Saturday, March 31, 2012

Like it's 1995

As excited as Polly and I are about heading to Costa Rica as Missionary Associates some time in 2013 and as much as we would love to completely focus our time and energy on initeration and planning for that mission, we still have other responsibilities in the here and now that need our attention. One example of this is our work at Calvary Assembly of God in Dudley, MA where Polly and I are still serving as pastors (Polly - children; me - youth) through the end of August. And, truth be told, we are still excited about our current roles at the church.

Today is a big example of our complete attention and focus being required by Calvary AG as today is our annual Free Family Easter Event. The event is being held at a local elementary school. We will have games, face painting, balloons, an Easter egg hunt, snacks, prizes, etc. But most importantly, we will be having a skit that shares the true meaning of Easter (we call it the Gospel presentation). To be perfectly honest, I couldn't care any less about bunnies or eggs, but you start talking about Jesus dying on the cross and then raising to life again and you'll get me excited. We want to convey that truth to the people who attend this event today. We've spent time and energy working on all the components of the event, but no aspect has received more time or energy than the skit.

And it just so happens that I'm in the skit. I play a junior higher. I only have three lines so there's not really too much to it. We were told by the woman directing the skit that we will have to dress the part. Polly asked me the other day what I would be wearing. I told her that I would probably just rock some jeans, a t-shirt and a hoodie. What's more junior high than that? Polly started laughing. I asked her why. Apparently she was laughing because I always wear jeans, a t-shirt and a hoodie. I guess it is sort of funny that my "costume" to look like a junior higher is an outfit I would wear on any given day of the week. Maybe it's just a look that knows no age limit. Or maybe I'm just stuck in 1995.

Anyway, if you're the praying type, please pray that we would do well to show God's love to the community today. We recognize that we cannot save anyone (only God can); we simply want to be obedient to all that He tells us to do. Also please pray that God will help us manage our time as we balance our current responsibilities with our future ones.


Friday, March 30, 2012

God Will Equip Us

Since Polly and revealed our plans to become Missionary Associates to Costa Rica, a number of people have asked me if we speak Spanish. To answer simply, "no." Or as they say in Spanish, "no." Yo no hablo bien espaƱol. (I do not speak Spanish well.) In fact, aside from a few simple words and phrases, neither Polly nor I speak Spanish at all. This is unfortunate considering the fact that we are becoming missionaries to Costa Rica, a Spanish-speaking country. I can't help but to think back to a saying I heard a lot growing up: "God doesn't call the equipped; He equips the called." 1 Corinthians 1:25-31 says, "For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, 'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.'" (ESV) We are going to have to rely on God to equip us with the ability to learn Spanish. And this will mean us working hard, studying faithfully and practicing often.

How we intend to learn

Once our budget is raised and we finally arrive in San Jose, Costa Rica, Polly and I will begin our studies at CINCEL (Latin American Missionary training center for the Assemblies of God World Missions) for our linguistic training. Those studies will take us up to one year. I've heard that it's not beyond the teachers to use a tongue depressor to force students to roll their "R"s. Considering my complete inability to roll an "R," I anticipate such treatment.

Just because we are going to receive linguistic training in Costa Rica does not mean that we have to sit around and wait, however. In fact, I think that we would be poor stewards of our waiting time if we didn't begin the process of learning Spanish prior to our departure. So, what tool will we use to learn now? Well, unless someone generously decides to gift us a copy of Rosetta Stone, I am pretty sure that it won't be that.

In this day and age of technology, there are a lot of apps and websites that offer free language studies. They might only offer basic training, but that's where we need to start anyway. One such resource that someone tipped me off to is BBC. And here I thought they were only a new agency.

Polly and I also have the benefit of having a number of Spanish-speaking friends. We intend on taking advantage of that resource by practicing Spanish with some of those individuals.

Genevieve has it much easier than either Polly or I do. It's still early on in her linguistic development. Truth be told, with her living in a Spanish-speaking country from ages 2-5, Polly and I will have to ensure that we continue to communicate with her in English. Though I believe that Genevieve will pick up the language without much difficulty once we arrive there, I still switch her toys to the Spanish setting from time to time. This helps me learn too.

