Tuesday, December 31, 2013

7 Things Putting the New in this New Year

It seems like 2013 went by so quickly. Now, here we are, less than 15 hours away from ringing in 2014. Here's a look at 7 things putting the NEW in this new year:

New living arrangement.

Polly and I lived in a one-bedroom apartment for our first year of marriage. Then we moved in with friends (more like family now) and have lived with them in the 5+ years since. While we love that family and will miss them greatly, we are also ready to have our own place...something Genevieve has never known.

New country.

For the first time in our lives, we will be living outside the United States. While the move is not permanent it's still significant as we will be there for 3 years. And while I will be rooting for my home country in the World Cup, I would be lying if I said that I won't be rooting for the Ticos too. In fact, a Costa Rica national soccer jersey is the first purchase I intend to make!

New culture.

With a new country comes a new culture. We have been warned about the realities of culture shock. But no matter how much we hear about it or read about it, we will simply have to experience it for ourselves. Of course, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Being stretched as individuals is critical to growth. We expect to benefit from this new cultural experience.

New language.

Our first 8 months will be spent at language school. We will be doing intense study of the Spanish language. While Polly and I are in class, Genevieve will be in a Spanish-speaking day care. I can't wait to have my language corrected by my 3-year-old daughter.

New family dynamic.

As though we aren't going through enough change, we will be welcoming baby boy Brown into this world in the beginning of March. Going from a 3-person family to a 4-person family will be a challenge in and of itself. Trying to balance caring for a newborn and going to school will make it that much tougher.

New job.

While I served as youth pastor at Calvary AG in Dudley, MA for 7 years prior to transitioning to itineration last summer, I have actually worked my "pay-the-bills" corporate security job longer. I have worked for Securitas for 8 1/2 years and will just see my 8 year anniversary at the Genzyme/Sanofi account. During this time I've had some tremendous opportunities, including:
  • Officiating 2 co-workers/friends' weddings
  • Having a co-worker in my wedding party and being in his
  • Scoring the walk-off run in our softball championship
  • Traveling to cool new places
I'm sure I will have some tears when I hand in my badge this Thursday. I will carry with me great memories and life-long friends.

New normal.

While there is going to be so much craziness and transition, I know that at some point this year, I will settle into a new normal and this stuff will all be "old hat" by the time 2015 rolls around.

Happy New Year! I hope it's your best one yet!

Friday, December 27, 2013

7 Years of Feast and Famine

If you only knew me prior to college or if you have only met me in the past 4 years, there's something you may not know about me: I was heavy for 7 years of my life. I thought I would share what motivated me to finally lose and to keep off the weight after dieting failed me.

7 Years of Feast 

My 7 years of physical feast lasted from 2002-2009. My highest official weight was 218 lbs but I'm pretty sure I crossed 220 on my honeymoon (yes, I was my heaviest around my wedding, unfortunately).

During these 7 years, I was:
  • Mostly inactive
  • Incredibly unhealthy
  • Wearing a new, larger wardrobe
  • Less happy

7 Years of Famine

I felt called into ministry as a teenager and went to Bible college in 2001. Around my sophomore year, I entered into a spiritual funk of sorts. I still loved God and still felt called to serve in ministry, but I wasn't growing a whole lot spiritually. This remained true in my first 4 years of youth ministry as well. I think it might be easiest just to show you what I wasn't consistently doing:
  • Praying
  • Reading the Bible
  • Studying
  • Reading useful books

The Weekend that Changed My Life.

While I talk about this one weekend, I would be naive to think that there weren't a number of other things paving the way for this life change. For example, I had recently read a book called Enemy Access Denied by John Bevere which was instrumental. But this weekend was where everything came to fruition.

I was at a youth pastor retreat. I had been praying for a breakthrough in my spiritual life for some time. I had one particular sin that really had a grip on me and I was fed up. I needed a change. I did the only thing I knew to do...I prayed.

Then it all just kind of happened. I had a life-changing epiphany. For the first time I realized something critical:

My 7 years of physical feast was directly related to my 7 years of spiritual famine.

I realized that I had been struggling with the sin of gluttony (Proverbs 23:19-21). And as long as I was leaving the door open for the enemy to have access in this area, I was going to struggle in other areas as well. More specifically, I realized that all my struggles (the sin, my spiritual walk and my gluttony) were all really the same struggle: I lacked self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

I had attempted dieting and failed miserably. But now for the first time I viewed this as a spiritual issue rather than a physical one.

I was changed that day. God gave me victory over my gluttony and also the other area I had been struggling with. By that fall, I had run my first marathon. By the next I had run another and was in the best shape of my life. More importantly, however, my walk with God has grown tremendously ever since. My prayer life, Bible reading, studying and even reading have all improved and continue to improve. I became a completely new person...from the inside out!

I know that not everyone who struggles with weight is facing a larger spiritual issue (although they might be), but for me there was no doubt. My physical feast and spiritual famine were intertwined. Dieting couldn't make me lose weight, only a life-change could. That's why I never want to see the heavy-me again. Because I know it could bring some of the other internal struggles back with it.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Christmas is our favorite time of year. And for good reasons...

The Reason for the Season.

No matter how many people try to turn "Merry Christmas" into "Happy Holidays" we know what we're really celebrating. More importantly we also know why we celebrate!

"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which mean, God with us).
Over 2000 years ago, God the Son was born in humility in a stable alongside lowly animals. He came to us because we couldn't get to Him. He was born as a baby, lived a perfect life, died a terrible death on the cross, rose to life again and ascended into heaven. This is why we celebrate Christmas. It's the earthly beginning of this incredible story. (Email us if you would like to hear more about the true reason for the season.)

