurant, “The Clean Shop”. He didn’t shy away when he was smothered by small children in the village where I worked. He really made himself at home! We both agreed that living in a community overseas was something we both wanted in our future. Oh, and he proposed to me while he was there.

Funny Glasses

Fast forward: military contract, wild screaming baby, we ached for a simple and quiet life. We moved to Central Lake, got cozy and comfortable on our farm, planning to ride out Andrew’s military career. We had decided to wait until his contract end date was on the horizon to consider any options for going overseas. Well friends, that is here! We checked into a number of organizations, but TMS Global was recommended by several friends and seriously stood out to us. Everyone talks about their Member Care program, training, and the support their staff offers. In March, we went to candidate week – aka spent the week on pins and needles as they interviewed us, watched us interact with one another, and strained us with a barrage of questions and mystery Ethiopian food.

We just finished up Foundations training in Georgia this week. Spending more time with the staff of TMS Global was wonderful. We are so glad to be a part of a group of people that truly feel like the living body of Jesus. One thing in particular resonated with us about going with TMS. Their workers are not going out to proselytize, but to truly help and be the hands of Jesus. We desire to develop genuine relationships with locals and to live incarnationally, or simply stated, as the people live. We cannot wait to settle into our community and -inshallah- be helpful.

In hindsight, we can see a golden thread woven through each of our separate lives and our lives together that has led us here. We have often had many questions about why certain things have happened. Both of us have experienced significant painful situations, but also have experienced the comfort and healing that only Jesus could bring. We’ve come to love the verse in 2 Corinthians when Paul says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

This is just part of the golden thread we see woven through our lives, where God choses to make beauty out of ashes. Turning the dark moments of our lives into comfort and hope for others. He is making our story beautiful. Not us, because we aren’t the authors of our story, but Him.

We don’t know exactly where we will go, but our vision is to serve among children at risk. Jesus talks about loving the fatherless and the oppressed. We aren’t sure what living this out will look like for now. But we ask that you would join us in prayer as we patiently wait and investigate potential opportunities around Southeast Asia.

Thai - Myanmar Border