(English: I am very excited to go with my family to Costa Rica as missionaries!)
Why we're confident we will learn

As I mentioned in the first paragraph and even alluded to in the title, I believe that God has called us to serve in Costa Rica. As such, I am confident that He will enable us to learn the language, even if that still means hard work for us.

Polly and I also each have the encouragement of knowing that we have the ability to learn and thus speak another language. Polly is bilingual and I'm probably as close as one can be without considering oneself to be bilingual. Polly is fluent in sign language (ASL). She grew up with two deaf parents and also minored in deaf ministries in college. I took five years of French in school (8th-12th grades). I used to communicate with friends using French but have not done so consistently for many years now. I can read and understand quite well, but I'm a bit slow when it comes to communication. It's one of those things where if I lived in a French-speaking country for a year, I'd be fine. Back to the point, however, we both know that we're capable of learning and speaking a new language (and equally as important, we both recognize that this is only because of God's favor and not our own doing).

A year of focused study on a language is a good deal of time. Already knowing the basics, we should do just fine.

Learning the language is just another one of the many exciting aspects of this journey for us. We trust that God will equip us, and we have been praying as such.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Hardest Part

Polly and I are incredibly excited about the journey that God has in store for us as we become Missionary Associates in Costa Rica. We have felt so much confirmation and direction from God throughout this process. We are confident that this is where God has us for this season in our lives. And as such, we have no regrets in making this decision. But, I would be lying if I claimed that this decision hasn't led to mixed emotions. That is to say that some aspects of this transition have been more difficult than others. And no aspect has been more difficult than the reality of moving away from family and friends.

Polly and I both come from close-knit families. We both still have great relationships with our parents, siblings and extended families. Polly and I also get along well with each other's family. Family is an important thing to us. Friends are also important to us; we have truly been blessed beyond belief with great friends. The simple truth is that Polly and I will miss our family and friends while we're in Costa Rica. But (at least to start with) it's only a three year commitment. Polly and I will get by just fine. As soon as Polly and I made the decision to go to Costa Rica, our first thought was not about leaving our family and friends; our first thought was about taking Genevieve away from her family and friends.

When Polly and I had Genevieve, our family ties became even stronger. Genevieve is Polly's parent's only grandchild and Polly's siblings only niece or nephew. Genevieve is my parent's only granddaughter and only their second grandchild. She is my siblings first niece. She has four loving grandparents, five loving great-grandparents, thirteen loving aunts and uncles, one incredibly cute and loving first cousin and many other loving great-aunts, great-uncles, cousins and friends. Needless to say, Genevieve is well loved. And even though three years is not a long time for Polly and me, these are three huge years developmentally for Genevieve (she will be gone from ages 2-5). There is a part of us that feels like we are robbing our family and friends of the joy of watching Genevieve grow up.

And yet, with all that said, we know that we are making the right decision. As I mentioned in yesterdays blog post, we just have a new perspective on things now. We have been given a new appreciation for Luke 9:61, 62 which says, "Yet another said, 'I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.' Jesus said to him, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.'" (ESV; In the NIV it reads, "but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.") Jesus was not devaluing family when He said this; He was simply valuing himself. Jesus is always to be our priority. It is more important to obey God than anything else. And, out of trust for God, I know that He will take care of my family better than I can. He is, after all, our creator and knows us better than we know ourselves. I trust that the Lord has my family's best interest at heart. In fact, working through this difficult part of the process, I believe that God has helped me to better understand the significance and value of family and relationships. I would even go so far as to say that I believe through this insight, God has equipped me to be a better husband, father, son, brother, grandson, nephew, friend, pastor, etc. There are two major parts to this insight:

1. Purpose of Family and Friends - I believe that God has better helped me understand the purpose of family and friends. We see throughout the Bible that God is relational. God has many relational descriptions in the Bible, but my favorite is the description of God as our heavenly Father. Romans 8:15 says, "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!" (see also 2 Cor. 6:18; Psalm 89:26; 1 John 3:1; Matt. 5:16). God is relational. And we know from Genesis 1:27 that God created us in His image. If we look further, Genesis 2:18 says, "The LORD God said, 'It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'" Genesis 2:22 tells us that God formed woman from the man and then 2:24 says, "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh." God is relational. God made us like Him. Thus, we are relational. We all have a desire for relationships. And to satisfy those desires, God blesses us with family and friends. We should thank God for His favor in blessing us with these relationships. This reminder has encouraged me to be more grateful of my family and friends.