This is the Good News we bring with us to Costa Rica, which will be refreshing water to thirsty souls (Proverbs 25:25).

Family, Friends & Food.

As we celebrate the birth of Christ, we find ourselves spending a lot of time with family and friends. And we find ourselves eating a lot of food! These are things that have become synonymous with Christmas celebration. To some, Christmas has become only these things. I argue, however, that the way to best enjoy these elements is to first understand the true reason for Christmas. We act out love in response to God the Father showing His love for us in sending His only Son Christ Jesus to be born as a baby. We love because He loved us first!

We even enjoy exchanging gifts. And as parents, this means that we love to see Genevieve's face when she opens her gifts from us. Among my siblings, we don't even do gifts for each other anymore. We just get presents for the kids. And we love it!

This Christmas season has been extra important for us to visit with family and friends as it will be our last in the States for a few years. Plus, at nearly 3, Genevieve is having a LOT of fun with things.

The Atmosphere.

Christmas time brings with it a lot of things that add to the whole atmosphere of it all, like:
  • Trees
  • Lights
  • Decorations
  • Snowmen
  • Songs
  • Green, Red & White
Christmas has a look to it that cannot be confused. While commercialism has taken away from the true value and meaning of Christmas in some respects, it can only ruin Christmas if we let it. So I embrace the Christmas songs and decorations at stores and malls. I enjoy it while it lasts. Again, we won't be seeing all this for a few years. When Genevieve sees Christmas lights and decorations, she says, "Look, it's Christmas here."

We hope that you keep in sight the real meaning of Christmas this year! And we hope that you enjoy all the other fun aspects as well. Have a safe and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

6 Things I Say to My Daughter Often

As I think back to when Polly and I found out that our first child was going to be a girl, I remember being so excited. I mean, sure, I would have been excited either way. But more than anything, I have always wanted a little girl...a little daddy's girl.

Now nearly 3 years old, Genevieve is everything I could have ever hoped for and so much more. In fact, I am even more excited now than I was back then.

There are things that I feel are very important to do with Genevieve, including:
  • Pray for/with her
  • Read the Bible with he
  • Generally train her in the way she should go (Proverbs 22:6)
  • Play with her
  • Pay attention to her
But there are also things that I feel are very important to say to Genevieve. I wanted to share 6 of them with you:

God loves you.

If you ask Genevieve who loves her the most she will reply, "God." I feel like it is so important for her to understand God's incredible love for her. In all honesty, I could tell her this even more often.

I love you.

A child can ever hear this phrase enough. I tell Genevieve this more than anything else. And I will tell it to her as long as I live. I love her unconditionally! She knows that aside from God, Polly and I love her more than anyone else!

You're beautiful.

I tell Genevieve she is beautiful every day. She will be bombarded with images in magazines, movies and advertisements and see how they define beauty. I will always be right there ensuring she knows that she doesn't need to fit anyone's mold. She is and will always be beautiful, no matter what. I think it's important for a little girl to hear this from her daddy.

You're [insert positive characteristic here].

Genevieve is a beautiful girl but she is also so much more than that. Just as she needs to hear that she's beautiful, she also needs to hear about other positive qualities she has. While I don't have space to list them all, this includes telling her she's...
  • smart
  • funny
  • kind
  • thoughtful
  • sweet
  • silly
  • amazing
  • awesome
  • loving
  • special
Good job.

Children need words of affirmation. Kids generally know it if parents think they're doing something wrong; parents better make sure their children know it when they're doing something right. I want Genevieve to know when she does something well.

I'm proud of you.

While I say, "Good job" in response to something she has accomplished, I am proud of Genevieve just because she's Genevieve. It's not just about what she's done but also who she is. And I'm one proud Dada!

Encourage your kid(s)

"Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged." - Colossians 3:21 (ESV). While we should discipline and correct our children when the situation warrants it, we must be careful never to provoke and thus discourage our children. My encouragement to you is simple: Make a conscious effort to encourage your kid(s) today!

Monday, December 16, 2013

What to Do if You Have a Bad Name

Today's word: Reputation. Merriam-Webster defines it as:
: the common opinion that people have about someone or something : the way in which people think of someone or something
What is your reputation? Does it matter? I think the Bible says that it does. Proverbs 22:1 (ESV) says:
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
    and favor is better than silver or gold.
"A good name" is synonymous with "a good reputation." When people hear your name, it should lead them to think well of you. I know that's what I want. I hope that when people hear my name, they think of qualities like:
  • integrity
  • trust
  • genuineness
Of course, this begs an important question:

How do we build a good reputation?

Let me answer this question by sharing some life lessons from a fortune cookie and Henry Ford.

Fortune Cookie.

I don't typically find fortune cookie sayings all that insightful so the one I got yesterday pleasantly surprised me:

"You can't build a reputation on things you were going to do."

A lot of people have good intentions. But our reputation is built on things we have actually done, not the things we intended to do.

Henry Ford.

As I was researching the above saying, I came across a similar quote from Henry Ford:

"You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do."

In the same way that reputations are not built on things we intended to do in the past, they are not build on things we are intending to do in the future. We may have some great goals and ambitions. We may even follow through on them and be successful in them. But as long as they are still in the future, they will not impact our reputation.

The bottom line.

Reputation is not built on intention, past or future. Instead, it's built on what we have actually done in the past and is maintained by what we are doing in the present. At some point, we have to stop intending to do something and actually do it.

