Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Come with Us

I get so excited when I think about Costa Rica. There are a couple reasons for this:

1. I'm excited to have the opportunity to do what I know God is calling me to do. There is no more satisfying place for any of us to be in our lives than in the center of God's will. Jesus is our great example in all things in life. So, I think there is a lot to learn from the words of Jesus as He was praying to the father regarding the suffering He was about to endure: "41 And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, 'Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.'" (Luke 22:41, 42 ESV, emphasis mine)

2. I'm excited to serve the people of Costa Rica. I did not grow up my whole life longing to go to Costa Rica. God never narrowed it down for me like that. He always just gave me a heart for people. So when we felt like God was telling us to go to Costa Rica, it was easy to start gaining a heart for the people. We even got excited when their Olympic team was introduced during the opening ceremonies. I didn't have a heart specific to Ticos when I was younger, but I definitely do now. I want to see young people come to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior and to see them make positive decisions in their lives. My heart breaks for little Costa Rican children who are being trafficked as sex slaves. I love Costa Rica (and I've yet to even go)!

3. I'm excited to serve alongside other missionaries and pastors for the purpose of God's glory. I didn't understand the scope of how much missionaries become a part of a family because now that I'm beginning to understand it more, I love it! We love seeing and hearing from other missionaries as they share their experiences. Everyone wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Nobody wants to have to go it alone. We are no different. We long for and look forward to the opportunity to serve alongside others who share our hearts.

4. I'm excited to share in this endeavor with hundreds of other partners. Polly and I have been called to Costa Rica. We will be involved in many different ministries such as evangelism, discipleship, leadership training, compassion, and many more. Proverbs 25:25 says, "Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country." (ESV) Polly and I are willing to come from a far country, and we believe that we have Good News to bring, but we need to be sent. That's the simple reality of it all. We cannot go unless we are sent. We need to have the prayer and financial support of people willing to partner with us. This makes the team that much bigger. By partnering with us through prayer and/or finances, you are a part of everything that we are involved with in Costa Rica. It's like you're going with us (except that you don't have to deal with 8 straight months of rain or get to climb the volcanoes, but that's the much less relevant stuff).

Now you may be reading this and saying to yourself, "Aha! I knew money would be mentioned eventually." Well, to be honest, it's unavoidable. Costa Rica isn't going to be free. Genevieve's diapers won't be free. We need money to live. That's just how it works. It always has and always will work that way here on earth. And since we're going as missionaries, we 1. won't have work visas and 2. wouldn't have the time to work a paying job and still do the things we're called to do there. So, we need to raise our budgets before we go. Why is "budgets" plural here? Well, because we have two budgets: one cash budget and one monthly budget. What's the difference? Our cash budget is used for one-time purchases or services (i.e. language school, flights to and from Costa Rica, a vehicle, etc.) while our monthly budget is used for recurring purchases or services (i.e. rent, groceries, insurance, gas, etc.).

Now you may be saying, "Well that sounds great and I understand why they need it, but I don't have enough money to meet all their needs for Costa Rica." Believe me when I say that I hear what you're saying. The great thing, however, is that I'm not asking you to give enough money to meet all our needs. I'm simply asking if you would consider being a part of the team of people working together to accomplish the goal. On March 28, 1990, the Chicago Bulls beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 117-113. In that game, Michael Jordan scored an astonishing 69 points. Asked about the feat after the game, Bulls rookie Stacey King's famously quipped, "I'll always remember this as the night that Michael Jordan and I combined for 70 points." Maybe you don't have the financial flexibility to throw in $69, but maybe you can give $1. Maybe you can't give $100, but you can give $5 or $10. Maybe you can't give $25 or $50 each month, but you can give $5 or $10 each month. Maybe you can't commit monthly but could give $1,000 as a one-time gift. Or maybe you could give $100 or maybe $10 or maybe $1. I'm not asking anyone to partner with a donation beyond their means (that's for individuals to decide). I'm asking for people who believe in us and what we're doing to partner with a donation comfortable for them. Maybe it means sacrificing one Starbucks drink a month or something along those lines. Maybe it won't mean any additional sacrifice at all. Only you know that.

Is is hard to ask people for money? Well, that depends. I've been raising money for charities/ministries for much of my life. I've never really had any trouble asking. But when it's for the ministry we're involved with, it does make it a little harder. So, how can I do it? Because it's necessary to accomplish the task I'm so passionate about. And because I know that I have given/give to missionaries and other charities/ministries. I'm not asking anyone to do anything that I haven't and don't still continue to do.

You know what else is exciting? Assemblies of God World Missions just updated our giving page to be more user friendly. Donors can now:

  • Sign up for recurring credit card donations, including monthly commitments.
  • Opt to share their e-mail address.
  • Do the above things immediately as a guest without setting up an account first.
  • Using an account has benefits though, such as the bullet items below.
    • People can use their AGPassport user name and password to log in to
    • Manage their giving online without having to call the national office.
    • Securely save multiple credit cards online and choose between them for future donations or give to past designations (“one click” checkout).
    • Manage multiple recurring schedules.
    • Optimize their giving on their smartphones/tablets.
    • Track donations over time and graph them.
    • Print off their own annual giving receipts. Please note that this will now be the only place where you can get your own receipt (for tax purposes) for giving to General Council accounts.