To better understand Luke 9:61, 62, we must understand that no matter how strong our relationships might be with our family and friends, it will never come close to joy and fulfillment that our relationship with God brings. Our relationship with God was broken by our sin (Romans 3:23), but was made complete again by Jesus' death and resurrection (Romans 6:23). It is by God's grace which we have through the faith He gifts us (Ephesians 2:8, 9) that we can accept what Christ did for us (Romans 10:9, 10) and be reconciled with God, having a renewed relationship with Him. Our decisions should always be made with this truth in mind. Everything that we do should be to honor God. Honoring God will always bring us more joy and fulfillment. And when we love our family and friends and treat them well, we honor God. This is a positive thing. So, let's be careful to cherish those whom God has blessed us with while still putting our relationship with Him first!

2. Role Shift - I have said before that once I became a father, I sensed a shifting of roles in the structure of family. Up until that point I had always viewed myself as my parent's child. But from the moment that Genevieve was born, I began viewing myself as my child's parent. My parents used to refer to themselves as "Dad" and "Mom" but from the moment my nephew Sean was born, they began referring to themselves as "Grampie" and "Grammie." This is a simple reality of life. As we grow up, our roles shift. It is with this reality in mind that I can foresee a day when my role will shift again. Genevieve will someday grow up and have a family of her own. I will be the "Grampie." Granted, this is a long time from now, but everyone always says how fast it goes. With the foresight that Genevieve will someday have her own family and will someday be faced with similar decisions, I recognize that it's possible that she will move away from Polly and me. With this in mind, I want to do all that I can to enjoy the time that God blesses us with her now in order to prepare her for that day. This perspective helps to keep me motivated to be the best father that I can be.

So, you see, there are difficult aspects that go with this decision to transition from everything we know to a place where we've never been. But we are not worried or afraid, because we know that God will lead us and take care of us every step of the way! I believe that God is saying the same to me that He said to Joshua in Joshua 1:9, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.'"


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Context Changes Perspective

This past January, I taught a Sunday school series at our church. The series was titled "Unlocking God's Word" and dealt with how to more effectively read the Bible and apply it to our lives. One of the points I taught (I was expounding on some material I had gleaned from a book written by Rick Warren) was with regard to how we will never fully exhaust the study and application of any scripture in the Bible. One of the reasons I gave for this was because our context changes our perspective. For example, in one class, I had everyone break down Genesis 37 (the beginning of the story of Joseph). I was amazed at how many different perspectives people had regarding Joseph. One person viewed Joseph as sort of arrogant and annoying (she was the middle child in her family). Another viewed Joseph with sympathy (she was the youngest child in her family). Still another, viewed him as simply immature (she was the mother of a 16-year-old boy). Even though we were each reading the same story about the same person, our different contexts affected what we read and thus what we took from this biblical account. This is not to say that the text changed or that it had different meanings; we just all related to it differently. This is because our context changes our perspective.

Polly and I have been reminded of this reality numerous times since we began the application process to become Missionary Associates to Costa Rica. Once such verse that I remember standing out to me in a whole new light was Genesis 12:1. This verse reads, "Now the LORD said to Abram, 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you." (ESV) This chapter continues with the promise that God makes to Abraham about making him a great nation and blessing him. My whole life to this point, I had always read Genesis 12:1 with the thought in mind of where God was calling Abraham to: "the land that I will show you." Having the benefit of hindsight, I already knew that this was the Promise Land which would later become the nation of Israel. Whenever I read Genesis 12:1, I was filled with encouragement and joy knowing that God fulfilled His promise to Abraham. It wasn't until Polly and I started dealing with the realities and emotions of this transition that I read Genesis 12:1 with the thought in mind of where God was calling Abraham from: "your country and your kindred and your father's house..." The truth is, leaving our families is the most difficult thing that Polly and I have had to work through in this transition. Becoming missionaries has changed our context, which has changed our perspective.