A good reputation takes hard work to build, rebuild or maintain. But being someone willing to work hard for a good reputation is not a bad reputation to have.

The challenge.

Do you have a reputation of making New Year's Resolutions but not sticking with them? Do you have another reputation you would like to change? Do you have a quality you would like built into your reputation? Whichever describes you, here's the challenge: just do it! Don't wait for New Year's. Don't even wait for tomorrow. Put in some work and start changing today

Friday, December 13, 2013

2 MacBooks for the Price of None

It started to become overwhelming when we thought about it. We had too many items to buy with a small sum of money. It seemed like we kept earmarking the same money for numerous items. The math simply wasn't adding up. Have you ever been there? That's exactly where we found ourselves as we began looking at the things we needed to buy for our transition to Costa Rica, including:
  • Stroller that could accommodate a baby and a toddler
  • Baby crib, baby carrier and various other baby items
  • Clothes/shoes for all of us
  • Luggage
  • Laptops
It began to seem impossible when we looked at the situation. Thankfully we serve a God who can make possible what we think is impossible. We did the only thing we knew to do...we prayed.

We have already seen God provide in a number of these areas. We have received unexpected cash and have been blessed with some necessities themselves. I want to share about one of these areas God provided for us.

The break-up.

It was a good computer for a few years. Polly had gotten her Toshiba laptop as a graduation gift. It's the only computer we have used since that she got it in 2007. Six years later, the thing takes forever to start up or do anything. It's just old and less efficient than it used to be. (I hope no one ever says that about me.) We decided last year that we needed a new laptop (preferably two).

The crush.

Many of our friends love their MacBooks, so that's what we've been wanting. It's like we've been seeing this image in our sleep...

But this image also seems to accompany it...
That's the problem with MacBooks. They are not cheap. As I already stated money is an issue. We decided to move on from pursuing a MacBook. I posted on Facebook asking for input on the best laptop not a Mac. We figured we'd get something pretty cheap and save up to get a MacBook. Little did I know what would actually result from that post.

The matchmakers.

I received a message from a friend asking if we would like their used MacBook - Late 2009. They wanted to give it to us at no cost. The computer was given to the wife when she was a missionary so she liked the idea of it going back on the mission field.

Then I received a text from a friend asking if we would like their used MacBook Pro - Mid 2009. They were gifted it when they planted their church a few years ago but now barely use it. As a partnering church, they thought it would be great to bless us with it at no cost rather than just having it sit around.

We received one on Wednesday night and the other one last night. In 24 hours, we suddenly had 2 good working Macs like we had wanted and prayed for...at no cost.

We are grateful for...
  • our friends' generosity
  • God's answer to our prayers (this blessing was ultimately from Him!)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

3 Thoughts from an Empty Tank

I went out to warm up and scrape the ice off my car this morning with only 5 minutes to spare if I wanted to make it to work on time. As soon as I turned the key in the ignition, a dashboard light came on that I didn't want to see

My gas tank was empty.

I usually fill up my tank on my way home for work to avoid this situation. But thanks to a busy schedule, I was in a rush after work yesterday and thought I would have longer before the gas light came on. Fortunately I stopped just to put a gallon in and made it to work on time. It did get me thinking though.

We have a full calendar over the last 4 weeks before we leave. Are we running the risk of expending our energy and running on empty too. We need to ensure that we watch our "gauge" and make time to refuel. But what does that really mean? The following 3 thoughts came to mind.

Different people refuel differently.

Polly and I were at a dinner the other day with a group of friends. I overheard a conversation two friends were having about introverts and extroverts. One was saying that introvert/extrovert isn't about one's talkativeness or quietness but rather is more about how people refuel.

  • Draw energy (refuel) when they are around other people
  • Expend energy when they are alone
  • Refuel when they are alone
  • Expend energy when they are around other people
Polly enjoys spending time with family/friends and I enjoy time alone. But Polly really needs personal, quiet time while I really need to be around other people. I would say that by this definition (thought possibly not by a definition involving more criteria), Polly is more of an introvert while I am more of an extrovert.

It's a balancing act.

We need to find balance. While seeing family and friends is important, especially considering the time of year and the closeness of our departure, it cannot be all we do. We must include times of rest as well. For me it will be a chance to expend built up energy and for Polly it will be a chance to refuel. They are both important.

If it's not scheduled, it doesn't exist.

We are schedulers. While this is a good general practice, the potential problem is that if something's not on the schedule, it doesn't exist. Unfortunately I have been the one controlling the schedule and have been filling every free day we have, leaving no free time. Now I realize that we need to schedule free days in the calendar too. I will be sure to do that!

Have you ever thought about this? Are you more of an introvert or extrovert?

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Experiencing the Calm through the Storm

There's an old saying about the "calm before the storm" but I want to share about the Calm through the storm.


We're in a boat, heading toward our destination, calm and relaxed when suddenly a big wave crashes down on us and we realize that we have taken on a significant amount of water. When we look at the amount of water and the pace at which it's coming, we're overwhelmed. We are unsure if we'll make it.

We are incredibly busy as we prepare for Costa Rica and enjoy time with family and friends. How can we possibly fit everything into our schedule?

We've been praying about this transition for a while, knowing how hectic it would be. Now that it's here, we're reaping the answers to those prayers. And God has been so faithful! When look at the big picture, it can be overwhelming. But God has been our Calm during this time, helping us keep our priorities straight and to stay focused. He is the anchor we hold onto.

Faith of a child.