So, hopefully you can see my excitement for Costa Rica. And hopefully you understand my heart and the need to discuss the finances. Please know that I won't be offended by or think any less of anyone who chooses not to partner with us financially. We ask that you still think of us in your prayer and pray that God would send the right people to partner with us. We also would love to add you to our newsletter distribution list if you have yet to do so. We know that God will provide and we will arrive in Costa Rica when He chooses. Are you willing to allow Him to use you to be part of the solution in partnering with us!

In Christ,


Monday, September 24, 2012

Through the Eyes of a Child

I was thinking and reflecting on my drive to work this morning when something struck me. Polly and I have shared our hearts, thoughts and feelings about our missionary itineration journey through our blogs (this blog and Polly's personal blog) and our Newsletter, but Genevieve has not had the same opportunity. So I thought it might be fun, different, unique, interesting, (insert your preferable relevant adjective here) to try to get into the mind of a 20 month old and express her heart, thoughts and feelings regarding this journey. As such, the italicized section is meant to be read as though it's from Genevieve's mind. Emboldened portions are meant to show how she would actually verbally communicate. Enjoy.

Oooh, look. A room full of toys. I could have so much fun playing with all those. Yeah, yeah, I want to play with them. Mama, put me down, put me down. "Mama. Down." Wait a minute. This morning, Mama said we're going to church. And this doesn't look like Calvary. I'm not really sure who any of these people are. Every time Mama says we're going to church, they drop me in a room full of toys with people I don't know. Whenever I turn around, they're gone. Wait a minute. They're going to do that again aren't they. They're going to leave me here and I won't get to see them for a while. Maybe forever. What if they never come back. Maybe if I cry really loud they'll know how much I don't want them to leave me and they'll just take me with them or stay and play with me. "Waaaaaaahhhhhh. Waaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh. Mama. Da-da. No. No. Mama. Da-da. No. No. Waaaaaaahhhhhhh. Waaaaaahhhhhhh." What? They're going to leave me again anyway. Why would they do this to me? I don't like when Mama and Da-da leave me. I love them so much. They love me too. I know they do because they always tell me and spend time with me. But why did they leave me again? I miss them already. I think I still hear Da-da's voice. Come to think of it, I always hear Da-da's voice. He's really loud. Well, maybe he'll still hear me if I cry loud enough and then come back and get me. I wish I could look him in the eyes. I know he cannot resist me when I look him in the eyes. But he can't see me. I can't see him. I can't see Mama. I miss them. I want them to come pick me up. "Waaaaaahhhhhhh. Mama. Da-da. Mama. Da-da. Waaaaaahhhhh." They're still not coming. I don't know why. I've been crying for a few minutes now. Oooh, look at all these toys. These look so fun. I want to play with them all. Oh, look other kids my size. Maybe they want to play with me too. I want a snack. I wonder if that nice looking lady knows where my snacks are. I could show her where they are but my bag's way up on that counter. I know, I can point to it. Oh, she is giving me my snacks. Mama must have told her about them. I'm not surprised. Mama always remembers my snacks. She loves me. I hope they come back for me. What's that noise outside the door. It sounds like there are parents out there. Maybe one of them is Mama. Is she there? I don't see her. I want this other parent to move out of the way so I can see if Mama's back them. There she goes. Who else is there? Is it Mama. Yes, it's Mama. It's Mama! "MAMA! Ah yo (I love you)! Mama! Da-da?" Oh, I hope she's bringing me to see Da-da now. Yes, every time she comes and gets me and then she brings me to Da-da. Oh, I hear a loud voice. I know that voice. That voice is..."DA-DA! Ah yo! Da-da!" I knew Da-da would want to hold me too. I know he loves me. We had a long drive this morning. I'm getting kind of sleepy. We always each lunch before we drive home. I can probably sleep in the drive home. I hope Mama and Da-da let me listen to my songs this time instead of theirs. Anyway, I'm tired. I know. I'll just lay my head on Da-da's shoulder. Mmmmm. So comfy. I knew they would come back!

I can't be certain that this is an accurate depiction of what goes on in her mind, but based on what we can see, this is the way that makes the most sense to me in trying to piece it together.

You see, when Polly and I wrote about our sense of community and our feelings about visiting different churches each week, we failed to take Genevieve's feelings into account. I mean, don't get me wrong, we think about and discuss them. We just didn't think to write about them. The truth is that Genevieve never really experienced (or at least never communicated to us) separation anxiety until we started visiting different churches every week. It is tough on her and thus tough on us to drop her off at a different church nursery with different people every week. When we stepped down from Calvary AG and stopped attending there on a weekly basis, Polly and I were not the only ones leaving behind our church family, our friends. Genevieve has friends that she loves playing with at Calvary AG. When we visited recently, I think she very much enjoyed seeing them again. She had grown used to seeing and playing with the same kids every week. It's tough for her to see different kids every week. She was used to and had grown to love her teachers. It's tough for her to see different teachers every week. In fact, we have had her returned to us at one service because she never would stop crying. They brought her into the back of the sanctuary and all could hear her yelling for Mama. But, this is a good opportunity for her to grow too. Polly's a stay-at-home mom so we never drop Genevieve off at day care. She needs to grow used to not always being with us. This is an important step in the process toward the independence she will need to thrive later in life. Hopefully, there will come a point when she does realize that we always come back for her so she doesn't have to be worried that we're going to leave her hanging. Of course, hopefully there will come a point when I realize that God will always provide for me and be there for me and that I don't have to worry that He'll leave me hanging. Hmmm...I think I just got a good sermon illustration there.