Genesis 12:1 is merely one example of many passages from the Bible that have gripped us in different ways than they ever had before. Let me briefly share one more with you. I have read Proverbs many times. I have been reading the Proverb that corresponds with the day of the month (there are 31 Proverbs, so this works well) each month since the beginning of 2011. I am amazed by how often something jumps out at me, even after having read it so many times before. Polly and I have been praying for God to give us a verse or passage that we could really use as an anchor as we become missionaries. On Sunday (March 25th) I was reading Proverbs 25. When I got to verse 25, I was instantly gripped. In the ESV it reads, "Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country." So simple, yet so powerful. I had read that verse at least 14 times since the beginning of 2011, yet this was the first time I was really captivated by it. Polly and I want to bring "water" to "thirsty" souls. You see, my context had changed, and with it, so had my perspective.

The Bible is rich and we will never exhaust its richness. We must be careful not to read the Bible with presuppositions or feel like we have nothing new to gain from a scripture. The Bible is God's living word. It does not change; but we do. And as we change, so does our understanding of the things that we read. As our context changes, our perspective changes. May we have greater fervor and excitement as we read God's Word!

I mentioned above about how the most difficult thing that Polly and I have had to work through in this transition is with regard to leaving our families. We are far from the first couple to face this difficulty and we certainly won't be the last. Tomorrow, I will share what we have learned in this journey that has helped us work through this reality and has taught us more about relationships in general (as I believe it has even helped me to become a better husband and father).


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Don't Hate the Wait

I desire for this blog to be dual purposed. I want it to be both a place where the reader can learn more about and be a part of our missionary journey as well as a place where the reader can be encouraged or challenged in his/her own life. So to satisfy this second element, it is my desire to share things that we've learned in this process from time to time. Today is one of those times.

Yesterday, I shared about our journey to our decision. If you read that post, you may have noticed that our journey has mainly consisted of a season of waiting. The itineration journey we are about to embark on before we leave (which I will discuss further in a future post) will, in some ways, be a continuation of that season of waiting. To be real, I wish we could just leave for Costa Rica tomorrow. We're excited for what God has in store for us and for the people we will be serving there. But that's just not how this works. There is a season of waiting. And that season of waiting has a purpose. I was talking to John Musacchio about this recently and he gave me some sound advice: "Don't hate the wait." With that advice in my mind and heart, I was inspired to preach on this topic this past Sunday after we made our big announcement to the church. I thought it might be useful to offer those sermon notes here. I pray that you might get something from this (as I know I have).

Don't Hate the Wait (sermon notes)

Let's be honest, we have all experienced various times and seasons in our lives when we feel like we're just waiting. Sometimes we're waiting for God to tell us what we need to do. Sometimes we already know what we need to do, be we're waiting for God to tell us when and how to do it. Sometimes, perhaps often times, we're waiting for a combination of the two. Regardless of why we're waiting on God, we sure do seem to do a lot of it. And we often get impatient and sometimes complain. Sometimes, we even decide that we're tired of waiting and start to take matters into our own hands.

Today, I want to talk about why it's important for us to embrace these waiting times instead of hating them. To do this, I thought we could do a brief case study. Our subject: David.