Genevieve has a toddler book of Bible accounts. She has brought the book to me a lot lately, turning it to the same page each time and asking me to read about "the rain." It is an account of a storm, found in Mark 4:35-41. Here is Mark 4:37-39 (ESV):
37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
And here is Genevieve's paraphrase of her book's version:
Once there was a big storm on a lake. They were very afraid. Jesus was sleeping on the boat. When He woke up, He told the waves to stop splashing and the wind to stop blowing. The sea was calm again.
I asked her why she likes to this account so much. To summarize, she says it's because they were afraid but God made it calm again. You have to understand that she's afraid of storms. This account comforts her. And every time she quotes it she reminds us of an important truth: Jesus is the Calm through the storm. Regardless if He chooses to stop the storm or give us the strength and faith to get through it, we trust Him to be our Calm.

Analogy completed.

We suddenly look over and see Jesus. We realize that He is with us and we feel an incredible calm come over us. We stop focusing on the big picture and start looking at the task before us. We grab buckets and begin to empty the boat, one bucket at a time. The entire time, we feel calm as we remember that Jesus is with us. With each bucket removed, the boat buoys higher in the water. Before long, we realize that the water is all gone. We made it!

While we are caught up in this whirlwind, we are anchored to God. We know that though there might be uneasiness during this transition, we will find calmness in Him!

Thank you God for using a 2 year old child to remind us of this truth!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Why Costa Rica

People often ask us this simple question: "Why Costa Rica?" And we usually reply with this simple answer: "Because God."

It's not about the "where"

Some missionaries feel called to a particular country, region or people group from a young age. As long as I can remember, my brother has felt called to work with the Vietnamese people. He has worked with Vietnamese churches in America for years. He married a Vietnamese woman. I've heard him say, "My mother told me I could grow up to be anything I wanted. I chose Vietnamese." This is my brother's story. But this is not our story.

While Polly and I each felt a God's calling on our hearts to missions, neither of us ever felt the burden to a specific place or people. So when God opened the door to Costa Rica, we had no specific burden there. We prayed about our decision and said yes not because of the burden there, but because we felt like it was what God wanted for us. We would rather be in the center of God's will for our lives than anywhere else.

Not growing up with a burden for Costa Rica doesn't mean we don't have one now. God has put a desire on our hearts for Costa Rica and especially the Ticos (what Costa Ricans call themselves). We now have a burden for Costa Rica, just like we had a burden for young people in and around Dudley. 

It's about the "why"

It's not about where we go or what we do, it's about why we do it. We go to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. And we believe in the fullness of the Gospel. Jesus died on the cross and rose to life again to bring salvation, to heal people spiritually, forgiving them of their sins if they would only put their faith in Him. Jesus also wants to heal people physically, emotionally, relationally, mentally, socially, etc.

The need exists everywhere. We are not simply going to chase the need. We couldn't possibly go everywhere the need exists. But we can go where God is telling us to go and do our part. Costa Rica is our part in this season. Thus, Costa Rica is our heart in this season. We love Costa Rica and we love the Ticos!

The crazy thing is that we already have this love and passion and we haven't even ever been there yet. How much more intense will our passion be once we live alongside the Ticos?! We can't wait. This is a good thing because we are leaving on January 8, 2014, which is less than 10 weeks away! In order to leave on that date, however, we need to raise the remainder of our budget.

You can partner with us by checking out the links in the "Partnering with Us" section on the right sidebar or by going to our giving page at s1.ag.org/brown.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Energized Faith

Polly and I have done our best to stay out of debt. We don't have a mortgage, never carry a balance on our credit card and own our cars. Still, we are far from debt-free.

Laden with debt.

I used to have a bumper sticker on my car that read, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." The truth is that education is not cheap in the U.S. As such, Polly and I have school-loan debt. Before we leave for Costa Rica we need to get that debt down to the allowable limit as we will not be able to live overseas on our modest salary if we're paying too much in debt each month. Our school debt has been the biggest obstacle for our leaving for Costa Rica. So we've been praying for a solution. And we found out yesterday that we may have our answer.

A glimmer of hope.

A couple years ago, the Assemblies of God came up with a program for students graduating from its Bible colleges. Too many students were leaving school with so much debt that they could not go into full-time ministry. In order to change that they came up with a solution, a grant. There are a lot of prerequisites that need to be met by someone in order to qualify for the grant but for each student who does qualify, the grant will pay up to $400/mo toward school loans for 3 years. That's a serious chunk of change.

I had heard about this a while ago, knowing Polly could be eligible, but I forgot about it until a friend brought it up recently. As I was praying about our loans yesterday, I decided to go online and look up the grant.

How often do we pray for something but never take an action step toward the answer? God WILL answer our prayers and do things His way in His time, but that's not an excuse for us to be passive. He will direct us, but we still need to take the steps.

One of the first things I noticed is that the application deadline is fast approaching, with a September 16, 2013 deadline. That's less than 2 weeks away! Through a few short emails it seems that Polly may actually meet the prerequisites. There is no guarantee that she will receive the grant yet, but we're praying and believing for favor. Would you pray with us for a miracle?

The big "What if..."

As we were walking through our neighborhood yesterday and praying, I began thinking about how awesome it would be for this grant to come through. I was already picturing myself writing the testimony into our newsletter about how God once again showed His faithfulness. Then the "other" thought came into my mind. "What if this falls through? What will I write then?"

Immediately I was reminded of God's constant faithfulness and my response to that thought was this:
If this falls through and Polly doesn't get the grant then it will be just one more thing to write about how we tried so many options but how God finally came through another way.
You see, the reality that hit me is that God will meet this need and provide a solution, regardless if it's this one or another. The means isn't what matters, God is!

