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.