We see three different occasions in the Bible where David is anointed to be king of Israel. Let's look at these occasions:

1. Samuel anoints David (1 Samuel 16)

2. The men of Judah anoint David (2 Samuel 2)

3. The elders of Israel anoint David (2 Samuel 5)

Now I want to look at the timeline surrounding these three occasions:

Using a little basic math we can figure out the length of David's waiting period. As I already mentioned, we're not certain of David's age when he was anointed by Samuel. So, for the sake of the argument, we will use the most conservative figure which would put him at 25 years old. We do know that he was 30 when he was anointed by the men of Judah. So if we take years and subtract 25 years, we get 5 years. If we then add 7.5 years (the time between when David began ruling in only Judah to when he began reigning over all of Israel) to that 5 years, we get 12.5 years. This means that 12 1/2 years is the most conservative estimation of the time it took from when David was anointed by Samuel to when he actually reigned as king over all of Israel! And it may have been as long as 27 1/2 years! Regardless which figure we use, I think we can all agree that David had to wait a long time from when he was initially told he would be the king over all of Israel to when he actually began his reign.

For us too, sometimes it can be a long time between the time when God begins stirring our hearts for something and when we actually do the thing He has stirred in our hearts. I think we can learn something from looking at David's waiting period. More specifically, I want to point out 3 key things that I think we can learn:

1. Waiting ≠ Inactivity

We must be careful not to look at a waiting season in our lives as a season of inactivity. In fact, most typically, just the opposite is true. God doesn't usually put us through these waiting periods for the sake of waiting. There is a valuable purpose to waiting. God uses these times to teach us and prepare us for the task He's going to entrust us with. David wasn't ready to be the king when he was anointed by Samuel; he needed to learn and grow in various ways. And he did. David was far from inactive during this time. Let's look at some of the things he was busy doing:

Like David, we need to take advantage of the opportunities we have for growth and preparation in our waiting periods.

2. Waiting Requires Patience

When we go through a waiting period, we must be careful not to become impatient. This requires a huge element of trust in God. If we truly trust Him, then we will be confident that He knows what is best for us and when it's best for us. The risk we run is that we grow impatient and start trying to rely on our own strength and wisdom. We decide that we can do things better or more efficiently than God, as though we could possibly know better than He knows. That's foolishness, not wisdom. Proverbs 3:5, 6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." David understood the importance of remaining patient and trusting God through the waiting period. David was careful not to take matters into his own hands. We can see this in David's response to Saul:

Like David, we must have an attitude that seeks the Lord's will, wisdom and timing, not our own.

3. It's Always Worth the Wait

No matter how long the waiting period God might have us go through, it is always worth the wait. We can be confident to know that our lives are always better and filled with more joy and success when we don't try to do things our way.

David went on to have an incredibly successful reign as king. No matter which figure we use for David's waiting period, we know with certainty that he served as king over all of Israel for longer. 2 Samuel 5:4 tells us that King David reigned over all of Israel for 33 years. God made a covenant with David that his line would endure forever. 2 Samuel 7:12-16 says, "When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.'" We know that Jesus is the fulfillment of this covenant. Matthew 1 and Luke 3 each offer genealogies connecting Jesus to the line of David. Luke 1:32, 33 says, "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.'"

As I said above, I pray that these notes might prove useful to you and that you might be blessed by them.

In our next blog, I will be taking a look at how this decision has affected our perspectives.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Our Journey to Our Decision

March 18-20, 2010, a weekend we will never forget. Polly and I were taking a student from our youth ministry to check out Valley Forge Christian College. But God not only spoke into that student's life that weekend. He also began tugging on our hearts about transitioning in ministry. It's all we could talk about on the drive home.

My heart was heavy. I could not shake the tugging on my heart that transition was on its way. I didn’t know when it would be and what it would entail, only that it was coming. When we arrived home, we called our best friends and my parents and told them how we were feeling. The following day, I got a text message from a friend I had only recently met. The message asked how things were and said that God had laid us on his heart and that he and his wife were praying for us. This was confirmation to me that I wasn’t going crazy. In short time, I told my pastor and some other close friends and mentors in my life about what was happening in my heart. I was looking for prayer support and any godly wisdom I could get.

I looked into a full-time youth ministry position that came my way during the summer of 2010. At one point I thought for sure that would be the transition we were expecting, but I just didn't feel peace about it. It wasn't meant to be.