We will pray.

We are praying for favor in this solution unless that door closes. And we will pray with confidence, believing and expecting great things. A friend and I were talking last night about God's faithfulness. I was sharing an awesome miracle I had read about from a missionary friend yesterday concerning his daughter. In short,

The missionary's daughter needed surgery to remove a tumor from her spine and the missionary wanted to have it done in the U.S. instead of Japan.
  • He "just happened" to mention it to his regional director
  • Who "just happened" to mention it to the executive director
  • Who "just happened" to have a son who is an orthopedic spine surgeon at a pediatric hospital in San Diego.
Dr. Mundis performed the surgery this past Monday and all went well.

When I heard that, I was amazed! Not surprised...amazed. As my friend said last night, "Miracles don't surprise us, they energize us." I completely agree. I am energized to believe for awesome things regarding our school loans.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Baby Love

Well, it's officially public information: we are expecting our second child. Many people, possibly you, have offered warm messages of congratulations, celebrating this news with us. Since a number of people have already asked us a number of questions, I decided to address some of the bigger ones here.

What is the due date?

Dates can change (Genevieve was 10 days late) so we'll avoid specifics and just say the beginning of March.

Was this baby a surprise?

Yes and no. While we were not planning this child, we weren't shocked either. We're happy because we wanted about 3 years between children. Genevieve will be a month or so past 3.

Where will the baby be born?

Our target departure date  for Costa Rica is January so the baby will be born in Costa Rica.

Will the baby be a U.S. citizen or a Costa Rican citizen?

Both. Costa Rica will recognize the baby as a citizen because he will be born there. Meanwhile, the United States will recognize the baby as a citizen because Polly and I are both citizens. We will have to file paperwork for both, but it's apparently pretty easy. While I'm sure there could be some cons to dual citizenship (two countries that could charge taxes), there are also pros:
  • He can travel to countries not friendly with the U.S. on his Costa Rican passport.
  • He can live in either place without worrying about visas or such.
  • Costa Rica's education is cheaper.
Will we find out the gender? Will we announce it?

Yes and yes. We should find out in about two months (we don't have the date yet, but I'm guessing October). It will benefit us to know because it will be easier to bring gender-specific stuff to Costa Rica than buy it there. You will know shortly after we do.

Do we have a gender preference?

The cop-out answer would be to say that it doesn't matter and we'll be happy either way. While that's not untrue, we still have a preference. Genevieve wants a girl. While it would be easier to have a girl from a practical standpoint, Polly and I want a boy. Hey, there's a reason I chose to use the generic "he' instead of "she" when talking about the baby.

Will this impact our work in Costa Rica?

Having a baby always impacts anything you do. With that said, it will not impact our target date or our objectives. It may mean that Polly has to work harder with language school but there are always sacrifices made when having a baby, and let's be honest, it's not typically the baby making them.

We are very excited for what's in store and we are thrilled that there will be another member of our little family to enjoy it with. After hearing his heartbeat the other day, it's starting to feel more real. And of course, considering the fact that we will most likely be gone for 3 years, there is a real possibility that we come back to the U.S. as a family of five rather than four.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

One of Those Days

Have you ever had one of those days? As ambiguous as that phrase is, I bet you know what I mean and I'm sure you've had more than one of them. Well, today is one of those days for me.

So many causes.

So many things can cause one of those days, ranging from minor to serious. Some of my past examples include:
  • Being stuck in traffic
  • Running late for work
  • Receiving bad news
  • Receiving an unexpected bill
  • Losing money
  • Having car troubles
  • Waking up with a cold
  • Waking up "on the wrong side of the bed"
  • Getting into an argument
A changed perspective.

I want to share something that changed my outlook a couple of years ago regarding "one of those days." I cannot recall the cause way back then but I remember that I was having one of those days. At one point I finally just said, 
This has just been a bad day.
I immediately felt convicted. God creates every day. And everything that God creates is good. There are no bad days! It would be disingenuous to suggest that some aren't more challenging than others, but they're not bad. This creates a philosophical shift in our thinking because no matter what discouragement may come along, there are encouraging things too.

Psalm 3 says (in the ESV):
A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

1 O LORD, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying of my soul,
there is no salvation for him in God. Selah

3 But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4 I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah

5 I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.

7 Arise, O LORD!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.

8 Salvation belongs to the LORD;
your blessing be on your people! Selah

David was having "one of those days." But I love how David responds. He acknowledges that the Lord is the lifter of his head. And as verse 5 points out, even the fact that we wake up is cause to thank God.

What caused today's "one of those days"?

I just had a bit of discouragement with raising our budget. After an amazing 25 day period, we haven't seen any movement in our budget over the past 4 days.

It's hard work to raise a budget. It's tough to not be in control of our own future. Yet, we'd have it no other way. God has never let us down. His ways are always better than our ways. I trust Him to be in control more than I trust myself.

Thankfully I have an encouraging wife who reminds me to hold on to faith. I do believe that we're leaving in August. I know that doesn't add up using our logic, but I'm reminded of Proverbs 3:5, 6 which 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."

I will trust in the LORD. Like David, I know where my help comes from. I know who lifts my head when it hangs low. So today, rather than simply pray to see the hand of God (provision) I will pray to see the face of God (intimacy).

I wrote this blog because I knew that I would read the Bible and be encouraged. When I write, I can read my own advice. Maybe you're having "one of those days." I pray you'll be encouraged and put your trust in God.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

3 Lessons from the Potty

While I learn from books, teachings/sermons and conversations, many lessons come from real life events, moments when you experience an event and then realize it has application to a greater truth. One such lesson came for me yesterday.