Aside from the separation anxiety situation, the other major way that Genevieve has been effected through this process is with her schedule. She usually goes down late for a nap on Sundays these days. And she often has to ride in the car for stretches of over an hour. The blessing in this is that since we've started itinerating, she's become quite content riding in the car and has even actually started taking naps in the car in the afternoon AND we can move her to her crib when we get home (she used to go 6 hours car rides without sleeping and it used to be that once she was up from a nap, she was up). She's certainly reaching a much more reasonable age for this to not be such a big deal, so that has been beneficial.

The alternative, of course, is not bringing Genevieve with us when we travel to churches, but I love having the whole family there when possible. Genevieve is a part of our missionary adventure to Costa Rica. Let's be honest, people would rather see her than me anyway. There have been a couple services where we didn't take Genevieve along for her convenience. I've even done a couple services without Polly. But we want these occasions to be the exception and not the rule.

So, if you've been praying for us and want to know what you can pray for, please pray for Genevieve as we visit different churches.


In Christ,


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Home Sweet Home

I mentioned in our last blog (and newsletter) about traveling around to different churches every week and how that has affected our sense of community. It has been great finding community with new people at new churches. We consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to see more and more of the body of Christ each week. We truly have enjoyed our visit to every single church we've visited. At each one we've found pastors with great hearts for missions and parishioners with a desire to hear our hearts for Costa Rica. It's been amazing to me how often I've felt as though I could see myself attending these churches on a regular basis. Yet, with all that said, there have been two churches that we've visited the last few months (one of which we will be visiting again twice next month) that have been a little extra special for us: North Shore Assembly of God in Malden, MA and Capital Assembly of God in Trenton, NJ.

North Shore AG in Malden, MA is the church my (Mike's) family started attending in the spring of 1988 when I was just shy of five years old. Twenty four years later, my parents still faithfully attend this church. Though I ultimately credit my parents first and foremost for training me in the way I should go (after all, this is the parents' responsibility), the church was a great complimentary assistant in that process as well. It was during these years that I was saved, water baptized, filled with the Holy Spirit and called into ministry. I have great respect for Rev. T. Kenneth Norcross (the senior pastor when I was a small boy), Rev. Steven Antin (the man I called my senior pastor for much of my life), Rev. Anders Eliason (the current lead pastor and an associate pastor of much of my life), Rev. Matt Yukon (my first youth pastor), Rev. Troy Mini (my youth pastor through my critical high school years) and all the other pastors who served that church during my time there. I also have great respect for the many, many lay leaders who poured into my life through the years. I could probably name them all but I don't want to list them for fear that I might accidentally omit one. If you're reading this and you're one of them...thank you! It's true, I have a lot of gratitude for the people who faithfully served in various capacities at North Shore AG over the years. This is why it is still so precious and special for me when I have the opportunity to visit. This is why I was so blessed to have the opportunity to preach there in July (non-missions related) and will have the privilege to preach there twice in October (once to the youth, once in the regular Sunday worship service; both missions-related).

Capital AG in Trenton, NJ (or Hamilton, NJ if you care to be technical I suppose) is the church where Polly's mom began attending as a teenager and where Polly was raised her whole life. Much like my own life, we know that her parents were the most important people with regard to her spiritual growth, but like North Shore AG for me, the church played a great complimentary role in Polly's life. She was dedicated to the Lord there as a baby by Rev. John Cairns (the current senior pastor's father), was saved, water baptized, filled with the Holy Spirit and called into ministry while attending Capital AG. I'm sure she too could list off pastors (including Rev. Jack Cairns, the current senior pastor and her youth pastor Rev. Jeff Spuler) and lay leaders who were valuable and instrumental to her life. This is also the church where Polly and I vowed our lives to one another in holy matrimony. This is why it was so special for us to have the opportunity to preach in their missions convention this past weekend.

Yes, we have enjoyed visiting other churches and meeting new people. Yes, we love our home church of Calvary AG in Dudley, MA where we now attend their new Bible study on Wednesday nights. Yes, we will undoubtedly love the body of believers we fellowship with and find community with when we will be in Costa Rica. But nothing can ever/will ever take away from the incredibly special, unique places these churches have in our hearts. This is why I'm unashamed to say that our recent visits (and upcoming visits) to these churches are very, very dear to us.

(To see when we'll be at North Shore AG and the rest of our itineration schedule, please click on the new link on the top of this page)

In His service,