Polly and I spent the remainder of 2010 preparing for our first child. I also began the process of seeking my ordination. I had met the prerequisites for ordination a few years prior, but I finally felt like God was prodding me to do it. This was encouraging to me because it was the first thing I had felt the Lord specifically prod me to do since He began tugging on our hearts. Genevieve was born in January 2011. We then spent the beginning part of 2011 adjusting to life as parents. Another full-time youth pastor opportunity came and went.

At this time, over a year had passed since that weekend when the Lord started stirring our hearts. And we felt no closer to knowing the “what,” “when” or “where” of God’s plan for transition in our lives. To this point all we were sure of was two situations God was not calling us to. I received my ordination on May 22, 2011. I was encouraged that with this step in the process complete, we may soon find out what would come next.

As encouraged as I was that we may soon discover more of God’s plan for us after my ordination service, four more months passed with no new answers. We had thought we would be done at Calvary Assembly of God once our original 7th graders graduated high school. Yet the New England leaves changed, they were both starting college and Polly and I were still on staff at the church. We trusted that the Lord would tell us when He was ready. We tried not to grow impatient. We tried to remain faithful in all that we did.

Just as we were settling into a new school year at the church, our hearts were stirred again. Once again, we were seeking godly wisdom and counsel. Polly and I prayed earnestly about what God might be calling us to. Through this renewed emphasis on specific prayer, we felt like we were definitely serving in our last school year at the church. We were just waiting for God to show us what would be next.

I took our youth to convention that year. I was as excited as ever. We had a good group of youth going. I went to the convention with great anticipation. But for as much anticipation as I had, I never expected what was about to happen during that brisk October weekend.

Scotty Gibbons was the guest speaker for the convention. His Friday night sermon was right on the money. Our youth were moved. After that Friday night service, I had the opportunity to speak with Scotty for a couple of minutes. I briefly told him where I was at and told him that I was looking for some godly wisdom and counsel. Scotty spoke some great words into my life and left me feeling encouraged.

The following day, I saw missionary John Musacchio in the hallway. Having had a great experience speaking with Scotty the night before I wanted to build on the momentum in my heart. I had met John years earlier when he spoke at a youth leader’s retreat I had attended and our church has supported him for many years, so I had some familiarity with him. Additionally, Polly had stayed with his family for four days when she went to Guatemala on a missions trip in college. I reintroduced myself looking to simply get a little more wisdom and counsel. God had different plans, however.

John and I spoke for quite some time. I actually missed the morning session that Scotty was preaching. I was pouring out my heart and vision to John. I shared with him about how God had given me an increasing passion for Speed the Light and how that birthed an even greater passion for missions, completely revolutionizing my prayer life for missions. I told him how God used the book Radical by David Platt to spark an insatiable desire to go on a missions trip to a foreign country. I told him about the time during worship when we were singing the song To the Ends of the Earth by Hillsong United and when it came to the lyrics, "Jesus, I believe in you and I would go to the ends of the earth" I felt God sparking a fire in my heart to be willing to go anywhere for Him. I simply shared my heart. He listened intently. He then started sowing a seed in my mind and heart. I remember stopping after going on and on for a while and saying, “I don’t know if any of this makes sense to you.” John’s reply to me was simple, “It makes all the sense in the world for someone who has a clear call of God to missions.”

John asked me if we had ever considered missions as an option. I told him that even since our dating years in college, Polly and I always talked about how we would serve as missionaries some day. I think I really stressed the “some day.” Polly and I always did. I continued to tell John that we never really looked into it because our school debt was too high. For the first time, someone explained to me that there are ways around that, especially when God’s in it. That made sense when I heard it aloud. John briefly mentioned that he was transitioning to Costa Rica and that he was looking for a couple Missionary Associate couples to work alongside him and Dina.

I left that youth convention unable to shake the fact that God was tugging on my heart. Later that week, I called John on the phone. I told him how uneasy my spirit had been since our conversation. We spoke for over an hour and a half. I spoke with Polly about the idea of serving as Missionary Associates. I think she was overwhelmed. But after praying, we decided that the right decision would be to at least begin the process of filling out an application. I filled out my portion of the application immediately. I was so excited. Polly’s portion sat for a couple of months. Polly kept telling me that she would need to be absolutely certain that this was God. I thought that was fair. We decided that filling out the application was far from committing and potentially a necessary step of obedience before God might tell us yes or no. During those months of waiting to complete the application, John and I had a number of discussions. He had extended the invitation for us to serve under his ministry in Costa Rica. I started feeling more and more certain that this was God’s will. I was simply waiting for God to let Polly in on it as well.