Potty talk.

We had been talking about potty training for a while but had never really committed to the challenge. On Thursday, Polly finally decided that it was time to commit. After Genevieve's nap, we began the concerted effort to potty train Genevieve. This meant putting her in underwear instead of diapers. For the remainder of Thursday, Genevieve didn't tell us when she needed to use the potty and experienced accident after accident. The whole day Friday brought more of the same. The potty remained unused

Neither Polly nor I were instilled with confidence that Genevieve was going to use the potty any time soon. While we knew that it wouldn't likely happen overnight, we were hoping for progress. It was feeling a little hopeless. Then Saturday came.

Genevieve told us each time she needed to potty when she was wearing her underwear and used the potty each time. What a difference a day made! I know there will be more accidents to come and that we still have a ways to go in this journey, but Saturday brought hope!

The truth is that we knew she would eventually use the potty all by herself. But it took her actually doing it to bring hope. Up to that point, we were simply acting in faith. Here are 3 lessons this taught me:

You need to take that step of faith.

The positive results of Saturday would not have happened unless we finally took a leap of faith and put Genevieve in her underwear. Most things we are wanting and waiting for will not happen until we first step out and take action.

Today's results don't dictate tomorrow's results.

Although things seemed hopeless on Friday, we knew that it was only a day and a half and that the positive results would come. She was going to use the potty eventually. It would have been unreasonable for us to quit based on Friday's results. Tony Palow, pastor at Assembly of God in North Providence, RI had a great quote in his sermon today. He said, "We often give up instead of press in." That's true in many areas. When we're ready to give up, that's the time to press in.

Momentum is important.

There is a lot be said about the power of momentum. Positive results start multiplying quickly. It's exponential in growth. Some call this the snowball effect. What starts as a little snowball gets big rather quickly with a little momentum. And the bigger it gets, the more momentum there is. It's a great cycle.

The application.

We began raising our budget for Costa Rica last April. Over the first 9 months, we raised 17%. It would have been easy to be discouraged. But we knew the results of the first 9 months didn't dictate what would happen in the months to follow. Sure enough, 2013 kicked off with our best month yet. In fact, from January through April, we raised an additional 25%. The snowball was rolling.

Recently, with an eye toward leaving for Costa Rica in August of this year, we kicked off the 100 Days Campaign. We knew that we would need the 100 day period starting May 8 to far surpass our fundraising to that point. With over half our budget to raise, we recognized the need for a big miracle. We took the step of faith and pressed in. Things have started off strongly. After 18 days, we had already raised an additional 11% in new commitments. If we keep up that pace, we will be leaving on our target date.

So, we need to keep pressing in and keep that momentum going. Would you consider helping to keep that snowball rolling? A monthly commitment of any amount will do exactly that. You can set that up at http://s1.ag.org/brown or by clicking the "Partnering with Us" link above.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

100 Days Campaign

"When are you leaving for Costa Rica?"

That is probably the most commonly asked question that Polly and I have experienced over the past year. Unfortunately, it's a question with no simple answer. In fact, I feel as though we can never answer the question without first qualifying the answer. An answer that itself has been a bit fluid during that time. So, I thought it would be helpful to answer that question here on the blog, with qualifiers of course.

One of the factors that makes the question a tricky one to answer is the fact that for a time, we only had a vague answer. When Polly and I responded to God's call on our lives to go to Costa Rica, the timetable for it was one of many unknowns. Pretty early on in the process we narrowed it down in our hearts and thinking to spring or summer of 2013. That was as close to an answer that we could give for a number of months. We usually began that answer with something along the lines of, "Probably..." or "Well, we're thinking maybe..."

We thoroughly enjoyed our experience of spending two weeks in Springfield, MO for Pre-field Orientation last June. Beyond learning and wisdom about missions in general we also became aware of an extremely important piece of specific information. We learned that due to the tourist visa situation in conjunction with the importance of being present for the first day of the semester of language school, there are only three dates during the entire year that a first time missionary to Latin America with Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM) can travel to San Jose, Costa Rica. Two of those three dates immediately jumped out to us -- May 8, 2013 and August 28, 2013 -- as those were the two dates that fell within the parameters of us leaving in the spring or summer of 2013. We felt strongly that we would leave on either of those two dates. Our answer had narrowed down a little more. We usually began that answer with something along the lines of, "Either..." or "Depending on how things go..."

We remained confused about which date to truly target for quite a few months after narrowing things down to those two. I put both into our calendar. The first I called "Target Date" and the other "Alt Target Date." We were clearly undecided. This actually made things tougher for us. Answering ambiguously with spring or summer of 2013 was easy. Having two dates nearly four months apart was tough. When we were leaving depending on how we were feeling that day. We listed May 8, 2013 in our written materials only because it was the sooner. If we were going to be wrong, we would rather have been wrong being ambitious than being conservative. I figured it would be better to have to wait four more months than rush everything for four more months.

I'll never forget the first time I booked a church service for a date after May 8, 2013. In making that decision, I was acknowledging that I felt that the August 28th date was the one we should target. In fact, Polly and I both felt agreement and peace about this. Of course, this didn't mean that the answer became more definitely. We usually began that answer with something along the lines of, "Hopefully..." or "At the earliest..." Then came the conversation that changed everything for us.

We were Skype-ing with John & Dina one night. We were telling them about our latest campaign we were calling the "Cup of Coffee Campaign" (still ongoing). We got into a conversation about our goal and the need to raise our budget at a quicker pace. I don't remember the exact words that John used, but I remember him saying how there just came a point for them when they had to just pick a date (for themselves to get to Costa Rica) and stick with it. They needed to change their language to express their earnest faith that they were going to leave at the time God put on their hearts to leave. I felt challenged.

Let's be honest, faith can be tough. Since generalizing is not normally a good practice, let me speak for myself here (though I'm sure I'm not alone). It's scary to take the leap of faith. All the doubts start creeping in: "What if I'm wrong and look like an idiot?" "If I don't leave in August people will think that either God doesn't care or that we weren't listening to Him." I dealt with all those questions. In truth, I still deal with them. But I come back to this: I'd rather take the leap of faith and find out that I was wrong than not take the leap at all. The one thing that I am certain of is that God does care and that we will get there at the exact time we should. He's not going to be the one to mess up or make a mistake. If a mistake is made, it will be my mistake. My pride might be a little hurt, but my trust will still be in the Lord. And I'm thankful that God is there with me even through my mistakes.

So, I'm done with the qualifiers. From now on, when people ask when we're leaving, I'm going to answer them that we are leaving in August!

Now, let's discuss a simple reality: We cannot leave until our budget is raised. You know what then, I guess we're just going to have to raise our budget by August then. This is where our latest campaign comes into play: the 100 Days campaign.

It occurred to me on Tuesday, May 7 that the following day was to be the "other date" we had considered for leaving for Costa Rica. After doing a little simple math, it also occurred to me that there were about 100 days from May 8th until the time we would need our budget raised in order to leave for Costa Rica on August 28th. A little more simple math (very simple math) brought to my attention that to raise the additional roughly $2,500 in monthly commitments, we would need to average $25 in new monthly commitments every day over that 100 day period. That's a big need. But it's not bigger than God's ability.

Two days into this 100 Day Campaign, we have received $100 in new monthly commitments from a total of three people (1 at $50/mo, 2 at $25/mo). That's obviously an excellent start. We need to keep that momentum rolling though. Will you considering partnering with us by joining our sending team and making a commitment to give $25 every month so that we can go and serve the people of Costa Rica? You can't do $25/mo? That's okay, can you do $5 or $10 or $20? You can do more than $25/mo? That's okay too. You can choose any amount up to the $2,400/mo we need. We're just looking to reach the average of $25/mo per day. And I have a goal of never being more than three days behind, so that a $100/mo commitment would catch us right back up. Don't wait until tomorrow to set this up...jump on board today!

You can set up a commitment attached to a credit card or set up the commitment without it being attached to a credit card (Acct# 2713097). That's your choice. If you want to know more about what we'll be doing in Costa Rica, please feel free to check out the Engage CR or FAQs pages by clicking the links here or at the top of the page.

As always, you can email us at mikeandpollybrown@gmail.com if you have any further questions.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

30 in Thirty: 29 - Fishing with Pop

For today's 30 in Thirty celebration, Polly and I went fishing. Considering the fact that we've been fishing together on numerous occasions, it's easy to see how that could seem like a pretty simple, mundane event for a celebration activity. And if it were just another day of fishing, I would feel the same way. But today wasn't just another day of fishing. Polly and I were joined by her cousins (unfortunately Chris got called into work and couldn't stay), Aunt Penny and Pop (Polly's grandfather)! To understand how special today's event was, you first have to understand something about Polly's family.

Pop has been fishing for a very long time. He even used to work for the New Jersey Fish & Game. And he taught all 3 of his daughters (including Polly's mom) and all 9 of his grandkids how to fish. It is impossible to get together with Polly's family and not hear stories of fishing. It's a significant part of who the family is. And for me, that's all it's ever been...hearing the stories. I mean, sure, I've been with Polly's family fishing while on vacation at Thousand Islands. But I've never been fishing with Pop. So today was an very special day. I was honored to be a part of it. Even cooler was that Rosedale Lake, where we fished, is one of the lakes Pop used to stock when he was working for the Fish & Game. And better yet, today was Pop's 86th birthday! So when Polly's brother Leroy began contacting all the grandkids to arrange this event, we were so excited that we had this weekend free on our calendar (that is not often the case these days). I didn't catch any fish (in fact, Polly's cousin Stephen was the only one to catch one), but that didn't make the day any less special. Someone took a picture of Polly and me fishing on either side of Pop. Unfortunately the camera's memory card was apparently full and the picture did not make it. I wish I could share that moment with you because it's a moment that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Here are a few of the pictures that did make it today:

The chalkboard at Gram & Pop's house
Genevieve wanted to help Pop blow out his candles
The grandkids
Stephen holding his rainbow trout with Pop
Sometimes, it's the simple activities that have the biggest impacts. I'm so glad that I finally got to take part in this amazing tradition that I've heard so much about for the last 9 years!

<<< 30 in Thirty: 30 - Philadelphia     |     30 in Thirty: 28 - Scenic Route >>>

Monday, March 25, 2013

God is Faithful

Two movie titles. One chapter in the Bible. One central theme.

Dr. Wave Nunnally, my professor for the History portion of the Old Testament History and Literature class at Central Bible College in Springfield, MO referred to it as "Back to the Future." Matt Travnik, a friend of mine from CBC referred to it as "School of Rock." They each used a different movie title to refer to the events of Joshua 4, but the central theme of their message was the same: God is Faithful!