From the moment we completed the application, through other steps in the process and in conversations Polly and I have had with John and Dina, we have grown more and more certain about what God is calling us to. God has consistently blessed us with confirmation and scriptures. It seems like every devotional Polly and I read or every scripture we read, God clearly and specifically confirms His calling in our lives. It is said that hindsight is 20/20. When we look back at everything leading to this moment, it occurs to us that God has been planting this in our hearts for quite some time. In fact, in hindsight, I don’t know how we didn’t sense this coming sooner. I have already shared some examples of this truth above and there are many others. Regardless, we believe that God is calling us for such a time as this.

Joe is a friend who leads a campus ministry at a local college. I met him a couple of years ago when I started helping him during his ministry’s weekly Bible study. Joe was one of the people with whom I had spoken about God moving in our hearts. He has spent a good bit of time in conversation trying to convince me to join the ministry he works for. He has said on numerous occasions that he feels like our purpose is to work with college students. It is not unexpected to have someone try to get you to join their cause, but I know that Joe has been very sincere. I had also commented to Polly about how much I love working with college students. She does too. So it should come as no surprise that one door God has opened for us with the Musacchio’s in Costa Rica is working with college students through the program Engage. Polly and I will be service as Resident Directors for the college students taking part in this unique program offering them hands on training while they continue working toward their degree. We will have the opportunity to pour into the lives of college students who are aiming to obey the call God has placed on their lives. In many ways, I feel like this journey God has taken us on over the last couple years better equips us for the task at hand. Having served in youth ministry for over 10 years, it's also no surprise that another door God has opened for us with the Musacchio's in Costa Rica is youth evangelism and youth leadership training. Polly and I both have a passion for children, especially those who are less fortunate. Although we are not certain about the specifics of how we will be able to serve in this area, John & Dina have a heart for the same and we are believing together that God will open a door for this as well.

We are excited about what God will do in and through us in Costa Rica. But let me make one thing quite clear. Polly and I don’t view this opportunity as the end of the journey. We feel like we’re still early on in the process. Our desire remains the same as it has to this point: we want to obediently serve God in whatever ministry He calls us to, wherever and whenever He calls us.

There has been and will continue to be a lot of waiting involved this process of transition. Tomorrow, I will be sharing some things that Polly and I have learned through this season of waiting.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Facebook Official

In this day and age, as soon as information hits the internet, there is no taking it back. Once a tweet hits Twitter, it can be re-tweeted faster than you can take it down. Once a status, relationship change, picture, etc. hits Facebook, there is no delete button that works fast enough; it has become official...Facebook official. Knowing this I am careful with what I post online. Knowing how strongly I feel about this reality, you should then know how serious Polly and I are about the next step we are taking in our lives. Today is the day that we have made our announcement. Today, we have made our big news "Facebook official."

In the coming days, I will be blogging more about how we came to this decision, some of the things we've had to work through in this process, some of the challenges that still lie ahead and some of the lessons we've already learned. But for this first post, I simply wanted to give an overview of the transition we are about to embark on.

Polly and I are in the final stages of receiving our final approval to become Missionary Associates to Costa Rica to work with missionary friends John & Dina Musacchio in partnership with Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM). There are two major aspects to this transition for us that I'd like to briefly cover: 1. Transitioning from our ministries at Calvary Assembly of God; and 2. Transitioning to our ministries in Costa Rica.

Transitioning from Calvary Assembly of God

Polly and I have spent our entire adult lives at Calvary AG. I was invited to come to start a youth ministry at the church upon my graduation from Central Bible College in 2005. Shortly after my arrival, I also took on the responsibilities of  the children's ministry. Polly spent the summer of 2006 at the church for her internship and then took over the children's ministry from me upon her graduation from CBC in 2007. In the time that we've been at Calvary AG, we've experienced challenges, but so many more great experiences in both our personal lives and in our ministries.

Personal - Polly and I didn't even get engaged until 7 months after my arrival at Calvary AG. And we didn't get married until 5 months after Polly's arrival. Polly and I had our daughter Genevieve at this church. Our lead pastor is the one who officiated her baby dedication. I had the privilege of receiving my License to Preach and my Ordination while on staff at this church. We've grown and developed so many long-lasting relationships with so many amazing people at Calvary AG. We have even lived with one of the wonderful families from our church for the past 3 1/2 years. We have so many memories and connections at the church and in the community. Polly and I have also grown much in our walks with the Lord while at this church.

Ministry - We have had so many amazing ministry experiences over the years at Calvary AG. I have had the privilege of serving over 150 youth in some capacity or another. I have had the joy of witnessing young people give their hearts to the Lord. I have had the honor of water baptizing a number of our youth (and even some adults). I have laughed and cried with our youth. We've worked to help youth deal with the loss of a parent, divorce and even their own legal troubles. I have had youth that started out as 7th graders graduate high school and go to college. Of our two original 7th graders who remained at the church through high school graduation, one is actively involved in a campus ministry and stronger in his walk than ever before while the other is finishing up her first year at a Bible college answering God's call on her life to ministry. I have also watched as the next generation of youth have come through the children's ministry stronger than ever. Polly and I are both so excited for what God has in store for the young people at this church.

I could probably go on for quite some time talking about the many great personal and ministry memories and experiences, but I think you get the point. Leaving Calvary AG is not easy for us. This has become home to us. In fact, we are considering this our home church as we head to the mission field. Don't get me wrong, we're incredibly excited for the opportunity that God has set before us and we are willingly and joyfully going. I'm just being real in saying that we have a bit of a heavy heart today telling people that we've grown to love and appreciate that we will be leaving.

We have established a plan approved by our church's board that has us remaining on staff through the month of August. In these next 5 months, we will start to turn our attention to transitioning the ministries to the new leadership. If there were a new husband and wife team coming in to take over the ministries, we would probably be stepping out sooner so we could get out of their way, but the solution to each ministry is in house, so we are going to be intentional and thorough throughout the process. We will officially be hands off by the start of the new school year (the new leadership will take over completely beginning the first week of September).

Transitioning to Costa Rica

Polly and I are both excited for the road ahead of us. Once we officially receive our final approval, we will begin the itineration/fundraising process to raise our budget so we can go to Costa Rica. There is no set date of when we will actually leave for Costa Rica. It is dependent on how quickly we can raise the funds (through God's wisdom and favor) to go. We expect this to take somewhere between a year and a year and a half. We would like to be there by the spring or summer of 2013. We have already begun the process of networking with more pastors from the Southern New England Ministry Network (our district) and will be continuing that process in the months to come. While we are hopeful that we can begin picking up services and speaking engagements at churches soon, our ultimate goal is to be running full tilt by the fall (the summer is usually pretty quiet for this for numerous reasons). This is part of the reason we have set the timetable that we have for when we will step down from our responsibilities at Calvary AG. I will be keeping my full-time security job until a week before we leave for Costa Rica.

Our initial commitment is between 2 and 3 years. We will have to spend some time (possibly a year) in language school to learn the language. Upon completion of language school, we have committed to 2 years of service in Costa Rica. Our main responsibilities will be to serve as resident directors (and mentors) to students participating in the Engage program that the Musacchio's will be starting in Costa Rica. We will also be assisting the Musacchio's in their other ministry ventures including youth evangelism, youth leader training and work with children. Working with college students, youth leaders, youth and children is right up our alley. We are so excited for what God has in store.

If you are interested in following us on our journey, please feel free to follow this blog and/or check in with the blog as I will be hoping to update it on a regular basis. As I said above, I will be looking to cover how we came to the point, some things we've had to work through, some challenges before us and some lessons we've already learned in this process. I hope to begin tackling these topics this week.