For whatever reason, having heard thousands of sermons and lessons over the years, these two have always stuck with me. In fact, I've preached a sermon on the chapter on a number of occasions myself. With Matt's permission, I also title my sermon "School of Rock." But clever titles isn't what caused me to hold on to these two teachings over the years; the truth of the message is. Because through my life, God has made something abundantly clear to me over and over again: He is and will always be faithful.

Contrary to what I thought I was going to speak about on both occasions, this is the sermon I've taught from each of my last two services. And while it's a great truth that I think people need to hear, I also think that it's a truth that God has been wanting me to hear again too.

Joshua 4 happens at a time when the Israelites are miraculously crossing through the Jordan River as they are about to finally entire into the Promise Land after 400 years of slavery in Egypt and 40 years of wandering in the desert. God commands Joshua, the new leader of the people after Moses' death, to take 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan and set up a memorial at the place where they would be camping. They do exactly as the Lord commands and set up the memorial. In fact, it seems that they set up two: one in the middle of the Jordan and one at the place where they were camping. I think there are three valuable things we can learn from these piles of rocks:

1. The rocks were a sign of obedience

They obeyed everything the Lord instructed them to do surrounding the event of crossing through the Jordan and the event of setting up the stones. The act of setting up the memorial was a sign of obedience. I believe that the Bible is quite clear that God expects obedience from us. We must know God's voice, listen when He speaks and be quick to obey. What does God's voice sound like? I can't answer that for you. But what I can say is that if you spend time talking to God and reading His Word, He will speak to you. It may not be an audible voice (I've never heard one) but it will just make sense in your heart. It's one of those things that you'll know when it happens. And we must listen. Prayer is not simply us talking TO God, but it's us talking WITH God. It's a conversation. God may be giving you the answer to your prayers but you're not listening to hear what it is. And we must obey. Knowing what God says to us is not enough. We have to act on it. Why are Polly, Genevieve and I leaving our families and moving to Costa Rica? Because we feel so certain in our hearts that God is calling us to. And we know from experience that we're always better off when we listen to God AND do what He says! We would rather be no other place than in the center of His will for our lives.

2. The rocks were an evidence of the supernatural

They didn't have SCUBA equipment back in the days of Joshua. Have large stones from the middle of the Jordan would have provided solid evidence that a supernatural event took place. We all have testimonies of God's faithfulness, whether we realize it or not (if you're alive, you are a miracle). We can't hide those things. We need to display them as evidence for others. I've had more than one friend attempt to challenge the existence of God. And I've even known of some Christians that would deny His ability to perform miracles. But if you have never seen or experienced a miracle, I believe you're just ignoring the evidence. Miracles have made incredible believers out of even the most staunch of atheists. God is faithful!

3. The rocks were a reminder of God's faithfulness

The rocks served as a reminder of God's faithfulness to those who weren't able to participate in the event itself. But they were also a reminder for those who did. Why do I trust that God will provide for my family? Because He always has before. I can rattle off stories and stories of times where God has provided for my family. I have shared those stories before and I'm sure I'll share them again. Sometimes they were simple; other times they were much more intense. Regardless which they were, they serve as a reminder to me that He is able and that He is faithful. I'm not going to tell you that God will give you a sports car if you pray for one. And I'm not going to tell you that if you pray enough and live the right way, you will become rich. But I will tell you that God will supply all of your NEEDS! We become so focused on our own plans that we forget to ask God what His plans are. And His plans are always better! Let me share one example of God's faithfulness in my life. When we stepped down from the church last July to focus on itineration, we lost income; income that we had become dependent on. It's not like we were sitting there rolling in the dough and blowing tons of money. We were already living paycheck to paycheck. Yet through this time that we've made less money, we have paid every bill, been able to pick up new missionaries to support (yes, missionaries support other missionaries too!), and even had times of extra. Mathematically it doesn't make sense. Find the financial advisor out there that will tell you the best way to have more money is to reduce your income. You will not find it! I wouldn't recommend it myself. But that's what has happened to us. Why? Because God is faithful!

Polly and I are currently at 36% of our monthly budget officially (we're at 45% if you add in the amounts that churches and individuals have pledged which haven't been submitted or gone through yet). Our goal is to be at 50% of our budget by the end of March. That is a lot of extra commitments that we will need over the course of the next week (as well as movement in some of the pledges that haven't been submitted or gone through yet).  Our goal is to leave for Costa Rica in August. And even though it may not seem possible in the natural, we don't live by the natural. Are we being naive? Absolutely not! You see, we have a memorial that is made up of a pile of rocks representing God's faithfulness to us throughout the years. We we look back at what He's done for us in the past, we have hope for the future. That's what Dr. Nunnally meant when he called it "Back to the Future."

We are confident that God will once again show His faithfulness and that God will provide. We will not do it alone though. We need people praying for us and with us. Please pray that God will provide favor in this. Also please pray if you might be a part of the solution. This brings us to the second thing we need: we need people who are able and willing to partner with us through a monthly contribution (it can be $5/mo or $50/mo or $500/mo or $5000/mo or anything in between). We don't seek to manipulate or guilt anyone into giving. We're simply putting the opportunity before you and asking you to consider if you might be a part of the solution. God is faithful! And the cool thing about God's provision is that it doesn't always have to come out of nowhere; sometimes, in fact often time, He chooses to use people...ordinary people. How cool is that?!

Will you consider partnering with us? You can read more about partnering by clicking the "About Partnering" link at the top right or set up that commitment by clicking on the "Make a One-time or Monthly Donation" link or by clicking here.

Regardless of whether or not you will be joining our Sending Team today, I hope that this blog post may have encouraged you for your own life.

In Christ,